Maxims based on war 

Maxims based on war

Lord Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-Five Years, Vol. II, p. 52 (on World War I):

More than one true thing may be said about the causes of the war, but the statement that comprises most truth is that militarism and the armaments inseparable from it made war inevitable. Armaments were intended to produce a sense of security in each nation--that was the justification put forward in defence of them. What they really did was to produce fear in everybody. Fear causes suspicion and hatred; it is hardly too much to say that, between nations, it stimulates all that is bad and depresses all that is good.

This is close to some of the classic statements in Thucydides; to paraphrase: "cities or peoples all seek freedom, whatever the rights or wrongs of what others have done to them, or what they must do to achieve their freedom; those who have achieved freedom, or had a taste of it, seek empire." Grey doesn't quite see it that way. Like most decent people, he still hopes that somehow some laws can be imposed.

p. 32: "Even now, with all the experience of the war behind us, it is doubtful whether Europe is penetrated with a sense that war must be prevented in future, and that this must be the common purpose of all nations." Grey puts great hopes on the League of Nations. Preventing war must be a common purpose of us all, no matter how nasty some of the regimes are that are in place at a given time? No matter, indeed, what historical claims to land and wealth may be unresolved?

Paraphrasing a character in Thucydides: "We are all led by fear and hope." (Not, above all, by a desire to achieve justice if doing so hurts our perceived self-interest). Grey doesn't say much about the hope--about the glory and immortality that conquerors hope for if they are at all sane. Are those motives morally worse than other human motives? Of couse he has the well-known British blind spot for many years: British empire good; any empire that threatens British empire, not only bad but evil.

Grey assumes that the weapons of his day don't provide deterrence; they only provoke further build-ups, and ultimately aggression. There are still arguments to the effect that deterence with nuclear weapons actually worked in the Cold War, and should work even better now that the U.S. can guarantee the destruction of any aggressor.

I'm now reading the History of England by W.E. Lunt, no doubt long since out of print:

[blockquote]The making of England is the story of the deeds by which the peoples of these independent kingdoms [the seven Angle, Saxon and Jute kingdoms] were united under the rule of one king. Three forces helped in varying degrees to bring about this result.[/blockquote]
1) The warfare among the different groups of the conquerors....The stronger and more ambitious kings secured superiority over neighboring kingdoms.

2) The church....

3) These two forces, however, failed to accomplish unity, until the third, the pressure of a common enemy, was applied. Toward the close of the eighth century the Danes began to invade the country from the sea.

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