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A Dissent

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, which killed something between 15 and 19 million people, an astonishing and colossal waste of human life and potential.

Sometimes it is necessary to engage in violence to prevent even worse violence, but it is always a terrible thing when that happens, and is nothing to be celebrated. At best, the “victory” of the allies was that nothing particularly worse happened, although what happened (including the deaths of about 2% of the population of Great Britain and 4.25% of the population of France) was pretty much as awful as one would imagine to begin with. As an anti-nationalist, I note that there is no good reason to believe the deaths of millions of Austrians and Germans (something like 4% of the population in those countries) was any less of a tragedy. All deaths are tragedies, and all deaths are premature.

War is not glorious. It achieves no great goals. It cures no diseases, it bridges no rivers, it builds no great cities, it does not launch people into space, clothe the naked, or feed the hungry. Those are worth celebrating, those sorts of achievements represent mankind at its best. War does quite the opposite thing — it destroys resources in bulk, kills vast numbers of people, and sets back human achievement, sometimes by years, sometimes by decades or longer.

Nor is participation in war laudable. Sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself, but there is never any glory in it. Dying face down in the mud is tragic, not glorious, and World War I was almost nothing but one tragedy after another, over and over, multiplied by the millions.

So, today is properly a day of mourning, for a world that was happily growing in population, accumulating capital, and engaging in peaceful trade, which was rent asunder by a stupid, useless waste of human life.

At one point, this trauma was deeply etched into the minds of most average people, but the memory has faded as the generations have passed, and thus the world flirts with horror again and again. Humans do learn, but far too slowly, and there are many people who work actively to tell other people things that are not true.

Sadly, intelligence and rationality are not universally revered, and thus, many are forced to learn the same things over and over, with bloody results.

56 comments to A Dissent

  • All deaths are tragedies

    Hell no, some deaths are well worth celebrating.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Hell no, some deaths are well worth celebrating.

    We shall have to agree to disagree. Even when a death means the world will be a better place, that implies something pretty bad had happened to begin with, something that likely is worth mourning. Certainly the deaths of millions of people in World War I are worth mourning for.

  • War is not glorious. It achieves no great goals.

    I think it can dismantle organizations that spread poverty and death.
    It obviously doesn’t always do so, and is rare when it does; it tends to require other organizations that, at best, spread poverty and death except somewhat less; I expect you can even argue that the organizations necessary to carry out a war are fundamentally incapable of identifying those few cases when it does.
    Still, those conditions are weaker than “no great goals”.

  • Ben David

    Here in Israel, waves of starry-eyed, amnesiac Jewish Luftmenschen have had this nonsense beaten out of them by reality. The most recent crop of fools were the dreamers of the Oslo Peace/Piece Process.

    Come visit and I will introduce you to my neighbors who fled the corruption and violence of various points in East and West Europe, and more close by in the Middle East. You can convince them how horrible it is to bear arms and defend oneself.

    I assure you – now that the self-righteous pacifists have been voted out, the buses in Tel Aviv no longer blow up.
    Awaiting your reply, I remain…

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    You can convince them how horrible it is to bear arms and defend oneself.

    Apparently reading comprehension remains a problem, even among those who appear on the surface to be literate.

  • I dissent from this dissent. There is a lot of glory in war. There is no glory in causing war. I agree with Churchill, C.S.Lewis and many others who, in 1940, said that since we were bound to fight and had to win, there was no sense fighting with a long face – we should not deny our troops all the morale advantages that their finest hour could give them.

    it does not launch people into space

    Are you not strictly wrong about this, or are you claiming that the experience his V2 work gave Werner Von Braun was not of launching people into space, and the subsequent cold war that inspired the moon shot was not an actual war?

  • Itellyounothing@hotmail.co.uk

    The payment of being prepared for war –
    1 – Soldiers must be trained to be willing to kill, funding organisations to kill and having equipment designed to kill
    2 – Acknowledging a little glory in the bravery of the soldiers
    3 – Less resource for non-military matters

    What the payment buys –
    1 – Civilisation, which can only exist with a measure of safety and security.
    2 – Liberty, which can only exist if someone is prepared to guarantee it.
    3 – The wonders of modern technology, where many diseases are curable, the vast majority have food, water and shelter, nice holidays etc….

    Over a long enough time period, War is a necessity, and like every human endeavour, it is psychologically necessary to find admirable aspects to it.

  • Alsadius

    War is awful, but sometimes the alternatives are more awful. It’s not worth celebrating in a generic way, but the fact that some wars get fought is good, and the willingness of individual soldiers to sacrifice themselves to fight those wars is laudable.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    and the willingness of individual soldiers to sacrifice themselves to fight those wars is laudable

    I doubt their orphans, or more often, the children they’ll never have, would agree. I’m with Ayn Rand on the question of self-sacrifice.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    BTW, as I note that many people seem to have missed the point, let me be even more explicit.

    Say your neighbor, who you’ve previously had a genial relationship with, gets a peculiar brain tumor causing psychosis. He comes over and kills your youngest child and threatens to kill the older one. You shoot him, killing him and leaving his widow and children without any support.

    Now you had to do this, there was basically no choice, but is this a day to remember as a glorious triumph, or a tragedy for all concerned that could have been even worse but was still hardly a day to celebrate?

