Since I was old enough to think about it at all, the question I have always asked about a war was whether it was morally justified. Were the wars being fought because of injustice so grave that it merited killing and dying for? If all other alternatives had been exhausted, if negotiations or economic forces failed, genocide obviously seemed a cause worth opposing to the death. Mass starvation, slavery, unjustified invasion for the purpose of taking over a land to which one has no right or need also seemed justifiable reasons to go to war.
But I am now reading Barbara Tuchman’s superb trilogy examining the events preceding and during World War I – The Proud Tower, The Zimmermann Telegram, The Guns of August – and I am realizing how very much more complicated the question of war is beyond questions of morality. In the stories we tell ourselves afterwards, we inevitably make the victors of war into heroes, even saints provided we are the victors, and into villains if we are the losers. But it’s much much more complicated than that.
It’s not just about good guys and bad guys, right and wrong.
As I look at this question, I feel much the way I felt when 15 years ago I decided to grasp the events of time since the Big Bang, and ultimately wrote The Big Bang to Now. My ignorance to begin with was vast. But I was fascinated, and bit by bit I got a hold of time and the major events of the last 14 billion years – at least those we know about.
I am now staring at the abyss of my ignorance about war. I doubt I will achieve sufficient wisdom to write a book on the subject, but this blog has always been primarily my platform for thinking out loud. So I am going to think out loud as I continue to read. Any comments or suggestions will be accepted with appreciation. Not, perhaps, always with agreement. But I am emphatically in a learning mode right now and am seriously listening.