Those Who Want War And Those Who Accept War

I do not consider myself a pacifist. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of my time involved in conflicts of various kind and even more of my time studying conflicts and seeking to draw insight from them, I could not with justice claim that I had zero interest in the subject as a whole or lacked the willingness to throw down when it was necessary. When we tend to assign blame to people for engaging in conflicts, it is a natural and mistaken tendency for people to apportion the blame equally between two sides, since it can be a difficult task to understand who is an aggressor in many cases. It can be a worthwhile tactic to provoke others into conflict and consider them as the aggressors to have some sort of moral superiority, but that is not the specific subject we are dealing with here.

There is a moral difference between those who want war and seek out conflict and those who are willing to accept it, because it is that dynamic that tends to account for the way that conflict develops. Those who want war often see some sort of tactical benefit in war, and seek war at particular times for particular reasons. During the run-up to the American Civil War, for example, extremists in the North, a fairly small percentage of the population, and the much larger percentage of extremists on the South were pushing for regional conflict for different reasons. Those in the North often saw a moral evil in slavery that they saw justified a civil conflict to remove, which ended up happening, albeit at horrific cost. On the other hand, extremists in the South saw war as a preferable option to the eventual peaceful extinguishing of slavery via constitutional means once 3/4 of states had become free, which they saw as an eventual possibility.

On the contrary, a great many people on both sides accepted war without seeking it out. Some were only willing to fight under very narrow circumstances that ended up happening. Some people would fight for their regions even without having desired to leave themselves, viewing slavery as safer within the United States than as a part of a hostile enemy to it. Some people would fight for the Union but not fight to get rid of slavery, and so on and so forth. People who accept war do so because they realize at some point that if one is to be a person that is worthy of respect, some level of self-defense is necessary, and that personal dignity that causes someone to defend themselves from the continual attacks by others is itself what creates the conditions by which a genuine war can be fought. What makes these sorts of wars dangerous, though, is their asymmetry, in that the fight for personal dignity against someone who has wronged you by their persistent aggression typically does not mean a tactical fight for benefit but rather the sort of fight that goes on until the aggressor is unable to resist judgment for their aggression, which typically is a vastly more destructive war.

There are indeed periods in history where small wars were conducted for minor benefits, as one sees in Europe in much of the 18th century or Italy during the age of mercenary forces and petty city-states. Such persistent conflicts are harmful for soldiers, who may die in the thousands or tens of thousands, but typically do not involve the interests of the people and so usually these conflicts do not involve fundamental matters or go on longer than it takes to sort out who owns what village or district. It is when warfare directly deals with the interests of the people that there is considerably more ferocity in the matter. This creates a dynamic where a manipulative political elite can maneuver a situation so that the people can be stirred to great anger by a provoked attack, but it is the attack that then provokes the people into a hostility that gives them the willingness to endure hardship in order to push for ultimate and total victory.

When we examine the sorts of conflicts that now exist, it is important to ponder what sort of people we are. Are we the people trying to provoke a conflict to happen? If so, we may get more than we bargain for. Or are we rather people who would rather be left alone to do what we want to do in peace and quiet but who are willing to fight if we are pushed. This is also a dangerous place to be, in that our desire for peace and quiet can lead us to be manipulated into a conflict we may not want but that others want, but at the same time, it is this greater mass of people who provide the means by which inevitable conflicts are brought to a resolution, as it is the way in which people determine which side they are ultimately on that shapes who wins the massive wars and conflicts that resulte from times of crisis like our own.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Military History, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

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