    Some people will continue to misinterpret me and think I’m advocating for pacifism or saying one shouldn’t defend oneself if attacked. I’m saying nothing of the sort. I’m just noting that war leaves no winners. The very best you can say is that sometimes the alternatives are worse.

    As for those claiming that you somehow have to pretend it’s all glorious or you won’t be able to convince 18 year olds to go out and shoot the other side’s conscripts, I think you do better in the long run with realism than with deluding yourself and others for short term gain. Lying about the horror that is war only makes it more likely people will get into them unnecessarily instead of only as a last possible resort.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Oh, and to be even more explicit: the soldiers on both sides in World War I were, for the most part, conscripts, which is to say, slaves. (I’m sure many will be offended by this characterization. I don’t care. You’re wrong. Conscription is indeed slavery, as it is involuntary servitude even unto death.)

    Mostly the German soldiers that British soldiers killed were just ordinary people who were told, quite literally, that if they didn’t fight they would be shot anyway, and mostly the British soldiers the Germans killed were also ordinary people told that they’d be shot if they didn’t fight.

    Many of them, thanks to the propaganda machines of both sides, believed that their governments were clearly in the right and that the opposition were clearly monsters, and thus didn’t object to being conscripted as much as they might have, and some on both sides were even volunteers, but for the most part, nearly everyone who died was an innocent. If you believe that the German state was responsible for what happened, well, you can’t really believe the ordinary Germans forced to fight the war on that side had personal culpability that made the death penalty a just punishment. In the end, of course, the leadership on both sides went unpunished and untouched; the soldiers paid the price, not the leaders.

    Perhaps, and I’ll even accept the argument, there was no choice about fighting, but there is plenty of choice in one’s attitude towards it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Wars sometimes have to be fought, and the mentality I would hope people to demonstrate is grim determination, and certainly not any sense of pleasure or joy, in the fight.

  • Runcie Balspune

    20th century wars were normally one side inspired by a homicidal maniac hell-bent on world domination (or at least a sizeable part of the world), and the other side trying to prevent becoming part of that world.
    WW2 was arguably made worse by the refusal of some to accept that the homicidal maniac hell-bent on world domination wasn’t such a bad chap and could be negotiated with over tea and crumpets.

    In the modern era, the homicidal maniacs may be long dead, but their ideas of world domination continue, and we should always be prepared to not be part of it, instead we invite many followers to tea and crumpets in the hope that it will be so delicious they’ll forget about this silly world domination stuff.

    It wont work, it never has.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Say your neighbor, who you’ve previously had a genial relationship with, gets a peculiar brain tumor causing psychosis. He comes over and kills your youngest child and threatens to kill the older one. You shoot him, killing him and leaving his widow and children without any support.”

    It depends where you’re starting from, what you’re comparing it to.

    Suppose instead we start from the position of slavery. You’re a slave. Your children are slaves. Your parents and grandparents and great grandparents were slaves as far back as your history goes. Life is an endless cycle of misery and suffering, work, punishment, rape, torture, starvation and death. There is no development. No happily growing population, no accumulating capital, and no one engaging in peaceful trade. Your people will be slaves forever. You are raised with no hope, no possibility that you are not going work as a slave until the day you die face down in the mud.

    Then one day there is a war. The slaves rise in revolution. Many die, but those who survive are free. And all of a sudden, now there *is* a happily growing population, accumulating capital, and engagement in peaceful trade. Now there are rockets to the moon.

    You see once you separate the two in time, that it is the descent into slavery that is the evil, but the rise from slavery can be glorious. The problem with the world wars is that the two are too close together, so we cannot separate the evil from the good. Compared to the freedom before the war, yes, the descent and rise combined is nothing but an evil waste. The evil far outweighs the good. But if you can separate the two, then an end to slavery is a good thing in itself, on top of all the many good things people can do with their newfound freedom.

    War is like owning a gun. A gun can be a bad thing, when used for wicked purposes. But it can also be our guarantee of freedom and security.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA) (November 11, 2018 at 7:22 pm), more than a million British soldiers were volunteers, plus others from the Empire. Conscription did not come in till 1916. (But a new system of recruiting was introduced into India that year after which huge numbers of volunteers joined from there.)

    Of course, having signed, the volunteers were then under the same discipline as later conscripts – as one of them expressed in verse in 1917.

    It must be so – it’s wrong to doubt –
    The voluntary system’s best.
    The conscript, when you’ve dug him out,
    Has not the happy warrior’s zest.

    Because it seemed the thing to do,
    I joined with other volunteers,
    But well, I don’t mind telling you,
    I didn’t reckon on three years.

    Though we obey the higher law,
    And though we have our quarrel just,
    Were I permitted to withdraw,
    You wouldn’t see my arse for dust!

    As regards your main point, I think many commenters are quite clearly understanding, just disagreeing. For example, as regards your example of the suddenly-mad neighbour whom you have to kill before he kills your family.

    1) The neighbour’s madness is indeed a tragedy. Hitler was not mad but evil.

    2) If you have to show great courage and/or skill in shooting him before he shoots your children, then you have the glory of that, and may justly be proud and be praised. Only (1) is tragic.

  • Stephen K

    90% of this post is redundant; it contains nothing that any sane person disagrees with. Insofar as it dissents, it dissents against a straw man. Then we have this:
    “Dying face down in the mud is tragic, not glorious, and World War I was almost nothing but one tragedy after another, over and over, multiplied by the millions.”
    This is the sort of emotive claptrap that launched a thousand Socialist careers. Accepting that dying, often in especially grim circumstances, is a tragedy, that evidently does not exhaust the range of experiences and achievements of war. Defending one’s country, helping one’s comrades, and humbling the arrogant, are positive values, and it is only fair, only human, to give the people who did these things their share of praise. That is what we mean by glory, and I doubt any human community can survive without some such concept.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Hitler was not mad but evil.

    Hitler wasn’t the person who the average allied soldier shot at in World War II. The average soldier was shooting at a relatively ordinary German. Further, had Hitler been born an Englishman and taken over Britain and not Germany, it would have been Germans shooting fairly ordinary British soldiers to stop a lunatic.

    The tragedy isn’t the death of Hitler. It’s the deaths of the other 50 to 80 million (estimated) deaths in the war, most of whom, even on the German side, were not particularly unusual people, and probably were not fundamentally evil.

    The necessity of killing someone in no way makes it a more joyful enterprise.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Stephen K says:

    This is the sort of emotive claptrap that launched a thousand Socialist careers.

    On the contrary, this is what stops socialism, which is possible only when blind tribalists embrace sacrificing individuals to the good of nation and government. Ayn Rand wasn’t the one talking about patriotism and the value of self-sacrifice; it’s the collectivists that do that.

    What you claim is the root of socialism, valuing individual life, not believing any individual human is to be sacrificed to the collective, viewing enterprises like war as (at best) tragic necessities, is exactly the opposite of the socialist and statist mindset.

    Look at any Soviet propaganda poster of the 1940s — they’re not out there touting the value of individual life.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    BTW, “Stephen K” is not unique. I frequently see people making this astonishing claim that somehow, embracing individual liberty and the value of individual lives must be “socialist claptrap” or some such, when even a cursory examination of the tenets of socialism and of libertarianism would tell you which side is which.

    I think it’s telling that in the end, the nationalists and the socialist and all the other collectivists have the same message: “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”. I do not see this as a coincidence. It’s a necessary part of the collectivist ethos.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Here, Stephen, a quote from another known peacenic lefty pinko:

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

    The communist who said that was Dwight David Eisenhower, a man with no personal knowledge of war and no skill at it.

  • Citing Eisenhower as a defender of free markets doesn’t show familiarity with either, especially when the quote assumes the fixed-pie fallacy.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Citing Eisenhower as a defender of free markets

    But of course, that’s not how I cited him.

    especially when the quote assumes the fixed-pie fallacy

    But it doesn’t. It only notes that if you tax someone and take their money away, they no longer have that money. This is, I believe, perfectly obvious. Although economies are not zero sum games, taxation is a zero sum game.

  • CaptDMO

    “BTW, as I note that many people seem to have missed the point, let me be even more explicit.”
    Nope. many people got your point precisely.
    You’re just going to have to come to terms that others disagree, and you just MAY be wrong.
    It happened to me…once.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Or, to rephrase Pres. Eisenhower’s quoted statement:

    “When war threatens, it’s necessary to hold in abeyance our attempts to create a marvellous ‘way of life’ that, in the absence of the need to fight such a threat, we could happily get on with pursuing. Unfortunately, when some nation proposes to subjugate other peoples by force, by force of arms, at the cost of death to however many it takes to reach its goal, it is folly — a way of death not a way of life at all — to ignore this inconvenient fact. It is to adopt a position which leaves humanity itself at the mercy of those who would rule all under the banner of the iron cross.”

    It is true that sometimes, continued existence is only possible if other pursuits must be cut back for awhile.


    See, for instance, the 2010 piece by Mike Rosen which puts this quote into its proper context.


    In that same speech, Ike also said: “This new [Soviet] leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its history, by the will to stay free. This free world knows, out of bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Julie, there is no question that the Soviet Union was bent on world domination and that opposing it was necessary. However, “necessary” does not imply “the state of affairs one would prefer” or “something to cheer about”. Eisenhower both opposed Soviet hegemony and understood that the resources involved were precious, because a dollar taken to support the military was a dollar taken out of someone’s pocket, and an engineer working on a tank could not be working on an improved combine harvester with the same hours. (Would that the Keynesian fools who talk as though World War II was a fabulous economic stimulus would understand as much.)

  • zack

    Perry M, most of what you say about the tragedy and sorrow of war is true, however I think you make a basic error when you assume that tragedy and glory are mutually exclusive. Yes, it is a tragedy that young people have to kill and die in war when they could be doing happier and more productive endeavours. It is also true that there is no greater love then to be willing to lay down ones life for another. It is a testament to the glorious love these young men had for their countrymen and their way of life that they where willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed the tragedy of that sacrifice makes it more glorious.

    I suspect you will disagree with the above statement and call it paradoxical and fair enough, it is. However it is still true, just as it is true that the things one considers worth living for are the same things one is willing to die to protect. So yes, it is proper note the tragedy of wars, but it is not proper to deny the soldiers the respect, the glory, they’re earned by making those sacrifices on our behalf.

  • CayleyGraph (November 11, 2018 at 9:05 pm), I feel I must somewhat defend the Eisenhower quote’s internal conistency.

