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

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2004 11:04:06 -0800

A long time ago, when I was 17, I enlisted in the Marine Corps.  I didn't
enlist for reasons of comradeship -- I had no friends joining with me.
There was a war going on -- the Korean War.  I don't recall how astute I was
at that age, but the nation declared a need, the sort of need that young men
have been called to meet since the earliest days of mankind's' recorded
history.  I take it that if Koenigsberg were part of our discussion, he
would be interested in my motivations. He would be interested in what sort
of aberration caused me to talk my mother into signing the papers so I could
enlist in the Marine Corps.  But Koenigsberg would be better off examining
the history of the times: the relationship between the USSR and the USA.  He
should read about the Truman administration and learn about the writings of
George Kennan.  The Truman doctrine had been created to combat the USSR and
its influence.  The Korean War was an application of that doctrine.  That
application was the cause of our entry into that War, not my willingness to
join the Marine Corps.

To argue that there could not have been a justification for our going to war
with North Korea implies that we should not have had a policy that opposed
the USSR and that we should have allowed North Korea to invade our ally
South Korea.  To search for the reasons for war in the psychology of
individual soldiers is searching in the wrong place.  It is also wrong to
search for the reasons for this war in the psychology of Truman, Acheson, or
Kennan.  None of those three wanted to go to war in Korea, but they weren't
willing to abandon our ally South Korea.  As an alternative to Koenigsberg's
psychological exercise, consider the psychological implications of American
leaders who at that time could have abandoned South Korea to the North


I am presently reading Ian Kershaw's Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris.  I am on
page 432 and it is 1933.  Hitler has just become Chancellor.  Hitler has
made his policies known.  He intends to go to war - not because he loves
war, although I suppose he loved it as much as anyone.  He wanted to go to
war to give Germans lebensraum and to counter the effects of the people he
called "the November Criminals."  He thought the Germans were the master
race and deserved to gain as much lebensraum as it needed through war.  He
thought the Germans were better at war than anyone else.  It is possible to
examine many of Hitler's motives, but as much as he loved war, however much
that was, it couldn't be said that he went to war because he loved war.  The
objectives of his war were the reasons he went to war.  Lebensraum in the
East and the countering of the effects of the ignominious surrender after
World War One were probably the prime reasons. 


We are a conflicted people - all of us are.  We engage in conflicts
throughout life.  The nations that represent us also engage in conflicts.
It would be better to focus on the nature and reasons for our conflicts than
in the dubious love of war.  Imagine a nation filled with adults who each
possessed the personality of St. Francis of Assisi.  Perhaps that nation
could avoid war - at least it would stand a better chance than any nation
that exists today.  Now that would be an interesting project, all you
pacifists: give up your verbal violence.  Stop railing against people who
disagree with you.  Become more like St. Francis.


Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto




-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of David Ritchie
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2004 9:02 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: CFP: PEACE REVIEW on the
PsychologicalInterpretation 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

> "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

> of war.  Some sort of psychological interpretation needs to be discovered

> 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    



To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: