Book Review: War Made Easy

This was originally published at Spare Change News. (No link is available at the SCN site right now)

Book Review: War Made Easy by Norman Solomon

It is often said that the left does not have enough voices in today’s political climate. While this may be true of the Democratic Party, in truth, the progressive community does indeed have an impressive list of intelligent writers in their midst, available to those who know where to find them.

One of these voices is Norman Solomon. While he may lack the bombastic demeanor of Michael Moore, or the iconic stature of Howard Zinn, his twice-weekly syndicated columns which run in many alternative publications and Web sites, offer refreshingly independent, rational critiques of today’s press. As a result, he is becoming one of the most trustworthy media critics of our time.

In War Made Easy, Solomon exposes the manner in which leaders manage—largely through a compliant media—to sell war through the same, fallacious arguments; the results are frightening, often deadly.

The books structure is its greatest asset. Each chapter is titled with a classic justification or myth about war such as: “This guy is a modern-day Hitler,” or “Withdrawal Would Cripple U.S. Credibility”

Each chapter details how presidents and pundits use these rhetorical techniques to validate and continue war efforts. Focusing largely on Vietnam, Gulf War I and Iraq, Solomon chronicles how similar patterns emerged in each conflict, from the buildup, to the conclusion. No matter the decade, no matter the enemy, he argues, our leaders tell the American people the same things: that this war is a last resort, that it is in the interest of human rights, or that America is fighting for freedom abroad, not natural resources.

The fact that these justifications are used systematically, like clockwork, for seemingly every war, is quite damning to their legitimacy. Furthermore, as Solomon points out, the talking points often drastically conflict with reality.

To progressives and scholars, the thesis of War Made Easy is not new. What this book provides to those are already on board with Solomon, is a sharp, thoroughly researched academic tool that should benefit students and teachers who study propaganda and the relationship between US foreign policy and the media.

Where the book may prove to be most valuable, however, is with those—and there are many—who do not already have a healthy skepticism of how and why the US wages war. Many Americans, to give one example from the book, would be shocked to find out that in the three weeks leading up to the Iraq war in 2003, only 3 percent of American television sources opposed the invasion. For, if statistics like these became common knowledge, the next war may not be so easy to make.