    President Eisenhower (certainly in contrast to the next decade, the 60s) tended not to raise taxes, so his government’s pot of money to spend was nearer a fixed pie than e.g. Johnson’s inflating tax-and-spend 60s. At first glance, it seems to me that any government that is trying to balance the budget and to avoid increasing taxes may regard one department’s spending (e.g. defence) as competing with another department’s spending (e.g. education). Of course, to me, defence is one of the few activities that, because it requires force, belongs in government, but Eisenhower was speaking in terms of activities seen as proper to the US government in the 50s.

    As far as any support it gives to PerryM’s argument goes, Sherman’s “War is hell” is shorter and more to the point. I don’t suppose Sherman thought his burning a swathe across Georgia and up through the Carolinas was especially glorious, but I think he saw glory in other things on both sides. His determination to use harsh measures to break the Confederacy’s will came in part from his respect for the courage and determination of his enemies.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Perry M, above to me:

    Agreed. :>)

  • Perry Metzger writes:

    War is not glorious. It achieves no great goals. It cures no diseases, it bridges no rivers, it builds no great cities, it does not launch people into space, clothe the naked, or feed the hungry.

    Here I do not really agree with him; the issue, for me, is one of directness. In certain circumstances, war can provide, indirectly, many of those things. This is by the removal of the disastrously bad (government, dictatorship, or whatever). Such war is, however, best left as the last resort – also, if one can manage it, as defensive response rather than as first mover.

    On that issue and also on the comments here on Eisenhower, I like John Philpot Curran (in 1790):

    It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

    And Perry M writes:

    So, today [11th November] is properly a day of mourning, …

    Here I must agree with Perry. Having listened (now yesterday) to many TV news reports, I have been saddened in the wrong way: by too much use of “Commemoration”, at the expense of “Remembrance”. With the latter word, there is quite simply forced, a vastly stronger emphasis on the sacrifice than on whatever victory there might have been.

    Best regards

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Eisenhower left office with public budget in balance and was, in the broad sense, a pretty pro-enterprise sort of president. Yes, the state expanded somewhat on his watch, but nothing like the expansion later under LBJ. America had its wobbles but living standards in real terms rose pretty fast. The standard of living of non-white Americans was improving along a number of fronts and the beginnings of a move against the vile Jim Crow regime in the South was starting.

    Ike had led a vast army and knew what war was about. His comments on the military-industrial complex came from an involvement in the military for a long and engaged adult life.

  • Mr Black

    Unfortunately Perry, such a simplistic idea that war should be a last resort and that killing is in itself wasteful is a luxury only provided to the pacifist who is insulated from reality by living under the protection of a military super-power. The concept of waiting until your enemy is ready to strike, of only defending once it is too late to matter is the kind of virtue signalling of the worst of the anti-war left, whose real purpose is to render the defence of the west null and void.

    I do not see people as a fungible good. One of theirs is not worth one of ours. Given the choice, I’d exterminate ALL of theirs before allowing one of ours to die. Other cultures and civilisations that come into contact with ours and begin to compete for space, numbers, resources and ideological dominance are mortal threats to our long term survival. An invasion accomplished by “immigration” that conquers our cities and governments over the course of 100 years is no less destructive and ruinous than one which does it in a week. Our people and our future are still destroyed.

    War is how we ensure that our children inherit the land we stand on. I am glad that Ben put you in your place with his experience in Israel as that was the first example that came to my mind also. Your theory on war would, if used by them, have resulted in a second holocaust decades ago. The Jews are alive because they attack first and they kill not only for the moment but to send a signal that they will kill in the future too.

    Wars between peers and brothers are terrible but sometimes necessary when one branch of the family strays. War between competitors is why you are alive today, free to tell your ancestors who fought that they wasted their lives for nothing.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not see how this is a “dissent” – there is nothing here that (for example) Prime Minister Asquith or Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey would have disagreed with. Of course all deaths are a tragedy and so on.

    The German government declared war on Russia and France unjustly – the once well known TWO (one one) “final letters” to the Russian government basically said whatever you do or do not do we are going to declare war (and the German government knew perfectly well that neither Czar Nicholas II or the, much libelled, Foreign Minister of Russia wanted war). The German Declaration of War on France was a PACK OF LIES – wild and extreme lies, the German government had no justification at all to declare war upon France – but it did so anyway.

    As for the United Kingdom – as the German (yes the German) Ambassador (Karl Max – Prince Lichnowsky) admitted that the German government had rejected (with contempt) all his proposals to keep Britain out of the war – that the German government was obsessed with destroying ALL rival powers (not “just” Russia and France”). Prince Lichnowsky went home – took down the picture of Kaiser Wilhelm from the wall, and the wife of Prince Lichnowsky forbad the name of the Kaiser to ever be mentioned in that house again. Although, in truth, the Kaiser was just a puppet – a puppet of the worst elements in Germany. As he had shown as far back as 1888 – when on the death of his father (the liberal Kaiser Frederick – who tragically died young of cancer) Wilhelm basically put his English mother under house address – rejecting all the Classical Liberal principles his mother had tried to teach him. In 1890 even Bismark (the author of so many wars) was dismissed as TOO MODERATE. When Czar Alexander III met Kaiser Wilhelm II, Alexander came to the conclusion that Wilhelm was mentally unstable (if not insane) and ended the alliance with Germany.

    The United States?

