David Axe, a 32-year-old freelance journalist who's garnered recognition for his Danger Room blog in Wired, started reporting on wars seven years ago. At first, he expected to be overcome by a steady stream of patriotic and adrenaline-fueled fervor. But after stints in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Congo, Somalia and other besieged countries, Axe has come to a conclusion.
It's all in the title of his new graphic novel: War Is Boring. Axe's avatar is the main character in his short comic book, populating the panels as he discovers the senselessness of war.
In real life, he's just as black and white about how America goes to war.
Wars, David Axe told a crowd of scholars and students at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy yesterday, are just plain disappointing. "I may have, in the past, thought of war as useful," he said. "I understand now that's not really the case. We really have no idea who we're fighting or why we're fighting." War's biggest hallmark, he said, is confusion. In
East Timor Chad, Axe witnessed a gun-battle started because a soldier mistakenly shot at an imagined shadow. The aftermath: piles of dead bodies.
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The alternative isn't as dramatic, and it'd make for a pretty lame graphic novel. Peace just doesn't sell in the comic book world, or on the world stage. Still, Axe insists it's the answer. "I'm a huge fan of doing nothing," he said. "I'd love to be led by someone comfortable with doing nothing."
Axe urged his "nothing" approach toward the growing U.S./China rivalry, which he thinks will be America's next entanglement. Our anti-Chinese rhetoric, Pacific arms race and allegiance to defend Taiwan may cost us global stability, he said. In other words, we'd rather destroy China -- our most important trading partner -- than share our world power.
It's America's overzealousness that will do it in, as it has in the past, he said. "We need to identify the just wars and fight those wars. Right now we're bad at it. We're very bad at it."
But do the soldiers Axe followed share the antiwar sentiments of his graphic novel? "We're blessed with an army that follows orders, despite how it feels," Axe told Hair Balls, adding that this professionalism is the secret to keeping democracy. "But how it feels is all over the map."