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Friday, December 24, 2010

War on Earth

'Tis the season for sentimentality.

The Christmas carols are full of it. Brotherhood. Peace. Joy to the world. It's John Lennon's insufferably pretentious anthem Imagine, without the off-key caterwauling. Far better the Huddersfield Choral Society telling me about peace on earth, at least they can sing beautifuly. 

Vague expressions of empty pleasantries - the tonal equivalents of the air headed beauty queen's wish for world peace - would be less grating if they were taken less seriously. Singing that you want world peace costs you nothing, and exposes you only to the slightest risk of laryngitis. It also absolves you of personal responsibility.

It's not a goal that you, as an individual, can realistically achieve. It's something nice to say, that you won't be called on. Saying you'd like to lose twenty pounds is a goal with objective criteria. Few people sing about things they can fail at. So much of Christmas is really a warm bath. A nice sensation you don't have to earn.

The danger isn't that woolly headed people like deluding themselves - at it was in the beginning, so shall it be at the end - but that such woolly headedness is allowed to pass for public policy. People sing about peace on earth at Christmas, and then carry that vague wishfulness through the rest of the year, causing untold suffering. Witness the farce of the Middle East process, in which a free and civilized country (Israel) is forced to negotiate with its gangster and terrorist state neighbours.

If this were chalked up to being another example - regrettable but necessary - of realpolitik, deal with the people you gotta deal with, it would matter very little. It's that the peace process has taken on a moral life of its own. Even in August, a large swath of the Western electorate keeps humming about peace on earth. The mantra that as long as we keep talking, we're not shooting, misses a vital point, only one side in the Middle East is interested in shooting. 

Peace - whether between individual nations, or the whole world - is not the product of "good will." The absence of violence is not the product of simply deciding to be nice. The milk of human kindness is not tapped by singing carols. Peace, benevolence, good will and prosperity are the careful products of centuries of thought, effort and re-examined failure. 

That the typical Canadian - except the residents of some housing projects and Caledonia - can walk down the street in peace and security was not accomplished by wishing. It was hard and difficult work. Violence is easy. Take a club, bash it over your neighbour and get what you want. Negotiating in a civilized and rational manner takes a lot of work, though with practice it seems natural to civilized and rational men and women.

Leaving aside the psychopaths, who commit violence for its own sake, most violence is done to achieve an end. The acquisition of wealth from others, or power over them. The alternative is persuasion. Convince someone else to give you their money, or to follow you to achieve a particular end. That's the basic choice of social life for humans, freedom or force. Dress it up anyway you like, it's the choice that underlines everything in our daily lives, from business meetings to national elections to international treaties. 

Force, as noted earlier, is the easiest option. The simplest to understand and practice. My club is bigger than your club, so do what I want. Not surprisingly this has been the default option for most of human history. It's still the default option in the more retrograde parts of the world. The Palestinian terrorists could, of course, buy the land they want, but that would require business acumen and negotiating savvy. Much easier to use your children as walking arsenals. The Israelis would never, of course, sell land to terrorists. They would sell and work with civilized human beings.

While plunder is certainly a leading motivation for war, thievery and political patronage, it's not the only one. Neither HItler nor Stalin were particular keen on personal wealth or luxury. Their motivation was power over others. I won't speculate as to why some want power over others, at least not in the way that totalitarian dictators seek it. Wanting power isn't itself a bad thing. If I want to build a chain of restaurants, I'm going to need workers. To accomplish my goal, I'll need to have power over people, but that power that is voluntarily obtained and strictly delimited. 

Most of the wars in human history have been fought by dictatorships seeking to plunder other dictatorships, or freer nations. While Hitler was certainly keen to add to the glories and territories of the Reich, there was also the practical consideration that Nazi economics (National Socialism, after all) was unsustainable. To stay in power Hitler needed war.

Contrary to revisionists on both sides, the British Empire and the French Republic did not start either world war. Even going back as far as 1870, it was a militaristic Prussia (and then Germany) that provoked the comparatively liberal monarchy of Napoleon III. Once Germany became a free nation, after a thorough Allied occupation effort in the late 1940s, the country developed a fierce abhorrence of violence and war. Modern Germany is a pillar of European peace and security, because it is a free country.

Free nations tend not to start wars, and when they do it is usually for pre-emptive or moral reasons. The Americans seeking to smash the remnants of the Spanish Empire and liberate its possessions (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines), or remove dangerous tyrannies like Iraq or Afghanistan. You can question whether those wars were sensible uses of blood and treasure, but the Americans profited not a whit financially, instead spending billions to rebuild the lands they had occupied.