    The Congress Declared War upon Germany in April 1917 – after repeated German attacks on American ships on the High Seas (attacks which killed large numbers of Americans) and German terrorist attacks INSIDE the United States (bombings and shootings) – and German attempts to get the Mexicans to attack the United States, by offering various Mexican groups California, Texas and so on. The “anti war” movement in the United States desperately pretended that these German communications were forgeries – till the German government not only admitted them, but actually boasted about them.

    That the German academic and political elite were bent on WORLD (not “just” European) domination was clear long before 1914. And “world” included Latin America – and breaking the United States as a rival power.

    So, again, I am baffled as to what this “dissent” is about. If it is saying that “war is terrible” and “death is bad” then such people as President Wilson would have most strongly AGREED. But if the post is saying that the First World War was somehow “optional” for Britain or the United States, then the post is sadly uninformed.

    The real blunders of President Wilson were not (finally – after years of German attacks) agreeing to war in 1917 – they were his failure to intervene against the German backed Marxist coup in Russia (Wilson was scared “Reactionaries” would come to power if he acted against the German backed Marxist coup – the Germans having sent in “Lenin” and backed his “Revolution”), this non-intervention led to the deaths of tens of millions of people in the “Soviet Union” over the following decades. President Wilson also refused to “break up” Germany (an artificial state only created in 1871) after the war – there was to be no restoration of the independence of Hanover or Bavaria. And President Wilson also REJECTED Senate Republican proposals for a defensive alliance with Britain and France after the war to contain Germany (going for his “League of Nations” delusion instead).

    Thus President Wilson set the scene for the 2nd World War – as Marshall Foch said in despair in 1919 (when it became clear that Germany was to be left in place) “this is not peace – this is a 20 year truce”.

  • pete

    I’ve just seen rutting stags in Tatton Park.

    We never question aggressive tendencies in other creatures. We accept them as normal.

    Humans have an aggressive streak, and that’s why we have wars.

  • Paul Marks

    That was irritating – I am going to have to type my second comment all over again (because of “invalid address” or something) – if I can remember what I typed.

    I repeat, I do not see what the “dissent” is. If you are saying “war and death is bad” then the Western leaders would have most passionately AGREED with you (so you are not “dissenting”). The Western leaders did NOT want war the GERMAN government FORCED war upon them. As the old saying puts it “the enemy gets a vote”.

    No one should confuse the justice of the war (the fact that it was forced upon us – by an enemy, the German government, bent not “just” on European but upon world domination) with the terrible tactics (leading to terrible casualties) often followed in the war. And anyone who thinks that I am soft on bad commanders, such as Douglas Haig, does not know me. It should also be remembered that the French were tactically much worse than the British in 1914 – British soldiers were not sent into battle without helmets, and in brightly coloured uniforms and (yes) with regimental bands playing alongside. The French Army was utterly unprepared for modern war (indeed perhaps for war in any period) – and the Germans killed them in vast numbers in 1914. I am reminded of the French commander looking in despair at the volunteers that had rushed to defend France in 1870 – “you promised me soldiers” he said to his political boss, “well here they are” came the reply. “No, these are brave men who are going to get themselves killed – there are no soldiers here”.

    Casualties – the worst casualties were among the Russians and the Ottoman forces. Turkish ships (manned by Germans) had shelled Russian towns on the Black Sea before the British or Russian Declaration of War upon the “Young Turk” regime. Ottoman Islamic forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Christian civilians in the Middle East – just as the Ottoman Islamic forces had slaughtered vast numbers of Christian civilians in Europe in the 19th century – see Prime Minister Gladstone on this. German agents FALSELY promised the Islamic forces that the Kaiser had converted to Islam and would hand over the French and British women (as sex slaves) to the faithful when Germany won the war – they did NOT tell the Kaiser this (any more than they consulted him about sending “Lenin” into Russia).

    General Allenby did indeed slaughter the Ottoman Islamic forces in heaps (one battle was at a place that is sometimes called ARMAGEDDON – and for the Ottoman army that was destroyed there, that was a fitting name) – but he killed soldiers in battle, not unarmed women and children (as the Islamic Ottoman forces specialised in doing).

    As for the terrible Russian casualties – right from 1914 it was clear that the Russian high command was useless. General Samsonov (commander of the 2nd Army and no genius himself) reported to the Russian high command that his scouts had reported that he was marching into a German TRAP. But this was the reply he got from General Jilinsky – “General Samsonov will not be permitted to play the coward I insist on him continuing the offensive”. Samsonov fought as best he could at Tannenberg – but it was indeed a vast German trap, and Samsonov committed suicide to avoid capture by the Germans.

    Yes the Russians were less incompetent than the Austro-Hungarian armed forces – but the Russians were fighting the Germans, and the Russians lost MILLIONS of men over the next several years. The best men in Russia died – the most loyal and the most honest, leaving men of a very different sort (including many criminals and traitors – the sort of people who make very sure they do NOT get killed in war). Russian women eventually joined the fight (often half starved and with few bullets – and hand-to-hand combat with German soldiers twice their size was difficult) – the volunteer “Battalions of Death” shared the fate of the men, and (the truth must be told) proved no more able to stop the Germans, than these breve female volunteers proved able to stop the Marxist coup in 1917. Millions of Russians did not lack courage (they had that) – they lacked effective leadership and organisation. And the Provisional Government proved no better at these things than the Czar (that well meaning but horribly WEAK man Nicholas II) had been.

