Friday, July 17, 2009

In a perfect world, there is no war

When I picture a perfect world, I see a world at peace. I see a world in which there is no need for guns or tanks, in which the only rockets fired are toys, fireworks, or part of a space program. And my perfect world is one that many agree on.

Perhaps a few disagree; Vikings that looked forward to Ragnarok at the end of Valhalla (and any other religious groups looking forward to some final battle), would-be Klingons, feudalistic or retroactive types looking to the glory of martial combat, and the occasional fascist. I'm not being hyperbolic in mentioning fascists, by the way; we do still have people who lean towards that ideology, and fascism drew inspiration from social Darwinism, concluding that the conflict between nations is a good thing. I suppose I'll want to talk about fascism in detail later.

However, with those few exceptions - and I think they are small exceptions - I think most of us can agree that world peace would be a nice thing.

There remains, however, no small amount of ideological division on why a perfect world is a peaceful one. A Quaker might say that war itself is immoral; a more hawkish individual might say that there is no war because in a perfect world, nobody would do something that would provoke a war.

It is extraordinarily difficult to see war as anything other than an act that creates and unleashes evil. It is also extraordinarily difficult to see an immediately effective alternative to greater evils, such as mass exterminations. Some speak of the usefulness of war, and I will complain about their moral corruption, but it is one of the tests I have seen applied: Would this war serve our interests?

I am sympathetic to the view of genuine pacifists, but it is not a stand I am strong enough to embrace. The test I prefer is this: Is the wrong done by waging war greater or less than the wrong it would prevent? And from that point of view, many wars are difficult to justify. I feel that many wars are not necessary wars, the cost in blood too high for too little prevention; however, I would rather damn myself through action to benefit others and prevent them from being done much greater wrong.

But oh, what a wonderful world it could be in which we could all get along.

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