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aldous huxley

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The first objection comes from those who insist that the only sanction of social order is violence. 'If there is to be peace or justice, it must be imposed by force. In the case of the international community of sovereign states, this peace-securing, justice-creating force is war. Therefore there must be war.'

(i) This objection raises three points which must be dealt with separately. First, is it true that social order rests on force? When we come to look at the facts, we find that, though force plays a part in preserving order within a community, that part is extremely small. Moreover, the part played by force becomes proportionately smaller the longer peaceful methods have been used. The resolute refusal of the English to arm their police is one of the reasons why England is a law-abiding country, in which it is so seldom necessary to use force. But even in the least law-abiding of countries the real sanctions for order and justice are public opinion and the desire felt by every individual to be thought well of by his fellows. Force cannot impost permanent order on a people which is hostile to the wielders of force. There can be no stable government that is not government by consent. Even dictators realise that ruthlessness is not enough. Hence that flood of propaganda designed to make their regime popular, not only at home but also beyond their own frontiers. Even in prisons where the governor has more absolute control over his subjects than any dictator, it has been found that a man who is unpopular with the prisoners cannot rule them. Societies exist and are orderly because, in the last resort, the forces in human nature making for co-operation are stronger than those divisive forces making for anti-social conduct. Incidentally, war itself presupposed this preponderance of co-operative over divisive tendencies. An army could not be raised or, once raised, held together, if it were not for the co-operative spirit in each of its members. Once more, the choice is ours: we may either arbitrarily limit the co-operative spirit within the boundaries of a clan or nation; or we may allow it to have free play over the whole world. To love one's neighbour as oneself may mean much or little, according to our interpretation of the word 'neighbour'. It is left to us to decide whether that interpretation shall be narrow or broad.

(ii) Now for the second point: can the force employed by the police within a national community be assimilated to the forces used by armies in settling disputes between such communities? Certainly not. Except in times of revolutions, civil war or political anarchy, the amount of force employed within the national community is strictly limited by law and by public opinion. (In England policemen are unarmed, and their power to use force is thus physically reduced to a minimum.) Modern war, on the contrary, is the deliberate use of practically unlimited violence and fraud. A difference in degree, if sufficiently great, turns into a difference in kind. Moreover the aim of war is radically different from the aim of police action. War aims at destruction. Police action does not. From the social point of view the 'force' that is war is something quite different from the 'force' that is police action. The end of war is destruction, and it employs unrestricted violence as its means. The end of police action is restraint, and its methods are to a great extent non-violent.

(iii) The third point to be considered is this. Even the most ruthless militarists have generally proclaimed that the end they were pursuing was peace. Theologians and philosophers have often justified war on the same grounds: war is permissible because it is a method for securing peace and justice. But, in point of fact, have peace and justice ever been secured by war? Is it possible, in the nature of things, that they can be secured by war? In so far as we are scientists, technicians, or artists, we all admit that the means employed determine the end achieved. For example, a village blacksmith may be earnestly and sincerely desirous of making a Rolls-Royce engine. But the means at his disposal fatally determine his ends and the thing which finally emerges from the smithy will be very different from the instrument of precision he intended to make. What is so obviously true of technology and science is no less true of all human activities. The man who uses violence as a means for securing the love of his family will certainly achieve quite another end. The state which makes war on a neighbour will create, not peace, but the makings of a war of revenge. The means determine the ends; and however excellent intentions may be, bad or merely unsuitable means must inevitably produce results quite unlike the good ends originally proposed. The heckler who adjures us to consider the lessons of history is in fact adjuring us to realise that once war has been adopted as a regular instrument of policy, once the idea that violence is the proper way of getting things done has become established as a truism, there can be no secure and lasting peace, only a series of truces between wars. For war, however 'just' it may seem, cannot be waged without the commission of frightful injustices; frightful injustices cannot be committed without arousing the resentment and hatred of those on whom they are committed, or on their friends or successors; and resentment and hatred cannot be satisfied except by revenge. But how can military defeat be avenged except by a military victory? The successive wars to which the historian points are the strongest possible argument against war as a method of securing peace and justice. The means determine the ends, and the end achieved by war is not peace, but more war.

   In the past, very fortunately, the means for making war were inadequate. Today they are so effective that, for the first time in history, indiscriminate and even unintentional massacre has become not only possible but even inevitable. There was a time when civil populations were not slaughtered except by the deliberate order of the conqueror. From this time forward, however humane the commanders of the opposing armies, civil populations can hardly fail to be massacred. Planes, gas, thermite make it all but inevitable. The means of destruction will be more complete and more indiscriminate than ever before. In clinging to war as an instrument of policy, we are running risks which our ancestors never ran.


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