    Why did not the Imperial Guard not save the Czar? As every school boy used to know – the Russian Imperial Guard (the “Guards Army” – perhaps the bravest men in Europe, if not the world) was sent up a causeway in 1916, with Germans in front of them and on both sides (not even Douglas Haig ever came up with a plan like that). They attacked all day – and most of them died.

  • Paul Marks

    Yet again – what is the “dissent”?

  • Jacob

    The pacifist slogans (war is hell) were usually used by lefty pacifists condemning “their” (the capitalist’s) wars – i.e. the “colonialist” wars.
    “Our” wars (we the progressives) are wars of “liberation” – highly desirable and beneficial and glorious.

    So, mostly, the pacifists were used as useful idiots by the communist propaganda. Most pacifists probably also were communists.
    That is a historical perspective on pacifism.

    Whatever your pure intentions, Mr. Metzger, stay away from the pacifist slogans that were ruined by ample abuse.

    War is Hell? Sure. Refraining from war can sometimes result in worse Hell. As can lack of preparedness or will to do what needs to be done.

  • Paul Marks

    Yet again – what is the “dissent”? Nothing that is written in the post would be something the Western leaders (or weak – but well meaning Czar Nicholas for that matter) would have disagreed with.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So, again, I am baffled as to what this “dissent” is about. If it is saying that “war is terrible” and “death is bad” then such people as President Wilson would have most strongly AGREED. But if the post is saying that the First World War was somehow “optional” for Britain or the United States, then the post is sadly uninformed.”

    I don’t think it is. I think Perry is trying to say that the fact that “war is terrible” taints the deeds of all those who fight in it. It’s a bit like saying that we shouldn’t celebrate/glorify doctors and advances in medicine because they wouldn’t be needed and resources would not have to be wasted on them without disease, injury, pain, sickness, and death. You can’t take the heroic devotion of doctors and nurses and the brave endurance of patients fighting for their lives in isolation – they’re inextricably part of something horrible. Hospitals and medicine only exist as components in a human tragedy played out on an epic scale, and we should feel only sadness when speaking of them.

    It’s a point of view.

  • I am baffled as to what this “dissent” is about.

    Perhaps PerryM is typing his own explanation as you read this, but until it appears, here is my explanation. “Who will clean the toilets under socialism, Melvin?” is heard from Joyce Grenfell monologies to soviet defector memories (the guy who wrote as Victor Suvorov called that question the first ever time his passive believe in communism was floored), because cleaning the toilet, though very necessary, is not glorious – not the least little bit. Bazalgette, the engineer who gave Victorian London its sewage system, gets an occasional mention in history, but not the actual people who simply work in sewage. They get no historical documentaries, no reading of their memoirs in Westminster Abbey, no medals, no citations in dispatches, no proud children showing their letters. They get no exciting films “based on actual events”, no proud parades, no admiring fiction set around the cesspit. When a WWI veteran mocked the leftist lie of

    a war in which those who were not melancholically insane were alcoholically hysterical, and most of the action took place in or near the crude latrines of the period

    he mentioned latrines precisely to mock the lie of depicting a war without depicting its glory, because everyone knows that toilets are necessary – but utterly inglorious.

    IIUC, PerryM is dissenting from the idea that war is not only sometimes as necessary as good drainage, but has glory.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Niall assured us, well above:

    As regards your main point, I think many commenters are quite clearly understanding, just disagreeing.

    It appears, however, that most of what has come after (and indeed, before) has demonstrated that this is not, in fact, even remotely true.

    See, for example, the propensity of many to spend time and effort claiming I’m a pacifist (I am not even vaguely a pacifist), or that I think people are bad for defending themselves with force and should not do that (an equivalent statement to claiming I’m a pacifist, which I’ve also denied), or claim that I am unaware of the fact that various governments have done very bad things (when I’ve made it clear I’m aware), etc.

    “Nullius in Verba”, to name a recent example, said this:

    I think Perry is trying to say that the fact that “war is terrible” taints the deeds of all those who fight in it.

    which of course bears no resemblance to my views whatsoever.

    However, it is clear that further repetition of my position is indeed useless. If saying things like “I don’t believe X” doesn’t convey that I don’t believe X, and saying “I think Y” doesn’t convey that I think Y, certainly repeating the statements over and over again isn’t going to make it any more obvious.

    I therefore leave you all to construct whatever counterfactual version of my beliefs you like. It’s not like I could stop it in the first place, even with carefully phrased and utterly unambiguous statements.

  • Jacob

    Maybe wars are not something to celebrate.
    What was celebrated yesterday was the END of the war.

    That it ended like it did (no German victory) is also a cause to celebrate. It could have ended worse.

  • Maybe wars are not something to celebrate.
    What was celebrated yesterday was the END of the war.

    That it ended like it did (no German victory) is also a cause to celebrate. It could have ended worse.

    My sentiments exactly.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “which of course bears no resemblance to my views whatsoever.

    However, it is clear that further repetition of my position is indeed useless. If saying things like “I don’t believe X” doesn’t convey that I don’t believe X, and saying “I think Y” doesn’t convey that I think Y, certainly repeating the statements over and over again isn’t going to make it any more obvious.”

    It might just mean that the way you said it previously was misinterpreted. I think it is a complex emotion not easily expressed. So don’t just repeat what you said before, say it a different way.

