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WAR AS AN INSTITUTION
BY BERTRAND RUSSELL
ago put an end to it. What makes war I
difficult to suppress is that it springs In spite of the fact that most nations, from an impulse rather than from a at most times, are at peace, war is one calculation of the advantages to be deof the permanent institutions of most rived from war. free communities, just as Parliament is War differs from the employment of one of our permanent institutions in force by the police through the fact spite of the fact that it is not always that the actions of the police are orsitting. It is war as a permanent insti- dered by a neutral authority, whereas tution that I wish to consider: why men in war it is the parties to the dispute tolerate it, what hope there is of their themselves who set force in motion. coming not to tolerate it, and how they This distinction is not absolute, since could abolish it if they wished to do so. the state is not always wholly neutral War is a conflict between two groups
in internal disturbances. When strikof men, each of which attempts to kill ers are shot down, the state is taking and maim as many as possible of the the side of the rich. When opinions adother group,
in order to achieve some verse to the existing state are punished, object which it desires. The object is the state is obviously one of the pargenerally either power or wealth. It is ties to the dispute. And from the supa pleasure to exercise authority over pression of individual opinion up to other men, and it is a pleasure to live civil war, all gradations are possible. on the produce of other men's labor. But, broadly speaking, force employed The victor in war can enjoy more of according to laws previously laid down these pleasures than the vanquished. by the community as a whole may be But war, like all other natural activi- distinguished from force employed by ties, is not so much prompted by the end one community against another on ocwhich it has in view as by an impulse casions of which the one community is to the activity itself. Very often men the sole judge. desire an end, not on its own account, I have dwelt upon this difference, bebut because their nature demands the cause I do not think that the use of force actions which will lead to the end. And by the police can be wholly eliminated, so it is in this case: the ends to be and I think that a similar use of force achieved by war appear, in prospect,
in international affairs offers the best far more important than they will ap- hope of permanent peace. At present, pear when they are realized, because international affairs are regulated by war itself is a fulfillment of one side of the principle that a nation must not inour nature. If men's actions sprang tervene unless its interests are involved: from desires for what would in fact diplomatic usage forbids intervention bring happiness, the purely rational for the mere maintenance of internaarguments against war would have long tional law. America may protest when
American citizens are drowned by Ger- wealth, in the competition with other man submarines, but must not protest civilized countries. For this reason, the when no American citizens are in- destruction of good things abroad ap
ар volved. The case would be analogous pears to them exactly as desirable as in internal affairs if the police would the creation of good things in Germany. only interfere with murder when it hap- In most parts of the world, the French pened that a policeman had been killed. are regarded as the most civilized of So long as this principle prevails in the nations: their art and their literature relations of states, the power of neu- and their way of life have an attraction trals cannot be effectively employed to for foreigners which those of Germany prevent war.
do not have. The English have develIn every civilized country two forces oped political liberty, and the art of coöperate to produce war. Only edu- maintaining an empire with a minicated men are likely to be warlike at mum of coercion, in ways for which ordinary times, since they alone are Germany, hitherto, has shown no aptivividly aware of other countries or of tude. These are grounds for envy, and the part which their own nation might envy wishes to destroy what is good in play in the affairs of the world. But it other countries. The Germans, quite is only their knowledge, not their na- rightly, judged that what was best in ture, that distinguishes them from their France and England would probably more ignorant compatriots. To take be destroyed by a great war, even if the most obvious example, German pol- France and England were not in the icy, in recent years before the war, was end defeated in the actual fighting. I not averse from war, and not friendly have seen a list of young French writto England. It is worth while to try to ers killed on the battlefield; probably understand the state of mind from the German authorities have also seen which this policy sprang.
