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Is War Only for Profit?



“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” —George Orwell

War has always been tied to money and profit. Whether fighting over territory, resources or trade, to the victor go the spoils. Even wars fought in the name of idealism, such as World War II, gained various profits for the winner.

Do countries start war to make money? Most people hope for a higher purpose. However, many modern and historical conflicts have money as a root cause. For this reason, war is serious business in every sense of the word.


The United States was birthed in war, and a revolt against the tyranny of monarchy began. The hard-fought Revolutionary War resulted in American democratic principles such as the protection of free speech, the right to vote and the right to bear arms.

But there was also a strong economic component of this war for independence. Phrases like the Boston Tea Party and “taxation without representation” might come to mind. Early American settlers fought for many freedoms, including the freedom to deny imposed taxes of which they had no say.

Nearly every war in history is tied to some economic profit. However, time lends us a more idealistic view of motivations for warfare. Most people prefer to believe the American Civil War was fought to end slavery, rather than to end the powerful economic system in the southern states.

The idea of bloodshed for profit is far less appealing than sacrifices for freedom and human rights. Still, the winners in war ultimately reap benefits – and it’s usually quite rewarding in value.

Modern Warfare

The battleground changed dramatically during the 20th century, thanks to the Cold War. The show of force between global superpowers was almost just that – a show. The Cold War spanned more than four decades of standoffs over political ideology and arms races.

Most people agree that the Cold War ended once the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved. Certainly, the fight for freedom for those behind the Iron Curtain played an important role in this outcome.

However, most experts point to the fact the resolution had stronger ties to economics. The Soviet Union could not sustain its presence in Afghanistan, the arms race and its oppression of Eastern Bloc countries in Europe. There wasn’t enough money.

See related article: “Who Won the Cold War?”

After the terror attack of September 11th, the warfare landscape changed again. American citizens were united in their desire for retribution and elimination of terror groups in the Middle East.

But there was still growing discrepancy over George W. Bush’s decision and the legitimacy of the Iraq War. Many of the American public felt, and still feel, misled by the government’s propaganda to wage war in Iraq. Common sentiment today says the motivation for this conflict was oil and monetary profit, rather than intent to eradicate terrorism.

Presently, it’s difficult for many Americans to tell if we are in wartime at all. Media coverage of the war on terror has significantly dwindled. The public seems relatively satisfied if they feel protected by the military, and especially if the economy continues to grow.


For whatever profit won, war is expensive. Defense spending comprises a significant percentage of American gross domestic product (GDP). This means wartime results in higher taxes for most citizens. Additionally, other governmental programs become under-funded when defense budgets rise.

Experts estimate the cost of war for America since 2001 is between 1.5 and 1.7 trillion dollars. Over 2.5 million US military personnel deployed in this time; resulting in almost 7,000 American casualties.

Though statistics provide us such numbers, it’s difficult to fully measure these costs. Military personnel risk life and injury during deployment, and often return home with lifelong PTSD.

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Military families endure the cost of absence, worry and relocation. Government agencies like the VA pay the price of being overburdened and understaffed. And ultimately, taxpayers absorb these monetary costs too.

Technology and military modernization will continue to mold how war is fought, and for what reasons.


See related article: “Why America Needs War

Though we can somewhat cynically see profit as a motivator for war, there are other positive outcomes.

World wars ended many oppressive regimes and opened countries to democracy and personal freedom. Some would argue more lives were saved due to wars ending genocide and subjugation of certain races, faiths and genders.

Internal warfare can also bring positive social change. The Civil Rights Movement in America is a good example of people who fought for the humane treatment of others.

Political and social battles continue, but most of the people involved fight for (what they believe is) the right cause, rather than for economic gain.

Ironically, the threat of war can circumvent conflict altogether. John F. Kennedy stated, “It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.” The majority of global citizens would rather prepare for war than wage it.


As long as humanity exists, so will conflict. War is definitely not solely about making money. That said, the more we learn about motivations for war and its relationship to profit, the better we can avoid it.

Patriot Planet is a source for more news and information on related topics. Fighting for what’s right should be the true battle.

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