The Antiwar Odyssey of Laurence VanceBy
I have been asked often over the years when and how I came to be such an outspoken critic of war, the military, and the warfare state.
I have been writing about these evils since Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. My first article on the subject was "Eight Facts about Iraq." It was first published in an obscure monthly newsletter soon after the invasion of Iraq and then published by Lew Rockwell on January 2, 2004. My next piece, and first article for this website, was "Christianity and War," which appeared on October 29, 2003. Little did I know that it would turn into a book, now in its second edition, lectures, and the theme of scores of other articles. But my antiwar odyssey did not begin when Bush launched his unconstitutional, immoral, unjust invasion of Iraq. It goes back at least ten years before that dreadful event.
I grew up in sunny central Florida near Patrick Air Force Base. Although I live in central Florida now, for twenty-four years I lived in Pensacola, Florida – the home of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron and the "Cradle of Naval Aviation." I was once a conservative Republican – albeit a very libertarian-leaning one – with the usual respect for the military. If it seems to you that I am the most unlikely person to be such a critic of the military, then I agree with you.
Until the late 1980s, I had never really given the subject of the military much thought. It was about then that I began to read – where I have no idea – about how the United States had troops in over a hundred foreign countries. I thought this rather odd, unnecessary, and ridiculous.
The next influence I can recall is Pat Buchanan in 1991 criticizing Bush Sr. for invading Iraq the first time (the Persian Gulf War). This made a notable and lasting impression on me because I was reading Buchanan’s columns and knew he was a conservative Republican. Buchanan went on to write one of the most important studies of World War II ever penned, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World (2008). I reviewed the book here.
It was sometime in 1993 or 1994 that I made the acquaintance of Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute. I had stumbled across – where I have no idea – a reference to the Mises Institute publication called The Free Market. This was before LRC and before the Mises Institute had a website. I remember calling and requesting some copies of The Free Market, which were graciously sent to me through the mail. I went on to write for this publication, beginning in 1996. It was through articles in The Free Market that I was introduced to Murray Rothbard. This led me to the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, which I used to read at my mailbox the moment it arrived. It was then that I came to realize that I was more of a libertarian than a conservative. For me, it didn’t begin with Ayn Rand; it began with Murray Rothbard.
Some time in the mid 1990s, I came across an article – where I have no idea – critical of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For years I thought it might have been written by Doug Bandow, but he told me one time when I asked him that he can’t recall if he wrote it or not. This was my first exposure to historical revisionism. My analysis of World War II is "Rethinking the Good War."
In 2001, I began to reprint old books and articles as part of my Classic Reprints series. Two articles I came across in the late 1990s, which I reprinted in 2003 as the Classic Reprint titled Christianity and War, were from Baptist ministers writing in the Christian Review. The first article was called "Wickedness of War." It appeared, unsigned, in June of 1838. It was put online in October of 2002 here. The other article, by someone who called himself Veritatis Amans, appeared in September of 1847. Here I read things like:
War has ever been the scourge of the human race. The history of the past is little else than a chronicle of deadly feuds, irreconcilable hate, and exterminating warfare. The extension of empire, the love of glory, and thirst for fame, have been more fatal to men than famine or pestilence, or the fiercest elements of nature.
And what is more sad and painful, many of the wars whose desolating surges have deluged the earth, have been carried on in the name and under the sanction of those who profess the name of Christ.
It has not been till recently, that the disciples of Christ have been conscious of the enormous wickedness of war as it usually exists. And even now there are many who do not frown upon it with that disapprobation and abhorrence, which an evil of such magnitude as an unjust war deserves.
These articles confirmed for me that there was a conservative religious antiwar tradition that I had never been exposed to.
I have also been influenced along the way by some other individuals, organizations, and institutions, but as they would not wish to be associated with me, I will not mention them.
The immediate occasion of my first writing about the Iraq War was an e-mail that was forwarded to me in 2003 that defended U.S. foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, and the yet-to-come war in Iraq. The bulk of the text was actually from a London newspaper editorial written in 2002.
Now, I normally ignore or at least don’t reply to e-mail that is forwarded to me. I made an exception in this case because I was so sick of the adoration that many Christians at that time had (and unfortunately still have) for George W. Bush. Here is what I wrote in reply:
Tony Blair is a jerk. George Bush is a jerk. The U.S. has no business sending one soldier to any foreign country, and especially to invade it (as is the case now). The U.S. has been meddling in every foreign country for 100 years. September 11 was a reaction to our stupid foreign policy. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember your physics classes?
Then I simply listed some quotes from the Founding Fathers:
Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none."
John Quincy Adams: "America . . . goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy."
George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."
This unexpectedly ended up being forwarded to a Bush-worshipping, military-loving individual who had also been sent the original e-mail that I had been forwarded. The emotional God-and-country screed that I personally received as a result of my negative comments prompted me to begin writing about the Iraq War. And the rest is history.
I have now written twenty-five articles about the Iraq War. A war in which of 4,484 American soldiers died, not defending our freedoms or fighting "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here," but unnecessarily, duped, in vain, and for a lie.
Although the war in Iraq is "officially" over, by the grace of God I will continue writing about the folly of war and the idolatry of military worship, and especially by Christians. With the war in Afghanistan now in its eleventh year, with drone attacks increasing, with the U.S. empire of troops and bases still garrisoning the planet, with U.S. foreign policy still as reckless, belligerent, and meddling as ever, and with the warfare state further eroding our civil liberties, there is a greater need than ever to press on.