My last article triggered a great deal of furious response. Some of it was outrageously stupid: this one, in particular, is the frontrunner for blithering idiocy.
Sometimes I wonder if PZ Myers is capable of empathy at all. This anti-war message, coming ironically from someone who has essentially declared war on others to promote his own values, is more insulting to veterans than to decision-makers, all the while dressing itself as morally righteous.
You don’t need to be pro-war to be pro-veterans, but it is especially abhorrent to chastise others for fighting for what they value when you insist that anyone who doesn’t fight for what YOU value is the enemy.
Right. Because what I do when I disagree with someone is conscript an army of riflemen and shoot them, followed by blowing up their house and bankrupting their country. But let me ignore the truly stupid comments, of which there were so many, and talk a bit about the one rather more intelligent rebuttal.
This is the argument of the form, “What about Nazi Germany, and the atrocities they were committing?” Another good example is “What about the Confederate States and slavery?” And I have to agree — the world is an uncoordinated, tragically short-sighted mess, and all too often we let horrendous circumstances accumulate until suddenly we’re confronted with a situation so dire that only violence can resolve it. We could not let genocide continue or slavery to persist, and we let the problems smolder until we reached a breaking point. My argument is not that we should have laid down our arms and let Jews be murdered or blacks languish in servitude, but that in every case war is a belated and expensive solution, and always a mistake. Sometimes we’re stuck with going to war, because we are stupid. Because we often lack the international tools to stop destructive behavior any other way.
Another point: it’s easy to damn the CSA and the Nazis. Are Americans as willing to recognize the evil violence we perpetrate? If we agree that it was acceptable for us to use violence to stop the Holocaust or slavery, are we also willing to concede that therefore it is acceptable for others to use violence against us, to stop the drones, to end our nuclear threat, to stop our meddling in other countries? I don’t think so, and at least I’m consistent in saying that violence doesn’t solve the problem. How are you going to justify other wars, where good and evil are not so clear? Was the Vietnam War a just war? The Franco-Prussian War? The Thirty Years War? The Peloponnesian War?
And finally, step back and back and back. Take a human perspective for a change, rather than a nationalistic one.
We sent young men, little more than boys, to slaughter other young men in Europe and in the South. Did the German soldiers have mothers? Did the Southerners? Did most of them go to war telling themselves they must preserve the right to murder Jews or blacks? Most of them, on both sides, were doing what they thought they must to defend the homeland, to promote their way of life, and to be men of honor. On both sides. Both sides were absolutely convinced that they were in the right, and so we had two large masses of people flailing viciously at each other until one side or the other collapsed in submission, and I’m sorry, victory was not determined by who was right, who was fairer to humanity, who had the most noble values. It was a contest where right was determined by bloody, brutal might.
How can you say that the soldiers of one side deserve honor and the other does not? And if you’re going to claim that both deserve respect, than what a bloody stupid flailing exercise in futility war is.
You can obviously state that there is a difference in cause: fighting for the right to enslave or kill some of your own citizens, or to enslave or kill your neighbors, is clearly an unethical, even evil, goal. But you do not persuade people to live ethical lives by killing them, or shooting their neighbors. We do not seek to convince people at gunpoint, but only to stop them from carrying out criminal action. And unless you are prepared to police the planet with a gun, that is not a satisfactory solution — a lasting peace can only come from a long-term effort at education and equality, not a burst of gunfire.
But if you’re going to equate education and argument with gunfire and militarism, well then, we’re back to the idiot I quoted at the beginning.
Other good perspectives: Ta-Nehisi Coates pointing out the Civil War was just one flash point in a long smoldering human failure. And good god, read about the Battle of the Somme. There is no moral justification for that slaughter.