Thursday, February 19, 2009

Worth Reading: Fortescue on the Nature of War

The English military historian Sir John Fortescue is best known for his monumental 13-volume History of the British Army. I found his views on the nature of war and its persistence in human history in his introduction to Taylor’s The Wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (1921).

And let us not be told that we have had enough of war and wish to hear no more about it. Above all, let us not be deluded by saying that the late—or rather the present—war is “a war to end war.” A war that could end war is a war that could change human nature; and the prime cause of war is that human nature obstinately refuses to be changed. We cannot even maintain domestic peace without the help of a standing army, called the police. The abolition of private property would not end domestic broils; the dissolution of nations could not end external quarrels. As long as one man excels another in body or mind, as long as one woman is even comelier than another, so long will there be envy, jealousy, strife, and violence, or, in one word, War.

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