2010-07-01 / Sam Bari

WAR: We are ridiculous

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

During my career as a writer and journalist, I have been asked many times why I never write about, editorialize or establish a position on war.

I suppose most writers at one time or another try to say something clever or profound to make mankind see the futility of engaging in battle with their own kind.

Many before me made some downright creative and moving statements about the subject, and nobody listened. I am not convinced that I can better their efforts.

I have always viewed war as an acronym for “We Are Ridiculous.” The “we” part being mankind. The “ridiculous” part meaning “wildly unreasonable and illogical.”

The following are quotes from writers, authors and statesmen who have indeed made memorable statements about the subject of war. From these, I have drawn my conclusions for the acronym.

• “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein

• “One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.” – Agatha Christie

• “The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.” – George Orwell

• “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.” – Georges Clemenceau

• “You can’t say that civilization don’t advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.” – Will Rogers

• “Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies.” – W. L. George

A good example of that is the love displayed by the French for Americans. If you don’t believe me, ask any tourist who visited France after we liberated the French in WWII.

• “War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” – Thomas Mann

This one has always amused me: “The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.” – Solomon Short

For those who are not aware of Solomon Short, he is a fictional character created by author David Gerrold. Short’s quick wit and inventive profundities are always available with little or no encouragement on a variety of topical issues.

Others that are worthy of recognition are:

• “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862

• “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” – Mao Tse-Tung.

• What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? – Mahatma Gandhi

Mark Twain also made a number of noteworthy statements about war:

• “Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, war. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for ‘the universal brotherhood of man’ – with his mouth.” – From his essay, “What is Man?”

• “An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.” – From “Glances at History,” 1906

• “A wanton waste of projectiles.” – From “The Art of War” speech, 1881.

• “Before I had chance in another war, the desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away.” – From his autobiography

• And finally: “All war must be just the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity; strangers whom, in other circumstances, you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it.” – “The Private History of the Campaign That Failed.”

The aforementioned quotes are but a mere smattering of the available material on the subject.

All I can add is that people will go to war if statesmen and intellectuals convince them that their lives, families and possessions are at risk. Intellectuals and statesmen will convince them of that if they think that ideology is at risk. And big business will finance any war because they only see opportunity.

War is a horrific part of living in a system we can’t understand.

Return to top