it, and have reflected with joy that anThe men who direct German policy other year of such losses will destroy are, to begin with, patriotic to an ex- French literature for a generation tent which is almost unknown in more perhaps, through loss of tradition, forcivilized countries, such as France and ever. Every outburst against liberty in England. The interests of Germany ap- our more bellicose newspapers, every pear to them unquestionably the only incitement to persecution of defenseinterests they need consider. What in- less Germans, every mark of growing jury may, in pursuing those interests, ferocity in our attitude, must be read be done to other nations, what destruc- with delight by German patriots, as tion may be brought upon populations proving their success in robbing us of and cities, what irreparable damage our best, and forcing us to imitate may be done to civilization, it is not for whatever is worst in Prussia. them to consider. If they can confer But what the rulers of Germany have what they consider benefits upon Ger- envied Great Britain most was power many, everything else is of no account. and wealth - the power derived from
The second noteworthy point about command of the seas and the straits, German policy is, that its conception the wealth derived from a century of of national welfare is purely competi- industrial supremacy. In both these tive. It is not the intrinsic wealth of respects, they feel that their deserts are Germany, whether materially or men- higher than ours. They have devoted tally, that the rulers of Germany con- far more thought and skill to military sider important: it is the comparative and industrial organization. Their av
erage of intelligence and knowledge The problem which must be solved, is far superior to ours. Their capacity if the future of the world is to be less for pursuing an attainable end, unit- terrible than its present, is the problem edly and with forethought, is infinitely of preventing nations from getting into greater than ours. Yet we, merely (as the moods of England and Germany at they think) because we had a start in the outbreak of the war. These two the race, have achieved a vastly larger nations, as they were at that moment, empire than they have, and an enor- might be taken as almost mythical mously greater control of capital. All representatives of pride and envy - of this is unbearable; and nothing but a cold pride and hot envy. Germany great war can alter it.
declaimed passionately, ‘You, England, Besides all these feelings, there is in swollen and decrepit, overshadow my many Germans, especially in those who whole growth - your rotting branchknow us best, a hot hatred on account es keep the sun from shining upon of our pride. Farinata degli Uberti sur- me and the rain from nourishing me. veyed Hell “come avesse lo inferno in Your spreading foliage must be lopped, gran dispitto. Just so, by German ac- your symmetrical beauty must be decounts, English officer prisoners look stroyed, that I too may have freedom round them among their captors to grow, that my young vigor may no holding aloof, as though the enemy longer be impeded by your decaying were noxious unclean creatures, toads mass.' England, bored and aloof, unor slugs or centipedes, which a man conscious of the claims of outside forces, does not touch willingly, and shakes attempted absent-mindedly to sweep off with loathing if he is forced to touch away the upstart disturber of meditathem for a moment. It is easy to ima- tion; but the upstart was not swept gine how the devils hated Farinata, and away, and remains so far with every inflicted greater pains upon him than prospect of making good his claim. The upon his neighbors, hoping to win re- claim and the resistance to it are alike cognition by some slight wincing on his folly. Germany had no good ground for part, driven to frenzy by his continuing envy; we had no good ground for resistto behave as if they did not exist. In ing whatever in Germany's demands just the same way the Germans are was compatible with our continued maddened by our spiritual immobility. existence. Is there any method of At bottom, we have regarded the Ger- averting such reciprocal folly in the mans as one regards flies on a hot day future? - they are a nuisance, one has to brush
II them off, but it would not occur to one to be turned aside by them. Now that I think that if either the English or the initial certainty of victory has fad- the Germans were capable of thinking ed, we begin to be affected inwardly by in terms of individual welfare rather the Germans. In time, if we continue than national pride, they would have to fail in our military enterprises, we seen that, at every moment during the shall realize that they are human be- war, the wisest course would have been ings, not just a tiresome circumstance. to conclude peace at once, on the best Then perhaps we shall hate them with terms that could have been obtained. a hatred which they will have no reason This course, I am convinced, would to resent. And from such a hatred it have been the wisest for each separate will be only a short journey to a gen- nation as well as for civilization in genuine rapprochement.
eral. The utmost evil that the enemy
could inflict through an unfavorable tional relations. In economic disputes
, peace would be a trifle compared to the we all know that whatever is vigorous evil which all the nations inflict up- in the wage-earning classes is opposed on themselves by continuing to fight. to‘industrial peace,' because the existWhat prevents the acknowledgment ing distribution of wealth is felt to be of this obvious fact is pride, the pride unfair. Those who enjoy a privileged which cannot bear to admit defeat. position endeavor to bolster up their
The mood in which Germany em- claims by appealing to the desire for barked upon the war was abominable, peace, and decrying those who probut it was a mood fostered by the habit- mote strife between the classes. It ual mood of England. If we had real- never occurs to them that, by opposing ized the futility of empire, if we had changes without considering whether shown a willingness to yield colonies to or not they are just, the capitalists Germany without waiting for the threat share the responsibility for the classof force, we might have been in a posi- war. And in exactly the same way, tion to persuade the Germans that their England shares the responsibility for ambitions were foolish, and that the Germany's war. If actual war is ever respect of the world was not to be won to cease, there will have to be political on imperialist lines. But by our resist methods of achieving the results which ance we showed that we shared their now can be achieved only by successful standards. We, being in possession, be- fighting, and nations will have to admit came enamored of the status quo. The voluntarily adverse claims which apGermans were willing to make war to pear just in the judgment of neutrals. upset the status quo, we were willing to It is only by some such admission, make war to prevent its being upset in embodying itself in a parliament of the Germany's favor. So convinced were nations with full power to alter the diswe of the sacredness of the status quo tribution of territory, that militarism that we never realized how advanta- can be permanently overcome. It may geous it was to us, or how, by insisting be that the present war will bring, in upon it, we shared the responsibility the western nations, a change of mood for the war. In a world where nations and outlook sufficient to make such an grow and decay, where forces change institution possible. It may be that and populations become cramped, it is more wars and more destruction will be not possible or desirable to maintain necessary before the majority of civil. the status quo forever. If peace is to be ized men rebel against the brutality preserved, nations must learn to accept and futile destruction of modern war. unfavorable alterations of the map But unless our standards of civilization without feeling that they must first be and our powers of constructive thought defeated in war, or that in yielding they are to be permanently lowered, I canincur a humiliation.
