Wednesday, 26 April 2006

War. What is it good for?

Yesterday's Anzac commemorations brought many reflections on the nature of war. Here very briefly, is mine.

War is immensely brutal, intensely destructive, utterly brutal and heart-breakingly tragic for all involved. War is horrific. Wars very rarely have winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age said yesterday, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort."

In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth. But wars are not acts of nature. They are not acts of God. Wars are acts of man, and in that they are the second-worst thing that human beings can inflict on one another. Second-worst only because the very worst is tyranny, an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is tyrannical governments and movements intent on inflicting tyranny and oppression against others that begin wars of conquest and campaigns of terror. It is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence necessary.

When such tyrannies exist and are allowed to exist, then peace without justice is not true peace. Peace without justice rewards the tyrranical and is an injustice to those they enslave and kill. As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, and we will continue to need to be ready to defend ourselves.

If we have things worth living for, which we do, then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed.

LINKS: Lest we forget, Anzac day is for those who know what war is - The Age
The news is out: Governments kill - Not PC (Nov, 2005)

War, History, History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism, Politics-World


  1. One thing has changed though: we now live in a benign strategic environment where our soldiers don't need the right stuff or air support to operate.

    Even when we send them overseas to die while locking up opposition politicians.

  2. Kant's "perpetual peace" is actually quite instructive here. To achieve peace, no empire or universal government is required - just all states being republican. And by republican he did not mean democracy. His theories on this are actually quite libertarian.
    I think this theory is alot better than 'democratic peace theory' or Thomas Friedman's Mcds theory (no 2 countries goto war if they have a McDs). At least people are realising the nature of the regimes determines conflict (realists dont).

  3. War is the projection of diplomatic objectives using military means.
    Quite simply, nations talk and argue and when this diplomacy fails, it is settled by war. When confronted by a Kaiser, an Ottoman Empire, a Nazi madman or a nuclear armed Islamic theocracy then the only proper course is to go to war once all other diplomatic avenues have been exhausted.
    It behoves a nation to honour its soldiers who have fought for their country, not to undermine their sacrifices with hand-wringing and misplaced guilt for the 'atrocities' of war.
    War happens. Get over it, or become enslaved.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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