War for oil (or other resources) is a short and simplistic slogan for placards, which plays on the naive cynicism of modern Westerners, who cannot imagine anything but economic motivations. The United States could have easily secured whatever natural resources, or land, it needed by negotiating with the governments then in place. It would have been cheaper and simpler than war.

Those who truly seek peace on earth, should seek freedom first. For all the paranoid ranting of our anti-American Left, the United States is not a rogue power bent on world conquest. If such a thing were true Canada would have ceased to exist decades ago. Free countries, like America, respect the sovereignty of other free countries, like Canada. Governments that do not respect the rights of their own citizens, will not hesitate to violate the peace and freedom of their neighbours' citizens. The first step to peace is to fight for freedom. Both at home and abroad.


Posted by Richard Anderson on December 24, 2010 | Permalink


The actions of the United States in any instance can only be consider just and perfect. It's impossible for Canada (and Canadians) to ever hope to aspire to such a lofty mission. Indeed, any effort by any nation to challenge the US can only be considered an attack on Liberty and must be destroyed will all force available.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-24 4:47:38 AM

Canada may criticize the US but they also support them. They have done so overtly in Afghanistan, and covertly in Iraq (generals, armaments, exchange officers, ships, aircraft), Iran (hostages) and goodness knows where else. Why hasn't Wikileaks released any cables about that? This has been done with the full cooperation - if secret - of the federal gov't. So, blame yourselves, not the US.

Posted by: Killer Kane | 2010-12-24 10:44:56 AM

I am waiting for Wikkileaks to reveal the secret of a flat tummy
so we, the people, don't have to pay for that information

Posted by: 419 | 2010-12-24 12:59:04 PM

Good message, one that needs to be used to abuse left-libs as enlightenment is next to impossible.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-12-24 1:23:56 PM

To have peace on earth would require that one focuses on attaining inter-peace and cease trying to control others. As long as we are at war within ourselves, we shall not know peace, for as stated peace is not simply the absence of war.

Nevertheless I believe it is normal to wish and hope for peace, and it cannot do any harm as long as we understand that it is not something external. It is like true happiness in that true happiness does not depend on others, even our spouse or children. It is not a matter of being indifferent to them, only that it has to do with our state of mind.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate Christmas and enjoy the beautiful Christmas carols be you Christian or not.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-12-24 2:05:03 PM

The Carols will be up shortly Alain.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-12-24 3:21:26 PM

It is only rational to declare that for there to be peace there must be more and bloodier wars. Ultimately, there will only be peace once the enemies of Liberty have been destroyed. Let that be the message of the Season.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-26 1:01:25 AM

The actions of the United States in any instance can only be consider just and perfect.It's impossible for Canada (and Canadians) to ever hope to aspire to such a lofty mission.
Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-24 4:47:38 AM

Zebulon Pike now posting as AB Patriot.

Posted by: The Stig | 2010-12-26 6:59:57 AM

I agree with you Alain

Posted by: don b | 2010-12-26 9:17:51 AM

We haven't had a fanciful ID outting since the Wipeheads accused Shane of being three people- Zebe, myself and Shane,

they couldn't believe that there was more than one person who didn't agree with their stoner credo

What's your excuse lads?

Posted by: 419 | 2010-12-26 2:41:43 PM

In 1870 Napoleon III was in serious political difficulty at home, and was determined to get out of it by uniting the nation behind him in war. He didn't need any provocation, and he got no serious provocation at all. Just about nobody in Germany wanted war; and the few that did, basically Bismarck and a handful of kindred spirits, didn't so much want war as recognize that they were going to be stuck with one, and determine to fight it on the most favourable terms. And even they did nothing that effectively provoked the war. Nobody in his right mind would have regarded the Ems telegram as grounds for war, and by the time it was sent the French were already committed to war.

You're quite right about the first world war, but Britain and France had a pretty clear choice about declaring war in the second. Hitler would have been quite happy to stay at peace, and based on the disastrous outcome of the Anglo-French war against Germany, there's at least an argument that maybe he should have been accommodated. I'll let someone else make that argument. My own thinking is that it was right to declare war, and wrong to prosecute it as they then did.

All this by way of a petty quibble with a thoughtful essay. Please bear with me, it seems to be my Christmas to play Grinch. I always enjoy your writing, and I wish you all the best in the new year.

Posted by: ebt | 2010-12-27 4:30:37 PM

Hitler would have been quite happy to stay at peace
So of course he faked Polish attacks to justify an invasion of Poland with Stalin. Of course.

Posted by: Cytotoxic | 2010-12-30 1:13:57 PM

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