Sunday, May 04, 2008

"War is in principle something immoral"

"War is in principle something immoral"? What hippie peacenik said that? Let's go to tape...
The physical demilitarization of Germany has been successfully accomplished. But that alone does not guarantee that Germany will not again force the world into war in the future. Militarism must also be eliminated from the German mind. For all civilized peoples of the world, war is in principle something immoral, but the Germans must still be helped to this self-evident truth.

-- General Dwight Eisenhower, 1945
(Quoted in Konrad Jarausch, After Hitler, p. 28)
[emphasis added]
Well, I'll be. Ike.

I wonder what percentage of the American public -- or, even more, the American political elites -- would agree with the statement (without attribution) that it's a "self-evident truth" that "War is in principle something immoral"?

Given the enthusiasm for war five years back, I have to wonder if we, now, need some help to see "this self-evident truth".

Which is just another way of saying what Jim Henley said in his justifiably widely-quoted post about how he got the Iraq war right (written when the papers were filled with people who got it wrong):
What all of us [who opposed the war from the beginning] had in common is probably a simple recognition: War is a big deal. It isn’t normal. It’s not something to take up casually. Any war you can describe as “a war of choice” is a crime. War feeds on and feeds the negative passions. It is to be shunned where possible and regretted when not. Various hawks occasionally protested that “of course” they didn’t enjoy war, but they were almost always lying. Anyone who saw invading foreign lands and ruling other countries by force as extraordinary was forearmed against the lies and delusions of the time.

It goes without saying that America has not (yet) descended to the depths of immorality that Germany had when Ike said that "Militarism must also be eliminated from the German mind." But we have one thing in common with the Germans of that time: our country also has, with the support of a majority of its population, committed "crimes against peace" -- that is, "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" as the American prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson, put it.

Bush has instituted a torture regime, and taken the imperial presidency farther than any president in history by an order of magnitude at least. But the central crime of his presidency, the one that has wrought more destruction on the world than any other, was his war of aggression against Iraq.

And far, far too many Americans supported it. Because we have lost sight of the "self-evident truth" that "war is in principle something immoral". Those of us who understood that were against the Iraq war; those who didn't, for the most part, supported it.

And if this basic fact is not recognized, and dealt with, we'll do it again. (Actually, we've done it again: Iraq is the again, of which Vietnam was the first time after which we should have learned better. But we'll do it again again, if you see what I mean.)

Militarism must be eliminated also from the American mind.

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