In his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I.
In 1935, Butler wrote a book titled “War is a Racket”, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them.
Butler points to a variety of examples, mostly from World War I, where industrialists whose operations were subsidized by public funding were able to generate profits essentially from mass human suffering.
The work is divided into five chapters:
- War is a racket
- Who makes the profits?
- Who pays the bills?
- How to smash this racket!
- To hell with war!
It contains this key summary:
- “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”
The book has significance historically as Butler points out in 1935 that the US was engaging in military war games in the Pacific that were bound to provoke the Japanese.
- “The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California buy lasix prescription were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.”
Butler explains that the common rationale for the buildup of the US fleet and the war games is fear that “the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people.”
In his penultimate chapter, Butler argues that three steps are necessary to disrupt the war racket:
1. Making war unprofitable. Butler suggests that the owners of capital should be “conscripted” before other citizens are: “It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war. The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labour before the nation’s manhood can be conscripted. … Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our steel companies and our munitions makers and our ship-builders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get”
2. Acts of war to be decided by those who fight it. He also suggests a limited plebiscite to determine if the war is to be fought. Eligible to vote would be those who risk death on the front lines.
3. Limitation of militaries to self-defense. For the United States, Butler recommends that the navy be limited, by law, to within 200 miles of the coastline, and the army restricted to the territorial limits of the country, ensuring that war, if fought, can never be one of aggression.
This dovetails nicely with the NDP’s position on Military and Foreign Policy.