VIII. Effectology in War
"War is the business of barbarians."
Questions that will be considered:
What are the most accidental reasons to start a war?
Does it take good leaders, strategies and tactics, or lucky accidents to win a war?
What is the effect of militarism in world history?
In the animal world, eat or be eaten is the rule of survival. The strongest animal eats, drinks, and reproduces first. The same rule applies to the human world, where individuals fight to dominate others or end up being dominated. To survive, humans need to be either strong and aggressive, or weak and submissive. The former rule and exploit; the latter are ruled and exploited. They need each other in order to exist. While Homo Necans/Killer is the winner in fights, the most intelligent and adaptable humans are the ones to continue life on Earth.
Because in ancient history men hunted and women nested, men were in charge of the killing. Young men proved their manliness and virility by fighting equally eager adversaries. Men instinctively wanted there to be wars in order to justify their role in society and to crown themselves with heroism. This violent, heroic way of life seems to continue and dictate the male's nature, making him fight for any reason.
Anything in human relationships can be the seed for a conflict. Since time immemorial, humans have attacked each other in the name of defending themselves. Accidental fights erupted among groups of humans over water holes, shelter, the most abundant fruit trees, and beautiful women. The effects of these brutal actions were killings, plundering, rape, and destruction, which are the main savage components of any war. I've no doubt that the first intelligible sounds in any language were to signal danger and to indicate what to do about it.
Once humanity advanced from primitivism to tribal confederations, the melees evolved into organized armed conflict. Pastoral nomadism and the perpetual search for better grazing lands unleashed the invasions of stronger tribes over smaller tribes' territories. These ended in deadly fights and produced prisoners. The process gave birth to the slavery system, based on the exploitation of captured enemies. From then on, wars pushed the winning forces to different superior levels in their social systems.
Regardless of how war is judged, it remains an act of brutal slaughter and an abuse of force. Because of this, war can be defined as an accident of terror and revenge, inflicted by adversarial forces upon a group of people.
Just like death, war is inevitable, and just like a wildfire in a forest, it makes room for the renewal of life. Somehow, in the long run, war is a needed political and military accident that renews societies, changes social orders, and enforces the will of the fittest and smartest.
War, with its unbound violence, is as old as the human race, which is always busy fighting to settle conflicts. In doing so, war changes everything from geopolitics and geo-economics, to the personal destinies and philosophies of the winners and the losers.
From ancient times to the present day, the basic action of war has remained the same: to kill or to be killed, whether by headhunting or the completely destroying the enemy through an atomic blast. By definition, war implies a territorial conflict and annihilation of an enemy.
Local wars took place all the time between neighboring tribes or nations, but the First World War took place 3200 years ago, described by Homer as the Trojan War. It was a battle between the Greeks of Europe and the Trojans of Asia. Because the Greeks were more numerous, and because they used the Trojan Horse, they won. (F.N. The famous wooden horse carried the first Navy-seal-like warriors, who opened the gates of the fortress from the inside.) Because the Greeks were triumphant, their history recorded the war from the point of view of the Greeks.
Sparta was founded on a military order, which brought firm laws and stability to the society of warriors. Education and military training were the main activities of young men, groomed to defend their establishment and control their neighbors. When Sparta was at war, its soldiers knew to return "holding their shield or on it," meaning victorious or dead. The military state was represented by a king who was controlled by a constitution and by a council of elders, who basically functioned like a military command post. The slaves belonged to the state, while the Spartan citizens had equal rights to all properties and equal say in their society. After uniting against the Persian invasion, Sparta and Athens clashed in the 27-year Peloponnesian War (431404 B.C.). The long and exhausting conflict left both states in economic and military ruins.
Many great men of the ancient world were direct participants in different wars, and some of them left great military legacies. Thucydides (460399) was the Athenian historian and politician who wrote The Peloponnesian War, one of the first military manuals about conducting a war. Thucydides was also a general who led the Athenian forces in Thrace. Eventually unlucky circumstances made him lose the city of Amphipolis. He was punished with a twenty-year exile, confirming the fact that military losers end in disgrace. In his opinion, the growth of an empire required wars to increase prestige, security, and economic gains. Over the next twenty-six hundred years, wars were carried out for the same sound needs, and history was decided by armed actions that redrew maps and redistributed wealth.
Socrates fought in the doomed invasion of Sicily and witnessed firsthand the decline of the Athenian military and political power. His voice of reason in trying to stop the revengeful execution of the defeated generals, and his attempts to restore traditional morals and virtues, bought him a summary execution. The death of the illustrious philosopher in 399 B.C. also marked the end of Athens' Golden Age.
