Objection to War (2)

Continued from page 1

My objection to war is fourfold —

(1) That intra-specific competition is unnatural to humanity and will lead to its eventual destruction.

(2) That war never achieves what it sets out to achieve.

(3) That the method of war is itself far worse than anything against which it may be used.

(4) That there is a practical alternative method of dealing with any International problem which may arise, including the direct threat of aggression.

2. That war never achieves what it sets out to achieve.

There has been a remarkable similarity in the aims of the majority of wars throughout history. They have been fought for diverse reasons on different occasions, but the same sets of reasons have always survived. Briefly these may be divided into two classes — (a) wars of aggression and (b) wars of defence. Wars of aggression have been fought for material conquest, to impose ideologies and religions upon other nations, for the glory of the aggressor, to avenge a previous defeat, to obtain financial and commercial gain. Wars of defence have been fought against these aggressions; for freedom; to protect the rights of small nations; to make the world safe for some particular system and fit for its heroes to inhabit; to end war. Although there is scarcely a nation which has not at some time fought a war of aggression for one or several of the above reasons, these wars are usually regarded objectively as being unjust, the aggressor in any particular war always imagining his own case to be exceptional. On the other hand, wars of defence are usually thought to be quite justified by the ends they have in view, despite the evil means used in the hope of attaining them. Now it is a matter of historical fact that ends very seldom justify means, rather do the means tend to condition the ends. The Great War was fought by the Central Powers in order to increase their prestige and extend their territory. As they were defeated, they were naturally unsuccessful in these attempts. Therefore it might be imagined that the victors were successful in realizing their aims. These were — to resist aggression, to make the world safe to democracy, to protect the rights of small nations, to make England a fit place for heroes to live in, and to end war. How far may these aims be regarded as having been successful in the light of subsequent history?

Let us consider the results respectively. The threat of aggression in Europe since the Great War has been as great or greater than it ever was before. There is less democracy in the World, the number of dictatorships having increased, and even in supposedly democratic states, the democracy having assumed an increasingly totalitarian form. The rights of small nations have been threatened and violated. The heroes of the Great War who managed to survive are many of them engaged in selling matches and bootlaces in the streets of England, which is now deemed to be fit for them to live in. Far from the Great War ending war, since 1939 there has been a succession of wars throughout the world, and we are now embarking upon one which promises to be more destructive than ever. It is being fought with the same professed aims and the same misleading slogans are being bleated everywhere. Is there any reason to suppose that the results are likely to be very different?

If they are more satisfactory it will be due to the increasing number of people on both sides who are resisting the common enemy of war itself instead of adding to the toll of its destruction. When has violence and bloodshed ever promoted a mentality which is able to formulate a reasonable and constructive peace treaty? How can a nation behave sanely and in a spirit of brotherhood towards another nation after it has devoted all its energies for a number of years to an insane campaign of brutality, violence, and mass murder? We began this war by declaring that it was not being fought against the German people, but against their leaders. Obviously it is not the leaders who are being attacked and made to suffer, but the people themselves. Moreover, there is now a growing feeling in this country against all Germans, which finds expression in newspaper articles and letters supposing to prove the inherent cruelty and brutality of the race, and declaring the Peace of Versailles to have been far too lenient. The truth is that during a war, there is no limit to the devilish means which either side will employ in order to gain victory. Although there are certain phases of recent British history which do not bear repetition, we still piously declare that God is on our side. Already, one can almost see the seeds of another war at the beginning of this second war to end war.

It having been shown that wars do not achieve any desirable objects they may have in view, the question arises as to whether wars are all they pretend to be, particularly with regard to the present conflict. Britain is supposed to be at war with Germany because Britain guaranteed Poland, against aggression. How is it to be explained that although Russia committed an act of aggression against Poland, Britain has not declared war on Russia? It is also significant that the country we claim to be defending, by some means not fully apparent, against German aggression, was actually conniving with Germany in acts of aggression against Czecho-Slovakia little over twelve months ago. How is it that the country we condemned for invading Abbysinia in 1935 has suddenly in 1939 become "that great and friendly nation"? Roumania has recently been purchasing Heinkel Bombers from Germany and Bristol fighters from England. Is she going to fight on both sides at once, or is there some other reason for both sides supplying her with warplanes? Until just before the outbreak of hostilities, Germany was receiving from England ship loads of goods necessary for her to conduct the war. These are typical of many facts which do not seem to be explicable by the supposed aims of the present war. Let it not be forgotten that the system we are fighting to defend has been unable to find more than a pittance of 10/– for each of its aged to live on, unable to solve the problem of millions of unemployed and undernourished men, whilst its leaders and their supporters are thriving on the profits of millions of pounds invested in war industries. Let us remember that the democracy for which we are implored to die, refused in 1932 to abolish the bomber which it needed to preserve "law and order" in parts of its own Empire. Hence it can be seen that even if war achieved its professed aims, one would have to be very certain of their validity and the desirability of supporting them before one was willing to take part in so drastic a method as modern war.

Continued ...

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Page last modified: 13 April, 2024
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Patrick Taylor