The numerous and elaborate discussions of the origins and nature of war that began after the World War have contributed little or nothing to an intelligent understanding of the thing itself. The politicians talk about the elimination of war only to persuade their fellow citizens that if war results from their “peaceful” policies it will be necessarily “defensive”. The paciﬁsts seem to be interested chieﬂy in depicting the horrors of the battleﬁeld, and the Socialists in condemning capitalism. From the social scientists we receive little more than dismal repetitions of absurd political propaganda. In all the discussion the chief preoccupation seems to be with the concoction of artful paper schemes to prevent war. Very little attention is given to the primary question, which should logically precede all others, namely, What is the real cause of war?
The result of this false emphasis on peace panaceas and on the horrors of war has been the propagation of many perverted notions about the origins of war, and they place almost insuperable obstacles in the way of understanding it. It seems worth while, therefore, to analyze some of these false ideas and thus clear the ground for a saner discussion. One of the most serious of them involves an unwarranted exaggeration of the difference between peace and war. According to the usual view, the whole world, at ease and in luxury, is imagined as thrown into sudden turmoil by “the rolling of the iron dice”. Yet everyone knows that much upsetting of individuals, families and nations also occurs in times of peace. Could anyone mistake the warlike character of the French withdrawal of cash from Britain in the Summer of 1931? Could any attempt at a French invasion have caused more misery than that ostensibly peaceful manoeuvre? Exactly similar manteuvres stud the history of peaceful times. They are supposed to be beneﬁcent, whereas the direct killing of men is wicked. But killing and destruction actually go on quite as well in time of peace. The chief difference is simply that war speeds up the process. To obscure this fact is to make of war something extraordinary, something beyond the social norm. It is not. Continue reading