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

  • From: Andy Amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2004 09:51:04 -0800 (PST)

-----Original Message-----
From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Dec 8, 2004 12:01 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: CFP: PEACE REVIEW on the Psychological Interpretation 
of War

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.

A.A. In other words, the need for war is a constant.  The excuses and 
rationalizations for it vary.  

D.R. 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.  

A.A. Understanding that people enjoy tragedy is not the same as understanding 
why they enjoy tragedy.  The why is what K. was getting at.

D.R. 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.

A.A. I'm not so sure.  Understanding excuses is pointless.  Understanding the 
need for excuses is a different story.  If we knew why we need something, then 
we stand a chance of getting that need met in a less destructive way.

D.R. 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.

A.A.  You're right.  It is argued that Japan is what it is because it was razed 
to the ground in WWII and had to come back up.  It's interesting that so few 
people see war as a waste of money.  All that money could go into making our 
lives richer.  Instead it goes into destroying ourselves, which is to say, 
enjoying ourselves.  Maybe self destruction was built into the system, leaving 
war in control of us, not us controling it.  We may as well stop belly aching 
about Iraq and just enjoy it.  It's curious we feel so threatened by inner 
cities and avoid them because we don't feel safe there.

Andy Amago

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon    

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