Friday, July 08, 2005

Disturbing Thoughts

From Eternity Road a post which poses more questions and disquiet about the war on terror (by Derbyshire at National Review):

Here, though, you come to another equation in the calculus of appeasement. Is the United States willing to fight this war the way it needs fighting, with grim ferocity and cold unconcern for legalistic niceties? To lay waste great territories and their peoples, innocent and guilty alike, to level cities, to burn forests and divert rivers, to smite our enemies hip and thigh, to carry out summary execution of captured leaders? Of course not — how barbaric! And yet (whispers the ancestral, tribal voice in our heads, and in British heads too) if not, then what’s the point? War is a tribal affair, one tribe exterminating another, or reducing it to utter impotence and ignominious surrender. That’s what war is, and it isn’t anything else. We know this in our bones, from a million years of tribal living and fighting. If we are not willing to fight a war like that — which apparently we are not, being much too civilized — then we should not be too surprised if our allies turn and cut deals with our enemies. At least they’ll have a quiet life, for a while.

How does one fight this war with people who have such utter disregard for the rules of engagement? Our civility is their advantage. The went-to-college, Christian part of my brain shrinks from the idea of killing all Muslims - women and children - yet another part of me knows that this would stop them too. It's ugly, much too ugly.

Rebecca West toured the Balkans and what is now Yugoslavia in the 1930's. She observed much of the ages old conflicts which torment that area and she notes:

...human beings are not reasonable, and do not to any decisive degree prefer the agreeable to the disagreeable. Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations. Our bright natures fight in us with this yeasty darkness, and neither part is commonly quite victorious, for we are divided against ourselves and will not let either part be destroyed...

Furthermore, she notes the strange sense of guilt which grew in England, France and the United States after WWI:

It seems that, choked with our victory in the last war, we now have an appetite for defeat. The new states were full of life, Yugoslavia shook its clenched fists and swore it meant to live. Therefore England and America and France turned away, for what lived disgusted them; they wanted a blanched world, without blood, given over to defeat.

With the emergence of the Second World War, those countries had to rise again and fight for their lives. However, I wonder if that victory did disgust us inside, and we no longer have the will to fight again?