Peace In Our Time
War is a human proclivity with ancient roots. The tendency towards organized violence is in our genes. Indeed, the evolution of an opposable thumb to build ever more sophisticated weapons, the dexterity and intelligence to handle them, and even language to plan and execute group activities are what confers a survival advantage sufficient to make us undisputed masters of this world. And these instincts have not moderated as hunting has given way to animal husbandry and agriculture.
Nor are we a unique in nature. Our closest relations in the animal kingdom, humble chimpanzees, are also observed to form hunting parties and to wage war on neighboring groups to maintain and extend their territories. But while our expertise has allowed the human race to extend its dominion and numbers over nearly every part of the globe, it also carries the potential seeds or our ruin.
While civilization allows us to specialize in our daily toll multiplying efficiencies many fold, it also provides a necessary niche for that of a manager of those activities in the form of a prince, or king, or prime minister, or president. This is because human affairs are turbulent replete with conflict and predation. City states and nations cannot exist without some moderating influence.
The role of a disinterested Prince or the blind justice of written law is to create an absolute authority to administer justice that is above reproach or appeal. This theoretically eliminates vendettas and blood feuds from escalating out of control and in practice allows us to live together in relative peace and harmony. And the position of a leader above the law, wielding the absolute power of the state, is so lucrative we have never been without an overwhelming multitude of contenders.
Unfortunately, there is a survival advantage attendant on looting the hard earned wealth of neighbors that has proved irresistible throughout all of human experience even unto the very present. And demagogues can achieve power by exploiting that sense by promising unearned riches to loyal followers.
The question is how to prevent war between nations.
Our earliest settlements at the end of the last ice age perhaps ten thousand years ago originated along the highlands bordering the river valleys of Mesopotamia, the headwaters of the Nile, and the Indus. In every instance across all cultures and continents, local societies understood the necessity of a wall to protect the city and its wealth. A strong wall is expensive to erect and maintain and diverts significant resources from other projects also necessary for survival. But not one survived that failed to provide for their defense.
In any event as the mobility of armed forces increased, city walls gave way to castles or other strongholds culminating in long defenses such as the “Maginot line” between France and Germany in between the World Wars. That a strong army and navy is the only effective way deter war, which is no one’s real interest, is a well understood truth across the world. Diplomacy backed by weakness has NEVER worked.
An example is that of Rome which over nearly a millennium demonstrated an unusual expertise in extending its dominion over neighboring states. Notwithstanding the benefits of civilization to include public order, increased trade and general prosperity, engineering marvels such as roads, bridges, aqueducts and public sanitation, and the proliferation of hard won knowledge not the least of which was medical, the underpinning of this empire was an overwhelming military superiority.
Centuries of hard won wisdom led to the Roman dictum of “Si vis bellum para pacem” which is that if you desire peace, then prepare for war. Despite the apparent paradox, the only real surprise is that anyone, especially the liberal left in America, can gain any traction over public opinion by disparaging the concept.
A favorite Roman legend was that of a Syrian general, Antiochus, who was deterred from an attack on Alexandria in Egypt in 168 B.C. by an elderly Roman ambassador, Gaius Popillius Laenas, who threatened war with Rome if the Syrian did not agree to return home with his army before stepping out of circle drawn in the sand.
Maybe, perhaps, war is too terrible and exercise for sloppy minded democrat thinking on the matter.
Liberals in the US ensured the death of a democracy, however imperfect, in Vietnam and the mass murder, mostly by burying alive, of nearly 6 million souls in South Vietnam.
Liberals in the US and Europe tried to prevent President Regan from getting the Soviet Union to withdraw from Central Europe and to effect the first “detente” in the reduction of nuclear weapons and Cold War hostilities.
The US defense buildup under President Regan and the Star Wars initiative which was the straw that broke the camel’s back, led to the Soviet Union changing from a dictatorship to a democracy and was opposed tooth and nail every step of the way by US democrats.
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President Carter’s encouragement of terrorism around the world led to the death of three thousand citizens.
President Obama’s withdrawal from the Mid-East lead to the death of hundreds of thousands, the creation of millions of refugees, and the complete disintegration of most of North Africa, and the Mid-East, and now of Europe.