The end of the reasonable thinking that once created the most powerful Greek military state affected the entire society, which was soon to fall under the attack of the more motivated Macedonian army. Aristotle regarded war as a high level of a human achievement. In that spirit, he groomed the young Alexander the Great to be the military ruler of the Balkan Peninsula and to try to conquer the world.
To talk about a war philosophy is to understand the accidental implications of war. For the ancient Greeks, the war between their cities was different than from defending the same cities against the barbarian invasions. The Roman invasion was perceived by them as a necessary happening to end the corrupt Greek society. For the Romans, wars of conquests were the product of their divine right to lead the world. The lives of non-Romans meant little to them, and during the plunder of Syracuse, one legionnaire killed Archimedes while the mathematician was solving a geometric problem he drew in the sand.
Julius Caesar (10044 B.C.), the famous Roman general, politician, orator, and military writer carried a seven-year campaign against the Gaul (France). He killed two million Celts, leveled 800 towns and villages, and enslaved 3 million prisoners to "pacify" them. His "The die is cast" statement remained the quintessence of what war means: a bold and risky leap into an unknown enemy territory, or even a friendly territory. A deadly business in which to engage, war remains to our day as an unpredictable accident where there is little control from its participants.
Seneca (565 A.D.) was the gifted orator and the unlucky philosopher who tutored Nero, who did not grasp the concept that wisdom was the key to reaching goodness. The great philosopher wanted his pupil to be the ideal world leader, involved in no wars. Indeed, Nero never led a war campaign, but his envy and revenge reigned supreme, reflected by his ordering the victorious General Corbulo, who maintained the Roman conquests, to commit suicide. Nero's war was against his best people, including his mother and Seneca, whom he assassinated.
Many times, royal wisdom meant to eliminate by force individuals or nations who detracted from a leader's will to dominate. This remained the way to rule in any society of any time. It also generated deadly accidents for many innocents.
In a perfect world, philosophers should make perfect civil and military leaders. That has never been the case, though, because civil leaders are dreamers, and military leaders are men of bloody actions. Since the thinkers never had armies to enforce their noble wills, they took a back seat, contemplating the effects of war and writing about it. However, history notes an exception in the person of Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121180), a stoic philosopher and a true great emperor of Rome. He was groomed to achieve the highest military ranks, along with having a solid knowledge in the priesthood, mathematics, literature, and the arts. He wrote many books on philosophical thoughts, maxims, reflections, and confessions.
He would have loved to rule in peace, but he had to fight the Germans and other invading barbarians, and he was forced to put down revolts. To him, war was a vital necessity for the Romans. Despite his profound intellect and his understanding of the world and human nature, Aurelius had to carry out unwanted wars in order to keep the Roman Empire at the heights achieved by Caesar, Augustus, Trajanus and Hadrianus, all brilliant military leaders. All of these emperors made philosophy a second priority after their wars of conquest.
Aurelius's personal life was full of disappointmentshis unfaithful wife Faustina, his unworthy son Commodus, and his illnesses. Described as "by nature a saint and a sage, by profession a warrior and a ruler," he was the best product of his time and society, both heading towards Christianity.
The Christian philosophy of Saint Augustine (354430) and his efforts to make a better world meant nothing when the invading Vandals stormed the Episcopal city of Hippa, where he preached. His noble ideals of love, law, and moral order proved hapless in front of the cold steel of a passing barbarian's sword.
The power of the word over the action of the sword was easier said than done, and many philosophers tried to justify wars. Thomas Aquinas (12251274) believed a just war needed three reasons: sovereign authority to guard the nation, a legitimate cause like self-defense, and moral intentions, such as restoring order and peace. Eventually bellum/war escalated in duellum/use of force.
Hegel saw war as a historical necessity towards progress and justice. Because of that, he considered war to be a natural moving force in history. Kant disliked war and envisioned a universal peace. Schopenhauer believed that war was the result of the will of egotistic leaders. Even Machiavelli considered men weak and stupid, always arming themselves for war. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was a philosopher of war, glorifying it as the natural activity of the Aryans, who needed to prove their superiority using the force of arms. And thus, the myth of the "super-man" was born.
Keeping up with the reputable national philosophical and military tradition, some other German thinkers were absorbed in war affairs. Under the influence of that tradition, Heinrich von Treitschke (18341896) regarded war as the only remedy for an ailing nation. Friederich von Bernhardi (18491930) was a highly intellectual general who believed war to be an instrument of biological evolution, reflecting a nation's vitality and strength.
