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Humanity’s Ancient & Passionate Love Affair With War

GUEST COLUMN

By Christopher Derrick | January-February 1989
Christopher Derrick is an English writer published widely on both sides of the Atlantic. Copyright 1989 Christopher Derrick.

Let us imagine somebody who proposes to write about sex. He’s very well informed. But somewhere along the line, he has picked up the curious idea that human beings dislike sexual activ­ity and only engage in it occasionally and with re­luctance: they wouldn’t engage in it at all (he sup­poses) if there was some other way of acquiring a dear little baby. Given that rather basic delusion, his observations on the subject are bound to seem like ethereal fantasies, ill-related to any sort of real­ity.

Nobody makes that mistake in fact: human­ity’s extreme fondness for sexual activity — wheth­er normal or in some deviant version — is far too well known. That’s where various moral questions get their urgency.

But an exactly comparable mistake — or should we call it a pretense? — pervades practically all discussion of war. We all talk as though we hat­ed it, simply and without qualification: we even do so when we’re actually embarking upon some war — from the highest motives, of course. “We are men of peace, we never wanted this war! It was those bastards on the other side who made peace impossible!” So it is invariably said when any war begins, on both sides and — quite often — with pre­cisely equal implausibility.

It’s never much more than a half-truth. How­ever reluctant we may be to admit it, we love war. It’s one of humanity’s most ancient and passionate love affairs. That’s why there has always been so much of it. Peaceful alternatives were always there, but they weren’t desired so passionately.

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