Monday, September 27, 2004

"Violence Never Solves Anything"

I read Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein, something like ten or more years ago (which would have made me twelve at the most). I just read it again this weekend. I didn't realize it at the time, but the book influenced my thoughts on war more than any other except the Bible itself, and maybe The Lord of the Rings. Hmm . . . what does it say when you trace back so much of your thought process to works of fiction? I don't mean the Bible, of course, but Tolkien, Lewis, Heinlein, Roddenberry, Card, Schulz, L'Engle, even Franklin Dixon, who was himself fictional. None of you may ever know the extent to which my adult life has been directed by Bill Watterson.

Anyway, back to the subject. Starship Troopers is a treatise on the ethics of warfare disguised as a science fiction novel, and I encourage everyone to read it. Here's an excerpt:

I thought about it during the last session of our class in History and Moral Philosophy. H. & M. P. was different from other courses in that eveybody had to take it but nobody had to pass it -- and Mr. Dubois never seemed to care whether he got through to us or not. He would just point at you with the stump of his left arm (he never bothered with names) and snap a question. Then the argument would start.

But on the last day he seemed to be trying to find out what we had learned. One girl told him bluntly: "My mother says that violence never settles anything."

"So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't your mother tell them so? Or why don't you?"

The had tangled before -- since you couldn't flunk the course, it wasn't necessary to keep Mr. Dubois buttered up. She said shrilly, "You're making fun of me! Everybody knows that Carthage was destroyed!"

"You seemed to be unaware of it," he said grimly. "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say that violence had settled their destinies rather thoroughly? However, I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea -- a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue -- and thoroughly immoral -- doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler would referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom."

Crossposted at RedState.

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