not doubt that, sooner or later, reason It is the insistence of legalists and will conquer the blind impulses which friends of peace upon the maintenance now lead nations into war. And if a of the status quo that has driven Ger- majority of the great powers had a many into militarism. Germany had firm determination that peace should as good a right to an empire as any be preserved, there would be no diffiother great power, but could only ac- culty in devising diplomatic machinery quire an empire through war. Love of for the settlement of disputes, and edupeace has been too much associated cational systems which would implant with a static conception of interna- in the minds of the young an invincible
and inera dicable horror of the futile To this victim of order and good slaughter which the defenseless child- organization, the realization comes, in ren are now taught to admire.
some moment of sudden crisis, that he But besides the conscious and delib- belongs to a nation, that his nation erate forces leading to war, there are may take risks, may engage in difficult the inarticulate feelings of common enterprises, enjoy the hot passion of men, which, in most civilized countries, doubtful combat, stimulate adventure are always ready to burst into war- and imagination by military expedifever at the bidding of statesmen. If tions to Mount Sinai and the Garden of peace is to be secured, the readiness to Eden. What his nation does, in some catch war-fever must be somehow dim- sense he does; what his nation suffers, inished. Whoever wishes to succeed in he suffers. The long years of private this must first understand what war. caution are avenged by a wild plunge fever is and why it arises.
into public madness. All the horrid The men who have an important in- duties of thrift and order and care, fluence in the world, whether for good which he has learned to fulfill in privor evil, are dominated as a rule by a ate, are thought not to apply to public threefold desire: they desire, first, an affairs: it is patriotic and noble to be activity which calls fully into play the reckless for the nation, though it would faculties in which they feel that they be wicked to be reckless for one's self. excel; secondly, the sense of success- The old primitive passions, which civfully overcoming resistance; thirdly, ilization has denied, surge up, all the the respect of others on account of stronger for repression. In a moment, their success. The same desires, usual imagination and instinct travel back ly in a less marked degree, exist in men through the centuries, and the wild who have no exceptional talents. But man of the woods emerges from the such men cannot achieve anything very mental prison in which he has been difficult by their individual efforts; to confined. This is the deeper part of the them, as units, it is impossible to ac- psychology of the war-fever. quire the sense of greatness or the tri- But besides the irrational and inumph of strong resistance overcome. stinctive element in the war-fever, Their separate lives are unadventurous there is always also, if only as a liberaand dull. In the morning they go to the tor of primitive impulse, a certain office or the plough; in the evening they amount of quasi-rational calculation return, tired and silent, to the sober and what is euphemistically called monotony of wife and children. Be- 'thought.' The war-fever very seldom lieving that security is the supreme seizes a nation unless it believes that it good, they have insured against sick- will be victorious. Undoubtedly, under ness and death, and have found an em- the influence of excitement, men overployment where they have little fear of estimate their chances of success; but dismissal and no hope of any great rise. there is some proportion between what But security, once achieved, brings a is hoped and what a rational man would nemesis of ennui. Adventure, imag- expect. Holland, though quite as huination, risk, also have their claims; but mane as England, had no impulse to go how can these claims be satisfied by to war on behalf of Belgium, because the ordinary wage-earner? Even if it the likelihood of disaster was so obviwere possible to satisfy them, the claims ously overwhelming. The London popof wife and children have priority and lace, if they had known how the war must not be neglected.
was going to develop, would not have