    If something is really worth saying, it’s worth taking the time to help people understand.

    “Nor is participation in war laudable. Sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself, but there is never any glory in it. Dying face down in the mud is tragic, not glorious, and World War I was almost nothing but one tragedy after another, over and over, multiplied by the millions.”

    Dying is always tragic, but it’s something that happens to everyone. Most people think there can be both tragedy and glory in it too, if people die to achieve something good. Why do you think there cannot? That one excludes the other?

  • Mr Black

    Perry M, I have noticed that on the internet, both communists and libertarians are impossible to pin down to any definite position on something. Every statement has room to move, room to argue one thing then another as a way to avoid taking responsibility for any specific outcome in a real situation. When you use the same deceptive language as the treasonous anti-war left, whose motive is the loss of western power, you must accept the fact that you will be assumed to be in league with their thinking, in one way or another. Judging you simply from your statements leads to the conclusion that you think as they think, you’ve said nothing that would separate you from a communist front group like Code Pink. A mistake, or intentional?

  • staghounds

    “Indeed the tragedy of that sacrifice makes it more glorious.”

    No it doesn’t, it makes it sadder. That love and sacrifice should have, and would have, been expended on their families, their neighbours, and the betterment and prosperity of the world.

    Instead it was used up in advancing and stopping the mad greed of powerful men. “”God! God! If they were all
    there all the generals, the admirals, the presid
    ents and the kings theirs, ours all of them.”*

    The past 78 years are the longest time there has been no war in northern France since man arrived there. Maybe we are finding a better way.

    * https://literaturesave2.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/william-faulkner-turnabout.pdf

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That love and sacrifice should have, and would have, been expended on their families, their neighbours, and the betterment and prosperity of the world.”

    It was.

  • staghounds

    Not the Germans and Austrians and Turks and Bulgarians.

  • zack

    Exactly. The Germans and Turks and Bulgarians weren’t fighting in defense of their countries or the betterment of the world. They were fighting to place other under imperial subjugation. I’d recommend you read Paul Marks’ above comments if you want more context about why I say that.

    Also, just to help remove any confusion, when I say glory, I mean it in this sense:

    praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent

    The sacrifices of those who fought against German imperialism in the two world wars (against soviet imperialism during the Cold War) deserve to be praised and honored. Indeed, the greater sacrifices the more they should be honored and glorified.

    Does that help clarify my position?

  • Paul Marks

    I have read Perry M’s latest comment and his “dissent” is still unclear – he may say it is “clear”, but that is like a man saying (over and over again) “1+1=7” – saying the same thing, over and over again, does not make it so.

    The leaders of Britain, France, and (yes) Russia did NOT welcome war in 1914, they did not regard the prospect as glorious – quite the contrary, they were plunged into despair by the war the GERMAN GOVERNMENT had forced upon them. Indeed (for example) Prime Minister Asquith was utterly disgusted with those people who celebrated the start of the war – as they (the stupid cheering crowd) clearly did not understand the horrors the German government had forced upon Europe (indeed the world) and the German Ambassador to London (Karl Max – Prince Lichnowsky) was utterly disgusted with the behaviour of his own government.

    It is true that Winston Churchill was excited by the prospect of war – but we only know this by a letter he wrote to his wife, a letter in which he said it was “horrible” to feel the emotion that he was feeling. The correct way to feel (as Winston Churchill knew well) was the way Alfred the Great felt (or TRAINED HIMSELF TO FEEL) when the Vikings forced war upon him – grim determination to fight (and if need be die) in a war FORCED UPON US, including a determination to show MERCY whenever practical. To feel the emotion the Vikings themselves felt (excitement at the prospect of killing) was wrong, and Winston Churchill knew it to be wrong – and controlled his feelings, he did not allow them to control his conduct.

    After all we have FREE WILL (we are human BEINGS – subjects, not just objects) – we can not choose the emotions we feel (although we can, perhaps, train our emotions), but we can choose to NOT allow those emotions to control our conduct. It is indeed “horrible” (indeed obscene) to take the position of David Hume that “reason is and OUGHT TO BE [my stress] the slave of the passions” – reason must certainly NOT be the slave of the passions (that is the road of the “Blond Beast” of the Nazis), we must use our moral agency (our Free Will) to NOT allow our emotions (our passions) to control us. And, sadly, I know very well what Winston Churchill was talking about in relation to himself – for I have the same darkness inside MYSELF. We are human beings, not savage animals, we must NOT allow delight in the suffering and death of our enemies to control our conduct. On the contrary – one must only kill in a JUST CAUSE, not (NOT) for the delight of killing.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes I know I have “violated Goodwin’s Law” – but there really is no stopping point before the Nazis if one accepts the doctrine of David Hume that “reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions” – indeed the doctrine of David Hume that the human “I” (the moral agent – the person) does not “really” exist. Whether Mr Hume was serious in what he wrote (or whether he was acting as someone trying to get a response – the role of the Philosophical “Critic” and Mr Hume did indeed get a response from THOMAS REID) I do not know.

    But whether Mr Hume was serious or not – his philosophy must certainly be REJECTED. One can not get the Bill of Rights (British or American) from the philosophy of David Hume (hence his indifference to the prospect of what he called the “Euthanasia” of the British Constitution) – or from the philosophy of Mr Thomas Hobbes. Indeed the philosophy of Mr Hume is really the philosophy of Mr Hobbes – just presented in a much gentler SEEMING way.