Max Scheler (18741928) was a renowned social philosopher, who was so carried away with the outbreak of WWI that he wrote The Genius of War and the German War in 1915. However, the carnage and bloody reality of war, to which was added Germany's defeat, made him change his ideas of war glorification. He changed identity and converted from Judaism to Catholicism.
Hans Vaihinger (18521933) blamed the overrated idealism and optimism of the militaristic Germans for losing in WWI. His half-accusatory statements became a prophecy for the similarly attributed loss in WWII. Max Weber was the director of an army hospital during WWI. After the war, he wrote about the German guilt. He applied the same idea at the Versailles Treaty, where he served as a peace consultant but could do very little for his defeated country. Different approaches to war were taken by less important scholars, such as Herman Gocker, who envisioned the ideal German man as the soul of a pure peasant combined with the heart of a heroic soldier.
Ernst Junger was the modern philosopher who probably knew war firsthand better than all others. He joined the French Foreign legion, and later on he fought in WWI, where he was wounded and highly decorated with the Pour le Merite medal. In WWII, he was part of the Wehrmacht during the invasion of France and of the Soviet Union. Never a real scholar, Junger was a keen sociologist who clearly deduced that war technology was creating a new form of industrial society. Because of that, the war-loving Germany shaped the Roman-like worker-soldier who was meant to be the elite citizen in Nazi society and in all future modern states.
Hitler greatly admired Junger, but the militaristic philosopher refused to accept totalitarian order and tyranny. After WWII, he strongly advocated for international political unity and peace as historical necessities. Hitler was better served by Hans Heyse and Ernst Krieck, who offered their militaristic philosophies of education for the new Aryan master race.
Some British philosophers also got entangled in war issues, mostly because they served on front lines. David W. Ross (18771971) was a Scottish moral philosopher who served in WWI. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his brave conduct, and reached the rank of major. As one may expect, moral convictions and conflicts of duty were high in his Aristotelian thoughts, regarding the future consequences of any action.
John Langshaw Austin (19111960) was a professor of moral philosophy and served with distinction in WWII in the Intelligence Corps. He reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and he was awarded with the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Merit. Repulsed by the horrors of the battlefields and the suffering of civilians, he never made use of his knowledge of war afterwards. Instead, he dedicated himself to the peaceful subject of semantics, clarifying the use of ordinary words.
The true soldier-philosopher of war was General Karl von Clausewitz (17801831), who served in the Prussian and Russian armies and who wrote the bible of modern warfare, On War. He provided the best definitions of war, saying "its literal meaning is fighting" and that it is "an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will." He concluded that "War is the shock of two opposing forces in collision with each other." To him, war was a political act that ends in combat, more like "a duel on an extensive scale." It was not simply an army opposing another army, but rather one state or nation opposing another on a battlefield.
Von Clausewitz correctly stated that war was not about a single blow, but a complex web of armed and economic actions directed in attack and defense. It was a gambling game of danger, courage, and good and bad luck. Rephrased in Effectological terms, the prudent calculations in carrying a war generate more bad accidents than expected good effects.
Von Clausewitwz described war in terms of strategy and even dedicated a chapter to "The Genius of War," but he did not preach violence. He only attempted to explain the science behind war. It was not a matter of right or wrong, but a strong acknowledgement of war's perpetual existence throughout the history of mankind. Ironically, this great military thinker, who reached the rank of general, survived battle wounds, and was captured, endured the misery of many wars only to die of the inglorious cholera.
Regardless of the good ideas books have revealed, history has marched to its own war beat, led by those who attached "the Great" to their names: Alexander, Constantine, Peter, Frederich, and Napoleon, as well as the infamous Attila, Timur, Mohammed the Conqueror, and Stalin.
Unlike the scholars poring over their books and hardly moving from one room to another, the military leaders pored over maps of distant lands. Each tried to create a better world, and each failed because of the much higher authority of the war-god, omnipotent over the destinies of men and nations.
The world has never been a safe place to live in. It has always been filled with danger and turbulent events. Armed conflict accidents seem to have been the necessity to solve international disputes. Any military conflict had, and will continue to have, the effect of an act of the mutual destruction of the fighting societies involved. No doubt, war and civilization never match their values, but for reasons to be described further, they depend on each other.
From an Effectological point of view, the cosmic clashes between solar systems and planets are very much part of a universal war that may influence earthly violence. The conclusion is that going to war became second nature of humans, whose desire to win and killing instincts haven't changed a bit since prehistoric times.