War is a political enterprise. Governments make war. Governments commonly act at the behest of business interests which believe they can win advantage by war. Among the victims are the soldiers. What they have suffered is one of the sad chapters in the story of the martyrdom of man.
The masses of people do not want war. Before a war they hope for peace and demand peace. Then the government goes into action with its propaganda machinery. The press, radio, schools, and pulpit are brought into action like batteries of artillery to break down the people's resistance against war. War sentiment is deliberately manufactured. It is an artificial product. In time it cries out for war and the government goes to war with the backing of the people who seem unconscious of the program they are destined to sponsor.
Crimes which individuals dare not commit; wholesale and deliberate murder of men, women, and children; lying, arson, rape, plunder, torture, and bestialities which brutes would not inflict, are all promoted by the agencies of war. With war comes the enrichment of the avaricious; political corruption; and the loading of the nation with a new crop of militarists to proclaim the glories of war, to influence politics, and to seek preferment before other citizens.
Finally comes the bill to be paid, a burden upon the people for all time. It increases the cost of necessities; it makes inaccessible to generations yet unborn the things essential to life; it kills with its depressed standard of living its millions who, in their ignorance, bless with their dying breath the agencies of their undoing. Behind war always stands the sinister figure of its maker, a political government, guilty before the eyes of justice.
War is preventable. If nations refused to go to war there would be no war. Thus, there would have been no Japanese- Chinese war in 1939 had the Chinese refused to fight. Had Greece yielded to Italy, war between the two countries would have been prevented. Those countries which did not resist nazi invasion avoided war. This means dominance by the brutal and strong. Would it be better in the end to yield to force, with the hope of subsequent slow and evolutionary victory of reason and justice? This is more than an academic question for there are instances in history where virtue ultimately triumphed over violence. Impatience of men and the natural tendency to resist wicked might by might result in the clash of forces. It has been said that vice goes out to make war and virtue gives battle in defense; without virtue there would be no war. There would be masters and slaves. This is hardly true, for vice would fight with vice, the more vicious picking the quarrel and the less vicious offering defense and so on ad infinitum. The problem is to be solved by removing the vices that cause attack.
Peace with justice is guaranteed only when no nation attacks another. Peace demands conditions in which no nation can be impelled to be the aggressor in violence. This can be brought about only by removing the causes of such attack.
Many virtues of any government would be required to compensate for its wars. Among the evil consequences are distortions of history and the resultant misinformation of the public as to the real nature of wars in which nations have engaged. A succession of generations grows up in ignorance of sins of their governments.
War does not end war. In 1950, the fifth year after World War II, more than twice the number of men throughout the world were under arms than in 1937; and forty leading nations were spending 10 billion dollars a year more on armaments than before the War. This was despite disappearance of Germany, Italy, and Japan as military powers. These figures fall short of the facts because military expenditures are concealed. A large amount of military preparation goes on in research and construction in secret fields, in atomic bombs, bacteriological warfare, air planes, radar, guided missiles, and new weapons.
War is the stultifying phenomenon of history. Egypt, Persia, India, and the rest of the seats of the beginning of man were full of wars. The Jews, as recorded in the Old Testament, lived in a catalog of wars. Religious cults fought religious cults until reason conquered and people took their dogmas less seriously. Christians and Mohammedans fought bloody wars for 637 years (634-1271). Between 1096 and 1270 seven armies of Christian crusaders marched across Europe to attack the Saracens. Then came a hundred years of war between Catholics and Protestants (1522-1622). The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) began as a religious war.
War has been pretty constant during the Christian Era. Between 1480 and 1941 the leading nations were engaged in wars much of the time: Great Britain, in 78 wars; France, 71; Spain, 64; Russia, 61; Austria, 52; Turkey, 43; Sweden, 26; Italy, 25; Holland, 23; Germany, 23; Denmark, 20; China, 11; and Japan, 9. (Study of War by Quincy Wright) Professor Wright credits the United States of America with 13 wars, but War Department records show 110 wars fought against the Indian nations alone.
The war in the East, continuing in 1950, began in China. China has had almost continuous civil war since 1899. The Boxer movement was against the Great Powers. It had begun with the Opium War, forced on China by British determination to compel the Chinese Government to permit the importation and use of British produced opium. Study of the nature of war shows its connection with profit business.
It is often claimed that war can not be abolished because "war is in the nature of man." But whatever the nature of man is, it certainly is subject to changes. The nature of man a century ago was to die at an average age of 22. Now he has changed his nature and keeps on living 64 years. That is a big change in his nature. He once died by thousands of plague, yellow fever, and typhoid. He has practiced sanitary methods and now suffers no more plagues. In Scandinavia he has practically abolished destitution--once regarded as a natural state of man.
