Wednesday, 25 April 2007

War. What is it good for?

Today's Anzac commemorations bring 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, "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, of men who hope to achieve their values by violence, and who will do so if others do not rise to defend their own lives and their own values. They are the second-worst thing on earth 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 tyrannical, and is an injustice to those the tyrants 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. If war is horrific, then tyranny is worse.

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

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


  1. "As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun..."

    There can be no freedom without freedom from violence. Starting with violence and smacking in the home - 'horse whip woman' anyone?

    Violence and war, hitting kids, guns and so on - and the bromide filled comic-book war glorifying movie "300" are *not* signs of manliness - and men need to stand up and say so if mankind is to progress.

    The gentleman “is a manly man with polish and perfection. Manliness is below the gentleman, since many manly men are coarse and rude.”

    Words, not weapons, are used to defend one’s honour.

  2. There can be no freedom from violence without the resolution to ensure that violence is not rewarded.

    Both words AND weapons -- and the will to use them! -- are necessary to defend one's values.

  3. "Words, not weapons, are used to defend one’s honour.'
    That should work, every time.
    Let's dash off a note to the janjaweed of the Sudan, to Robert Mugabe, to the Chinese government and the Burmese government and the Somalis and Ethiopians and wahabbists and the Sendero Luminoso...
    Heck, we could clear this violence thing up in no time.
    Neville Chamberlain was definitely on to something, waving that piece of paper around.

  4. And what has war achieved lately?

    War is strengthening the hand of those who regard terror as the only effective weapon, creating a breeding ground for more violence, insecurity, and extremism.

    People are heroic by living to their fullest potential. Yes, our soldiers are heroes. But so are loving parents. And so are kind and generous friends. And so are honest business people. Why is it vogue right now to be a hero because you are dead? Because an insane president decided to sacrifice lives with no foreseeable end.

    And you Reich Wingers call yourselves pro-life.

  5. Humans don't have a very good record of looking at a young person and predicting a future millionaire with any great accuracy, but we are pretty good at picking the types that will do evil, because they often tell us by word or deed or by observing them.

    Same with dictators or totalitarians in general.. they often tell us what evil they intend to do. Europe knew very clearly what Hitler intended to do, if he could, but the Europeans were so horrified by the tragedy of WW1 that they appeased him. That cost 60 million lives when a short sharp bout of violence would have dealt to him and his cronies much earlier. It would have cost lives to deal to him, but likely in the thousands, not millions.

    Similarly, the Rwanda massacre was predictable and predicted, yet the world stood by rather than become involved in something messy.

    The critical point is that dictators and would be mass murderers often give clear signals of their intentions, and we could stop them if we weren't so afeared of war and killing. Now we have Iran promising to blow Israel away once they go nuclear.. it would pay to assume it means what it says and do something about it now whilst we can.

    The West hasn't gone to war for imperialistic reasons for much of the last century, but war has come to it because it wouldn't act positively to preserve the peace and snuff out the totalitarians. By acting like this, we have ended up in bigger and more dreadful conflicts.

    There is thus plenty of scope for Just War to preserve the peace, curtail the totalitarians and change the framework that leads to greater conflict.. but it requires early action, ruthlessness and sacrifice by free peoples. This isn't entirely altruistic, but a necessity to prevent tragedies and wider conflict that inevitably drives up the death rate.

    I have little patience with those who would ignore history, ignore the build up of the murderers and ignore the international outrages that eventually lead to more and more deaths.


  6. Yes, our soldiers are heroes. But so are loving parents. And so are kind and generous friends. And so are honest business people. Why is it vogue right now to be a hero because you are dead?

    What? That's an incredibly wet list of heroic people - generous friends are heroes? - come on!

    What's missing today is heroic leadership -political and military.

    American soldiers are heroic considering that one gives up a lot of luxury to go and fight in the wars. It's not like the old days when young men had few interesting prospects at home and sought a life of adventure and purpose in the imperial army. Nowadays you give up a good life to go to some godforsaken shithole to attempt to help the world's least rational people, get blown up and shot at and then imprisoned by your own side if you attempt to win the war. Actually it's a little bit stupid to volunteer for such duty when the war can be won by pattern bombing -nice and safe from 40,000 feet. President Truman, Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay, now they were heroes. They sold their souls so that you might live a good life. Heroic leadership indeed.

  7. General Pattan had it right when he said their are plenty of live heroes and that the porpose of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.
    There are three options in fighting a war against a determined enemy
    1.dont fight and become a self sacreficial victim.
    2.fight in a self sacreficial manner and accept unneccary casualties.
    or 3 utilise arial conventional or nuclear bombardment uncomprimisingly winning withou sacrifice
    This is why Curtis Lee May,Bomber Harris and Truman were heroes.
    Non Objectivist Libertarians in the states and anarcho capatalists dont get the vital point that objectivists get is that self sacrificial defeat or victory is not an option only non self sacreficial victory.
    One aguement against the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki i remember by an american libertarian presumedly of the non objectivist variety was that american marines should have accepted the risk of an invasion.
    Well to hell with that attitude its no wonder Ayn Rand thought the Lew Rockwell anarco capatalist were just right wing hippies
    And as for 300 yes it was a movie but the battle was real and the threat was real and it wasent just about defending honour so Ruths idiotic bullshit about using words against a Persian army of 100000 sounds particularly inplausible.


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