    Whether they were former students of Harold Prichard and Sir William David Ross at Oxford (the Oxford of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as well – and the wartime broadcasts of C.S. Lewis were very important) or not, the fighter pilots who fought over this island in the summer of 1940 were really carrying on the conflict between Thomas Reid and David Hume – the conflict between Moral Agency (Free Will – the human “I” the person) and THE BEAST.

    “But David Hume was a very nice man” – I am NOT denying that. I merely pointing out that people who open the Gates of Hell (Mr Hobbes, Mr Hume and so on) do indeed open the Gates of Hell – they deny moral personhood, the SOUL (whether in the religious or NON religious sense).

    As President Poincare (a philosopher) pointed out in 1914 – the German Declaration of War (that tissue of wild lies) was not really a Declaration of War upon France, it was a Declaration of War upon the very IDEA of universal and objective principles of “reason and justice” and the ability of human PERSONS (human BEINGS) to CHOOSE between moral good and moral evil – as he knew well the fashions in German academia DENIED all these basic principles, and the document was a representation of those academic doctrines in German universities. As the German government itself put it – this was to be a “War of Cultures”, they did not mean language or the cut of a suit (they were NOT stupid people), the German academic and political elite (Germany being the “best educated nation in the world” – and in many ways that was actually true), DENYING the existence of universal and objective principles of reason and justice (hence their Relativism and their Historicism) and, therefore, DEYING the human ability to CHOOSE between moral good and moral evil.

    Of course the German elite was NOT united in this view (for example General Falkenhayn would have rejected all of this EVIL – for that is what it is, and this rejection of evil is also seen in the actions of some members of his family in the SECOND World War) and the view of the elite was NOT yet the opinion of most ordinary Germans (for example the German Declaration of War upon France was presented to ordinary Germans as THE TRUTH – they were told that the French really had been bombing Bavaria and so on, and that they, the ordinary German soldiers, were engaged in a defensive war). The dominant members of the German academic and political elite did not think the ordinary people were “ready” for full on denial of objective principles of reason and of justice (and of the ability, WITH EFFORT, of human beings to choose moral good over the desire to do moral evil). General Ludendorff even kept his hatred and contempt for Christianity away from the knowledge of ordinary German soldiers in the First World War.

    The SS in the Second World War allowed the mask to slip off – for example to be found to own a Bible did not lead to good consequences for a member of the SS. And this must NOT be assumed to be “just” a religious thing – it was the denial of objective principles of reason and justice, and of the human ability (with EFFORT) to choose moral good over the desire (the passion) to do moral evil, that was key.

  • Cinco Jotas

    So war is grim and world war particularly so.

    A noble dissent.

    Not sure from whom, though.

  • Mr Black

    It’s odd the way people fail to consider any motives but their own. Why could German soldiers not have honestly believed that German domination of Europe was a worthy and glorious goal? Perhaps they are looked down upon because they lost the war, where as the Germans who came back in 1940 were conquering heroes. Are we to believe that group of Germans did not feel immense personal and national pride at what they had accomplished? Why should we believe that those who came before them yet failed were any less filled with pride at their attempt?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nullius in Verba, above on November 13, 2018 at 2:11 pm: Yes. Absolutely.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Black – I have already pointed that many German soldiers honestly believed the lies they were told, that the French had bombed Bavaria and so on.

    Although, YES, it is also true that some German soldiers did feel pride in conquest and in killing (that is a human failing – not just of Germans, but of all human beings, we all have that dark side to resist I CERTAINLY DO) – indeed that pride in doing EVIL, is (I hope) what Perry M’s “Dissent” is dissenting from.

    But that was never the pride expressed by the leaders of the powers that opposed Germany, nor the ordinary solders (some of whom I knew in my youth) – and has nothing to do with remembering the war every 11th of the 11th.

  • Nico

    Regarding whether the armistice is something to celebrate or cry over: it was the end of a terrible war, therefore it is to be celebrated. We have enough occasions to cry over the horror of that and other wars.

    Regarding nationalism. We have nations, and there’s not much in the way of alternatives: war lords or world government. Nations exist in great part because values differ amongst peoples. There are a lot of countries whose values I don’t agree with and I would not like to live there, and if I did I’d want to change them. Correspondingly, there are other people who don’t like my country’s values and would like to change them. To agree to live apart is a form of nationalism, then, as it requires nations. As an alternative, to agree to harmonize our values in a union or world government is not realistic at this time.

    Now, nationalism can certainly be used to bad ends. Rather than use it peacefully (you stay there and we stay here) it can be used to spread one nation’s values, and that naturally requires war. I’m not interested in this bad form of nationalism — in this sense I’m as anti- as Perry M. It’s just that not all nationalism is bad unless we take a very specific meaning of the word.

    I would not forget that Hitler’s was a nationalist socialism, or that Trotsky’s was an international socialism, or that Stalin’s too was a nationalist socialism until he got rid of Trotsky, then he got very interested in spreading socialism around. These are very bad forms of nationalism.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Correspondingly, there are other people who don’t like my country’s values and would like to change them.”

    Are the political left and right different nations, do you suppose?

    Smokers and anti-smokers? Homosexuals and homophobes? Christians and atheists? Fox hunters and animal rights protestors? … Authoritarians and libertarians?