War is tolerated and supported because of belief that war will bring peace. But war brings war. People are always supporting the delusion of fighting to prevent war, when they should be waging peace. Political leaders in war always justify themselves as peace makers, when they are in fact war makers. Examine the results of most of the above wars and the seeds of the next war are discovered. The western nations in World War II stipulated the conditions necessary to guarantee peace and democracy. They won a complete victory. The victory increased poverty, scarcity, hunger, fear, hatred, militarism, military conflicts, and brought two of the allies to the verge of war against each other.
The United States at the end of World War II went into the period of peace with a navy of five times the tonnage it had at the beginning of the war. The United States for the first time in history was made the greatest naval power in the world, with a navy larger than all other navies combined. The asserted intention is to maintain this strength.
War becomes a habit. It results in glorification of arms and war. Bronze tablets, heroes' scrolls, decorations and medals, military toys for children, "Navy Day," "Army Day," war stories and movies, fortunes made out of war, and the creation of a cult of soldiers all make for war. Millions depend for a livelihood on war and preparation for war. War relieves capitalistic depressions and unemployment. These circumstances promote war.
War strengthens the military cult. The generals and admirals, let us say, do not want war but they want preparation for war; and preparation for war is the sure guarantee of war among nations which are in the grip of keen competition for foreign trade with nations which they believe they can defeat.
All important nations have a department of war with a minister of war at its head. These departments employ millions of men. With their staffs, armies, navies, arsenals, forts, camps, military schools, they require an enormous personnel. The leading nations spend more money on war than on all government expenditures put together. War and war making have become the most expensive functions of political governments.
As history is examined, it is difficult to find a war that was justified or even profitable. The warring nations of the world have a long list of mistakes for which to answer. Costs in money, property, lives and morale exceed the advantages. Distinction between aggressor and defensive nations is hard to make. The nation that would defend itself, from the military standpoint, finds it best to attack the aggressor before he can strike the first blow. Military tactics advise against waiting until the aggressor has marched his armies up to the border, made all preparations for attack, and then proceeds with invasion. The nation that is on the defensive makes the first attack. According to modern military theory, armies act defensively, and wars are started and carried on for defensive purposes. The German invasion of Scandinavia and the Low Countries was ostensibly to protect Germany from Great Britain. Admiral Halsey (U.S.N.) told the U. S. Senate: "We want to win wars and we want to fight them on enemy ground. That makes us all invasion minded." The defenders, with moral unction, start wars.
The counter currents in the idealism of war are evidences of its insanity. During the first year of the Japanese-Chinese war, the Government of the United States was helping the Chinese Government with munitions and money, while the business interests of the U. S. with the help of the Government were supplying the Japanese with war materials. This was after the U. S. Government had helped the Japanese take Manchuria away from China, which was really the beginning of the war. Mussolini cried out: "We represent a new principle in the world, we represent the clear-cut antithesis to democracy. Democracy is a stinking corpse. Fascism will become the controlling force of civilization. It does not believe that lasting peace is either possible or useful." While he was saying this, American, British, and French business interests, with the help of their Governments, were supplying him with millions of money to promote his warfare against democracy. Both he and Hitler were extolled by American big business men as representing the ideals most needed by the world. This all seems incredible now. Business men try to forget it. But it is terribly true. War produces a peculiar decay of moral and intellectual fiber among the policy makers and leaders. Competition is found in the high places among the generals, admirals, and politicians to a greater degree than in peace time. Fortunately among the masses of people a hopeful degree of common sense prevails.
War does a strange thing to the psychology of victors. It justifies their crimes. Officers of the western nations would not have relished being tried and condemned for their sins by an Axis court had the Axis nations won the war.
"We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers. We topped off our bombing and burning of enemy civilians by dropping atomic bombs on two nearly defenseless cities, thereby setting an all-time record for instantaneous mass slaughter." ( Edgar L. Jones, a war veteran, in the Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1946)
The peculiar phenomenon called patriotism is promoted by war. Patriotism does not stop with approval of one's own country, it tends to go on to the deprecation of other countries. It makes one set of people good people and another set bad people.
War and preparation for war are talked of and planned as though they were not only inevitable, but as though they were necessary. If governments want to do something about it, they can make mass fighting illegal the same as they have made individual fighting illegal. War can be eliminated from the methods of solving problems. If the nations of the world really mean business, they can unite and together make such laws. If they do not, it indicates that some of them are in favor of war as a means of solving some of the problems of peace.
