[lit-ideas] Re: CFP: PEACE REVIEW on the Psychological Interpretation of War

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2004 09:01:55 -0800

on 12/7/04 10:50 PM, Lawrence Helm at lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> Eric:  
> I copied the "Peace Review" Post down at the bottom.  I found the same thing
> "silly" that you did. Koenigsberg addresses war as though it were a
> psychological aberration like kleptomania:  They just couldn't help
> themselves:  The desire to fight a war became too much for them.
> His article implies that great numbers of people die because of the "appeal"
> of war.  Some sort of psychological interpretation needs to be discovered so
> that we can put a stop to this, he says.

And Amago wrote:

Not such a far fetched conclusion: people love war.  His is an amazing,
heretofore unasked, question: why love something that is so pain filled and

Historians and those among us who have read widely and talked with veterans,
or better yet, who are veterans, know why people go to war now, why they
went to war in the past (not the same reasons; shorthand version--they used
to be in search of loot, now they go for medals, patriotism, honor, but love
of comrades and not wanting to let them down is a constant) and why they act
as they do when they get there.  We also know that these motives and the
motives of people who declare war are not identical.

Some people enjoy war.  Many people enjoy tragedy, either the real thing or
a literary version.  Understanding that people enjoy tragedy has done little
to reduce the amount of tragedy in the world.  I doubt that understanding
the motives of those who love war will do much to prevent war.  That
understanding has, however, together with humanist and pragmatic impulses,
given us modern "rules" of war.

What made people in the nineteenth century confident that large scale war
was impossible was the inflation in costs.  It was thought that no one could
possibly pay for a large scale war.  The argument was absoletely correct;
the First and Second World Wars bankrupted Europe.  But when there are
people willing to loan you the money, not being able to pay doesn't prevent
folk from indulging themselves.  I would argue that one of the most
important changes in the nature of warfare in the past hundred years is the
development of the income tax and the national debt.  Now we can afford
really, really expensive wars.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon    

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