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The High Cost of High Ideals

Updated on July 20, 2012
heaven on earth: going going gone?
heaven on earth: going going gone? | Source

stop wars before they begin

Some do not enjoy saber rattling. Others are just the opposite. Prior to an escalation in hostilities it is easy to be either and more easier still to favor war than oppose it. But wars have a way of determining their own course independent of how they start. And how they finish is likelier to be of vastly more importance than their beginning. A good example is World War I. Few can even state without consulting a website or an historian its origin (the archduke's assassination is only the surface), and yet its resolution cost the world a half century of unspeakable sacrifice. The question today for Americans, unable to acquire information relevant enough to reflect upon urgent matters, is why our leaders are after greater and greater involvement in the lives and passions of people so far from home?

There is almost nothing in the press as of mid-July 2012 that has to do with the possible or probable clash of arms that is believable. Whatever the reality, one can ascertain from how thick the idealism just how sincere the desire to launch a deadly military operation. For sure a decisively destructive event is going to rely heavily on the unholy matrimony between conservatism and rightwing militancy. This sort of thing has happened before. Consider Hitler's wooing of conservatives in Mein Kampf. He lambastes prostitution, the spread of syphilis, the leftwing tendency to study to exhaustion, lack of exercise, various forms of civic indifference, selfishness, and thoughtlessness, marriages for financial gain, and most of all, the internationalization of national interests, especially within the economic realm. It might seem ridiculous that he delved into a plethora of personal and public routines and habits in order to obtain a mandate, but he did, and his anti-liberal bias struck a chord.

Obviously, toward the end of 1918 resentment was widespread and downright misery the norm in post-war Germany. Germans fought very hard indeed for almost everything they did not want. It could not have been a single person, however well-suited to redress the issue, in whom the seeds of acrimony germinated. There must have been many, and the seriousness with which they eventually attacked the minutest element in everyday life, not just moving pins around a topographical map, continues to reverberate. Thus did a great catastrophe become an even greater one. And yet, the urge toward a "three-peat", to engage an entire world in war, persists. Few at the moment can advocate peace without suffering at least small tokens of mockery. And who, really, revved up television warriors into chest-beating fury? We do not know. Our leaders, sworn in by all that is sacred to represent the American people, appear on screen time and again as persons of interest. They arouse suspicion. And if not their constituents, to whom do they answer?

Interestingly, regardless of the effort made to muscle out international capital, it came about anyways. And it did so in a way that could not have been foreseen, via capitalism, not communism. The why and wherefore escapes the best analyses of the best minds. Ever since the French Revolution there have been movements, some extremely well-organized and capable, to return to an earlier era. A single visit to Versailles will suffice to show how much was lost. Similarly, the 19th century German scholastic tradition that gave birth to psychiatry, communism, and, a few years after the fin de siecle, atomic physics is equally astonishing and irrecoverable. The golden past cannot be duplicated. More still is yet to be forfeited. But one has to balance losses with gains, knowing full well that no personal computer, however loaded, will ever match the sistine chapel in terms of intangible value. To be realistic is to move ever forward with continual adjustments and mindful intervention, not war. And if force must be employed, it should be limited in its objectives and short-lived. There is no alternative.


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