Instead of planning the prevention of war, a prevalent idea is to compromise with war and prepare for it. Business, especially manufacturing, is making elaborate plans to "go underground." This is with the view of getting out of reach of bombs. Of course it can not be done, but business is taking seriously this attempt to escape the presumably inevitable attack. Value of shares of certain corporations is affected by their accessibility to bombs. The interesting fact is that a lot of intelligence is applied to getting away from the bombs of a hostile country, while these same people are applying little or none of their intelligence to the prevention of the next war. The war-making price-and-profit system is not only busy maintaining the conditions that make for war but it is quite sterile of devices for the prevention of war. War prevention is difficult under the prevalent business system.
It is a peculiar historic fact that the same type of men, often the same men, who planned the peace terms and the reconstruction after a war are again found doing the same thing after the next war. It is this that leads to the next war. Experience seems not to teach that a new and different approach is needed. The old ways are out-moded.
According to our public declarations, the western nations fought World War II to make the world better; but privately, in our hearts, we fought the war to keep the world as it was. The world as it was was a war-making world. We won a war to promote more war.
In World War II, the fascist idea seemed to be the disturbing element and gave the war its character. Two factors contributed to the rise of fascism and nazism. Karl Marx and his followers in the middle of the nineteenth century compelled Bismarck, in self-defense, to promote statism as the great social benevolence. These two uncongenial elements promoted expansion of state functions. Marxian socialism advocated the expanding state as a panacea for the workers. Bismarck expanded state functions to prevent the socialists doing it first. The people, especially of Germany, thought and moved in the direction of statism. All other European countries caught the same trend. Centralized government, doing all kinds of good things for the people, became the ideal. This prevalent statist psychology made it possible for Mussolini and Hitler to gather the masses under their banners. Socialistic propaganda culminated in Italy and Germany, after a hundred years, in fascism and national socialism. The authoritarian state naturally develops an authoritarian individual. Centralization promotes centralization. It may be easy for an autocratic leader to keep a country out of war, but it is equally easy for him to take a country into war. If his fortunes are to be improved by war, he gives the people war. Democracy also, it can be said, goes to war when the people think their fortunes will be improved by war.
War destroys civil liberties. Officialdom must be exalted, the ù military method of orders from above to be obeyed unthinkingly below must prevail, and the civil liberties of the individual must be sacrificed to what is regarded as the greater cause, under the guise of uniting the people patriotically behind their government in order to promote war. A warring people are a frightened people, among whom many civil rights are bound to be lost.
War makes for imperialism. Victors become imperialistic because of mandated territory placed under their care, because of business advantages in new peoples to be brought within their trading ambit, and because of bases needed to protect the victors from enemies created by the war--often their former allies. After every war in which the United States has been a victor, it added new territory to its already large domain.
The common man might take a look at his government and evaluate its unreasonableness under the influence of war. What would he think of a citizen who ornamented his yard with statues of men who had distinguished themselves by killing other people; who committed murder, robbery, and incendiarism, and called it virtue; who provided prostitutes for the personal use of his male servants; who was so inept that he could not get along with his neighbors; and who spent 78 percent of his income on ammunition?
The insanity of war is shown by the fickleness of nations in their alliances and hostilities. Neither rhyme nor reason is to be found. The following is a modification of a chart prepared and published in 1944 by "The Peace Now Movement":
Must we repeat the folly of the past?
1755--U.S.A. loved the British and hated the French (French and Indian War)
1776--U.S.A. loved the French and hated the British (American Revolution)
1799--U.S.A. hated the French (Sea battles with France)
1812--U.S.A. loved the French and hated the British (War of 1812)
1846--U.S.A. loved the Southerners and hated the Mexicans (Mexican War over Texas)
1861-1864--U.S.A. hated the Southerners and the British (Civil War--Britain aids the South)
1898--U.S.A. hated the Spanish (Spanish-American War)
1899--U.S.A. hated the Chinese and the Filipinos (Conquest of the Philippines)
1900--U.S.A. loved the Japanese and hated the Chinese (Boxer uprising in China)
1904--U.S.A. loved the Japanese and hated the Russians (Russo-Japanese War)
1914--U.S.A. loved the Japanese and the Russians (Allies in World War I)
1914--U.S.A. hated the Mexicans (Marines land at Vera Cruz)
1914--U.S.A. loved the British and French and hated the Austrians and Germans (Beginning of World War I)
1915--U.S.A. loved the Italians (Italy joins the Allies)
1916--U.S.A. hated the Mexicans (Pershing invades Mexico)
1917--U.S.A. loved the Japanese and the Chinese (Allies in World War I) but not the Russians (Russian Bolshevik Rev.)
