Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day, 2010

Georges Clemenceau (1841 – 1929) says, "War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military."

Aside from that quotation and a silly-looking hat he wore, he is also known for his determination to continue the struggle against the Germans in WWI, which many French were willing to quit: "La guerre jusqu'au bout." [War until the end.] He had some German sympathisers in the French government tossed into prison, and after the war, he was a significant force behind the Paris Peace Talks, which economically crippled Germany for some years afterward. His quotation above is perhaps in anger over the American general Pershing's refusal to send American troops into battle as Clemenceau saw fit. I read a biography of him when I was a young man, and I heard family stories about him as a boy. Like most British families, mine suffered losses, and they remembered. For me now, those who died would mostly be my childrens' age. Today, those would be pot-smoking metro-sexual skateboarders.

I don't have any kids, and if I did, I don't think I'd be keen on them going to war with our military as is. I'd prefer they stay home and raise children of their own while I fight instead. War is too serious to be left to the military, and it's too important to be fought by youths. It's better left to men of age and experience, men who have a settled understanding of its importance, men who understand that victory is essential in war, and who will fight to win. War becomes a man's task, not a task for boys.

For the Modernist, war often means applying technology against remote figures rather than actual face to face combat with a remorseless personal enemy. People who push buttons and kill with remote controlled missiles would probably panic if they had instead to stick a pencil into a man's eye or cut off his thumbs with a pair of rose cutters. The saving grace of the military is that if one is part of it, the killing is abstract, for the most part, the responsibility for death being on the shoulders of the organisation rather than on those of the individual. War becomes a sacred activity, in the sense that one is distant from it. But one is also alienated from it. One isn't personally involved in it the way one is personally involved in a bar fight. It's not personal, so one is not personally responsible for the greater effort, only for following through with ones private duty to the greater whole, the nation and the state. There's a place for that, and a good one. Patriots are good. Killing some guy because one has a personal hatred of him is not good.

However, I do think war is too serious a business for the military and too important to leave to governments. I like to think it is the right occupation of citizens, free and thinking men who fight for their nations and people. Governments can organise it well in times of need, if there is another government doing the same against them. But in our time, for the most part, such is not the case. Our Modernist governments can organise so well that few need to go to war, and when they do, the government must do all in its power to restrain its ability to destroy the enemy. We could, for example, annihilate the entire Muslim world in a matter of weeks if we chose to. They are totally defenceless against us. Their only salvation is our refusal to destroy our own self-worth by letting ourselves indulge in such a hideous murder. Unfortunately, we allow the enemy in small numbers slip into our open lands to do their evil and we, being so strong, do nothing from fear of over-acting. We are mis-matched in this struggle, too powerful to fight back. So, our military is not the appropriate vehicle to wage war on our enemies. Instead, old men are the right men to do so. Our old men against theirs. Single combat, more or less, rather than the slaughter of the masses, which we remember this day, Remembrance Day, 2010

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