Monday, June 18, 2007

On good and evil and war

I made a bold statement in my War Porn message, one that I'm surprised nobody called me on. I said, "All war does is destroy."

But what about Hitler, you say? Surely World War II was a "good" war?

No. World War II was a necessary war, in order to remove evil from the planet. But the absence of evil is not the presence of good.

Evil destroys. Good creates. But if you remove Evil, you don't end up with Good. You end up with... nothing. Just an empty vacuum.

War, since it is only destruction, is never Good. It is necessary, sometimes. I am not naive. I know that committing acts of violence, acts of evil, is sometimes necessary in order to prevent further evil. I am not reluctant, for example, to state that a serial killer should be subjected to the violence of the state -- seized by armed men, placed into a cage called a "prison cell", and kept there for the remainder of his life. Is this evil? Yes, violence is always evil, but in this case it prevents worse evil, it prevents the serial killer from adding yet more bodies to his tally of destruction.

But war never, ever adds anything. War, by definition as organized destruction on a mass scale, can never be Good, no more than black can ever be white.

But what about the miracle of democracy that arose in Germany and Japan after WWII, you say? Doesn't that prove that war is good?

No, what that proves is that if people decide to take another course, and have the support of the United States in terms of money and funding to do so, they can create Good. The removal of the evil that was Hitler in Germany and the military junta in Japan meant that the people were free to choose. But the people still had to choose, and they still needed assistance after they chose. The people chose Good. It was not war that chose Good for them. The people chose Good. If the United States had not been terrified by the Soviet Union into supporting Good against the advice of all the Republican nay-sayers who said that this was rewarding violence on the part of the Japanese and Germans and thus the Japanese and Germans should be punished, not rewarded with funds for rebuilding... well, what would have happened would have been something akin to modern-day Iraq -- a failed lawless state full of violence and death and Evil.

In short, it was the Marshall Plan and its Japanese equivalent that was Good, not the war which preceded it. All the war did was destroy. Amongst the things it destroyed, besides the lives of millions of people, were the evil of Hitler and Tojo. But that did not make the war Good. It merely made the war necessary.

-- Badtux the History Penguin


  1. Don't you wish the people of Iraq would decide to take another course and that money from the US designated for the rebuilding of that country could actually get there and be used for that. Thanks for speaking so frankly about war.

  2. Oh, you're really treading into a mine-field now, aren't you? Exactly whose definition of good and evil are you using? Ours? The winners? (Isn't it always the winners that write history?)

    (At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law...) ;-)

    Who says that Hitler was totally evil? Sure, he killed millions of people. But, he pulled Germany out of a state of total collapse and built an empire. Wasn't the Volkswagen the result of his policies to deliver affordable transportation to the masses?

    Most people, at least, most people in the US consider it evil to kill people [1]. However, that's not necessarily true among other cultures. In certain cultures, it is quite noble to die in the service of one's god, or one's emperor, or one's children, or...

    [1] Well, except in the deep south, where the phrase "He needed killin" has meaning. ;-)

  3. Oh, yeah, and as for your comment "All war does is destroy.", that's
    true. Of course, in the process of destroying, often times useful inventions and discoveries are made, or, at least, helped along. Plus, it tends to invigorate economies (by requiring people to work more to produce the weapons of destruction).

  4. The part about "useful inventions and discoveries" turns out to be mostly myth also. Of the major weapons systems used by the U.S. during WWII, only the B-29 bomber, the atomic bomb, and the M-26 Pershing tank were not substantially or wholly designed before the start of the war, and they came in only at the end of things. Everything else was designed prior to the start of the war, or was a cobbled-together kludge on top of a pre-war design (e.g. the P51 Mustang was a rather mediocre low-altitude fighter designed in 1939 by Curtiss until someone in England got the bright idea of putting a Rolls Royce Merlin into it).

    Ask yourself this: What technological innovations have come out of the Iraq war? Other than innovative new IED's, that is, which for the most part are just re-purposing of existing technologies like cell phones and hub caps?

    - Badtux the Technology Penguin

  5. "I made a bold statement in my War Porn message, one that I'm surprised nobody called me on."

    Just exactly how much time do you think others have to carefully read your posts?

    "World War II was a necessary war,"

    Only because I'm surrounded by fucking idiots, and in this post you are a bit of one of them.

    You are not always right you know. And spend as much time looking at the future as you do looking at the past. Just saying, hugs.

  6. I wouldn't call you on anything that is obvious.

  7. War is the international equivalent of individuals killing one another. Perhaps unavoidable at times but never good or desirable. I cannot imagine any other reaction to war and killing than sadness and disappointment in my species.

  8. Good and bad are relative terms, and serve little use in terms of analysis of larger issues.

    For example, German victories in WWII were good for Hitler.

    The terms good and bad by themselves are insufficient to explain the details and complexities of many situations.

  9. hi ik this is really old, but i used this for a research paper i had to do (just some of ur ideas - i didnt copy it or anything) and you are an amazing thinker! dont worry...i credited you in my paper and everything. thank you so much!!!


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