How to Sell War to Americans in 10 Easy Steps

Republican or Democrat, get your battle on.

TakePart News Editor Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is a journalist who has worked in many corners of the world for major news organizations.

Call it a calibrated, precise, narrow, super-easy military corrective action, or whatever else you like. When America drops bombs on another country, the bombed residents there tend to see it as a declaration of war. Here’s how to get your itchy finger on the button to start your own war.

1.  Get tough, playground-style. Do some old-fashioned name-calling. (Note: especially necessary if you used to be pals.)

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“It matters because if we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity...”—Sec. of State John Kerry, 2013.

“In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons…and we will not allow it. This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this countryand America will not permit it…” —President George W. Bush, weeks before war began in March 2003.

2. Say the problem Can’t. Be. Ignored. Because WAR.

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“…even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.” —Kerry, a second after he said the above.

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“…The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted.” — Bush, a second after he said the above.

3. Remind people your enemy has a finger on the button of chemical weapons. Crucial: true or not, this totally works.

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“Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent….(which) would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across…an area nearly 5 times the size of Manhattan.” —Sec. of State Colin Powell to United Nations, 2003.

“And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.” —Kerry, 2013.

4. Pay the UN some lip service, but don’t actually wait around to find out if they are going to give you your way.

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“We are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We helped to create the Security Council.… A threat to all must be answered by all. High-minded pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless the strongest nations are willing to stand behind them—and use force if necessary.” —Bush, 2003.

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“I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.” —Obama, 2013.

5. Point out that your enemy is really unpopular with their own people. Crucial: Ignore your own approval ratings* while doing so.

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“Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty, and when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.” —Bush, 2003.

“We’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.” —Obama, 2013

* Obama’s current job approval rating is 44 percent, according to Gallup.  After a huge surge following 9/11, George W. Bush’s job approval had dropped to 58 percent on the eve going to war with Iraq.

6. Regime change is like Fight Club. Never talk about wanting regime change…even if everyone knows your actions will likely result in regime change, or empower the people seeking to topple the regime.  

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“The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another.” —Bush, 2003.

“But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.” —Obama, 2013.

7. Me and what armies? Remind everyone who has your back…preferably in your enemy’s backyard.

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“It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus.” —Kerry, 2013.

“Our friends in the Arab world, the leaders in Turkey know it. I met with the president of Turkey earlier this week. They are all anxious to see whether or not the U.N. will be involved in this. There is a desire for the international community to act.” —Sec. of State Colin Powell, Sept. 8, 2002.

8. Wratchet up some fear about global boogeymen who haven’t attacked but could. Any second.

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“This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons’ attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction.” —Kerry, 2013.

“The passing of Saddam Hussein’s regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.” —Bush, 2003.

9. Make promises (empty or otherwise): It’ll only hurt for a second! This war is over so quick you’ll never even know it destroyed anything on the other side of the world!

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“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.” —Obama, 2013.

“I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators… —Vice President Dick Cheney, on NBC’s Meet The Press in 2003, in response to a question on whether America will be going into a long, costly war...days before we did.

9.5. Optional: Just go in and claim victory a couple months in and hope everyone turns off the news forever after your speech is over.

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“Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history.” —Bush, standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, May 1, 2003, two months into the war.

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10. But most of all, never offer an explanation of what military action will actually achieve…just talk about how we’re not cavemen when we’re dropping bombs on other countries.

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“I’ve listened carefully, as people and leaders around the world have made known their desire for peace. All of us want peace. The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world; the threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. If we have to act, we will act to restrain the violent, and defend the cause of peace. And by acting, we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of civilized behavior will be respected.” —Bush, 2003.

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“The prime minister and I are in agreement that in the face of such barbarism, the international community cannot be silent and that failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and that—possibility that other countries would use these weapons as well.” —Obama, 2013.

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