1918--U.S.A. loved the Italians and hated the Russians (U. S. troops invade Russia)
1927--U.S.A. loved the Japanese and hated the Chinese (U. S. bombs Nanking)
1935--U.S.A. hated the Italians (Italy invades Ethiopia)
1936--U.S.A. loved the Chinese and hated the Russians (Communists despoil China)
1939--U.S.A. loved the British and French and hated the Germans and Russians (Beginning of World War II)
1939--U.S.A. loved the Finns and hated the Russians (Russia invades Finland)
1941--U.S.A. loved the Russians and hated the Finns (Russia fights Germany and Finland)
1941--U.S.A. loved the Filipinos and hated the Japanese (War with Japan)
1941--U.S.A. loved the British, Chinese, Dutch, Russians, and hated the Germans, Italians, and Japanese (World War II)
1942--U.S.A. loved some French and hated others (Despise Vichy regime)
1942--U.S.A. loved the Mexicans and other Latin Americans (Allies in World War II)
1943--U.S.A. loved the Chinese and tried to love Russians and British
1948--U.S.A. disliked Russians and was disliked by many other nations. This despite the fact that the U.S.A. had for three years been sending charitable help to the suffering countries, and its President had recommended to its Congress an appropriation of seventeen billion dollars for the relief of the distressed countries of Europe during the next three years.
War makes strange bedfellows. Victorious allies have a way of falling out. Rivalry in the glories of victory and disagreements in division of spoils produce enmities among victors. Victors puffed up with arrogance and moral complacency punish the vanquished who nurse their grudges. The results are new alliances and seeds of war. New wars are constantly occurring between nations thought to be friendly. Fighting on the winning side is a delusion; one does not know which is the winning side until it is too late. And then the winning side turns out to be a loser.
Governments in war are confused, vacillating, immoral, and inefficient. The western nations won the war, it is said, by their efficiency. If there is so much efficiency, why was it not used to prevent the war? What is the nature of governmental efficiency? These nations were instrumental in making the war. Why did they make the war they won? If they are capable of making the war and then winning it, why could not these talents be used in preventing war? The cost would be less. Individuals are less confused, vacillating, immoral and inefficient. A man who conducts himself like a political government would be thought a strange creature.
As war makes for destruction, murder, and pillage, so does it make for dishonesty and moral break-down. In 1941 the military heads of the United States and Great Britain proclaimed the Atlantic Charter, setting forth the principles that should govern them in the War.
"First, these countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other. Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned." Third, fourth, fifth, and more, they proclaimed their devotion to self-government of all peoples and to a peace "which will afford assurances that all men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want."
As soon as these principles had been proclaimed, the proponent nations proceeded to violate every one of them, until the charter was in shreds, and little more than the Atlantic remained.
The nature of war is to lose. Every nation that ever went out as a world conqueror to become a dominant power has failed in the attempt and fallen. This includes a large catalog of disillusioned countries that once thought of themselves as invincible conquerors. Among them are Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Sweden, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Italy, Germany, and lastly Great Britain--now in the throes of losing its world-wide empire and of confining itself to a few islands in the eastern Atlantic.
Benjamin Franklin in 1775 published a set of "Rules by Which a Great Empire May Reduce Itself to a Small One." This was just before the American Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. Great Britain has now for a century and three-quarters put Franklin's formula into operation, and is on the verge of making itself a small nation. Wars have been the chief recourse to this end. It is said that wars build nations. They also destroy nations.
War represents a violation of the cooperative method. It may be contended that people band together cooperatively to defend themselves from an enemy. They do the same to attack in union. There are defensive actions outside the field of war-- defense against flood, fire, plague, famine, drought, and other calamities. But in these nonmilitary defenses the people act together democratically. Without democracy there is no cooperation. War waged as a military enterprise flouts democracy. Democracy is inimical to war and to war making. Where the democratic voice of the people prevails there is the least danger of war. When war begins, its administration requires abnegation of democracy as a first step. A government that wants war first makes itself autocratic. Then it can proceed without interference from the people. Its propaganda machinery goes into action. Opposition is chastised as unpatriotic, and finally as seditious. The people are more and more deprived of voice. Cooperation fades away, for cooperation is democracy.
In the conduct of war, autocracy is the prevailing principle. An army is governed by an autocracy. The soldier does what he is told to do. A society dominated by cooperative idealism and practice would be the least adapted to making war. It would be the sort of society best qualified to keep peace and to defend justice and democracy.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.