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Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 10:15pmSanction this postReply
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G. K. Chesterton once said that at least Hitler had done one good thing, he had had this book publicly burned. (Chesterton was an enemy of Hitler long before almost anyone, and a critic of Prussian militarism and Aryan racial theories before WWI.) I have not read the book, but remember being quite viscerally turned off by the movie. Simple pacifist propaganda. Death and disfigurement are horrible; my avatar here was killed in WWI, another uncle was lost at sea during WWII. Many on my mother's side came back from the wars mentally broken. But some things are worse. I suggest people read Chesterton's The End of the Armistice instead.

Ted Keer





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Post 1

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 11:37pmSanction this postReply
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Ted:

Thank you for your comments. I will read Chesterton's book as a comparison.

But as to this being pacifist propaganda, I don't see that at all. As a History major, I think I know my stuff and the descriptions in the book are a very accurate portrayal of the conditions.

The key to All Quiet On The Western Front is that it shows the baseness of the act of war itself, whether the war is justified or not.

Does anyone here at RoR find goodness in the act of war itself?

Justified war may be necessary, but to ascribe to it anything more is to try and turn into something glorious, which it is not.

All Quiet On The Western Front is not anti-war, it's a portrayal of- to play on Objectivist terms- the worst within us, when that is what's necessary. Never have I read something that puts the act of war so well into context.

And Ted, of course there are worse things in the world than seeing death in war first hand, especially if you are a volunteer fighting for your freedom. It's too bad that WWI, the worst and stupidest war in history, wasn't about any of that.

In closing I'll say that the current so-called war is not a war but an increasingly idiotic exercise in PC nation-building. If a war is justified, give the enemy a war, a real war, and make it clean and decisive.

All the best,

T




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Post 2

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 1:35amSanction this postReply
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It occurred to me Tyson, after posting my opinion of the story, that I had been perhaps unfair in not addressing your review.

My problem would be the issue of selectivity on the part of the artist, and choice as portrayed (if portrayed) by his characters. I would have to read the book, which after seeing the movie, (in part, long ago) I doubt I will ever do.

As for WWI itself, yes, it was the worst and most needless traggedy in human history, a much more seminal and destructive event than WWII, one whose inconclusive conclusion (caused by our unjustified involvement) virtually ensured that WWII would ensue. G. K. Chesterton saw this all right away, lamenting the celebration of Armistice day as nothing less than the prophecy of war to come - in the early 1920's. I am in the middle of reading G. J. Meyer's A World Undone which is a readable but not particularly spectacular account of the war. He tends not to place the war in a wider context, as I would like to have read, say, its antecedents and forerunners in the Franco-Prussian and U.S. Civil wars and its effects well into this century. I still have a hard time not resenting Serbs, believe it or not, and was actually bitterly pleased at the distress of a certain Milosevic with whom I once had contact. I have also watched the 10 part documentary based on Hew Strachan's general book on the reat War. I gave the book away as a present, and have not yet repurchased it to read. But the documentary (aired on the War Channel) was absolutely brilliant.

Of course war, like disease and death and such, are all "impreferables," to use the Stoic term. But they are to a certain sense outside our control as individuals. It is how we deal with them that matters. Of course no one prefers pain. Writing a novel dealing with suffering as such as the central theme is like picnicking in a cancer ward.

As for Chesterton, be aware that he is a mixed bag. He is a convert to Catholicism, which he saw as an antidote to relativism. He is anti-socialist, -communist, -militarist and -fascist, but he also believed that while free trade was a necessary evil, "capitalism" inevitably led to monopolists and wage serfs. He advocated private ownership of small businesses and farms, but as a journalist, did neither himself. But he is just about as good a writer as Orwell, and has a profound analytical ability with the devastating metaphor, just as did Rand. Today he is remembered for his Father Brown Mysteries. That he is not better known is a shame. I suggest buying volumes I, III, IV and V of his collected works (vol. II is purely religious) if you wish to read him. You can also get Orthodoxy and Heretics by themselves, (or in volume I) which in their criticisms of folly are as sharp as Rand. (These two titles sound religious, but are chiefly attacks upon what we now call postmodernism. The implied religion can be read as simply Natural Law, and the scant theology can be ignored.) Chesterton flourished around the Great War and died in 1936, but long saw that war would come again with the inevitable Prussian invasion of Poland. The End of The Armistice is a posthumous collection of essays, on the subject, but not his best essays as essays.

Can you recommend any good works on WWI and on general British History? I have read A. N. Wilson's readable Victorians, and After the Victorians. But have not read Schaama. I am most interested in the great actors on the stage of history, and am least interested in detailed military or social history.

Ted Keer

Post Script: I just did repurchase Hew Strachan's (Pronounced Hugh Strawn) The First World War, which is available for $16 in a handsome and very well illustrated Penguin Paperback quarto.

This post has been corrected for format and been slightly enlarged.

(Edited by Ted Keer
on 3/01, 6:42pm)




Post 3

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 1:51amSanction this postReply
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Writing a novel dealing with suffering as such as the central theme is like picnicking in a cancer ward.
- nice one -- I like it.

I read All Quiet on the Western Front as pacifist propaganda only so far as I would say I read Night by Elie Weisel as pro-war propaganda. Yes, war is a horrible, horrible tragedy, but not going to war when it is warranted is a tragedy far worse.



Post 4

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 8:40amSanction this postReply
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It has to be kept in mind that this book was written from the point of the Germans, who were opportunistically trying to grab territory to the east and west while the much of the world was busy elsewhere. Thus when the war focussed around Germany and bogged down in the trenches, the author understandably saw that war as pointless. Acquiring more square kilometers for the Fatherland is not exactly a life-affirming goal for the free-thinking individual soldier.

The French (or Belgians, or Luxembourgers), on the other hand, were invaded, and the war was to them a matter of repel the invader or perish, for any Frenchman who loved life and liberty. Their need to continue fighting was viewed entirely differently, whether the war was going their way or not. Their morale problems were more in the nature of rebellion against poor military leadership, not a revulsion toward killing Germans.

I found the book an interesting read, but it did not convert me to absolute pacifism. I have long been fascinated with WWI, since finding out my Prussian great-grandparents came with my 14 year old grandfather to the United States in 1917. Had they stayed in Germany, I might not have come to exist!

WWI books I enjoyed:

A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin (fiction)
The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman (historical)
The First World War, John Keegan (historical)

One I did not like:

Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War, Sebastian Faulks

Paul




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Post 5

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 11:45amSanction this postReply
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Does anyone here at RoR find goodness in the act of war itself?

I do. And most emphatically so. I actually relish war. But only when done for the right reasons, and done correctly.

War is both the clarification, assertion, and protection of values. Anyone who would not do war, can ultimately be said to have no values.

War is everywhere. Life is war.

From the cradle to the grave, at all points in our lives, we are at war with something. We are at war with gravity, which opposes our standing upright. We are at war with ignorance, which allows us to be unsuspecting and vulnerable. We are at war with entropy, which acts constantly to upset our essential physiological balances and functioning. The list is endless.

We are constantly at war, and that is a beautiful thing indeed. But the surest way to lose at war is to hide from its reality.



(Edited by Mr. Jeremy M. LeRay
on 3/01, 11:48am)

(Edited by Mr. Jeremy M. LeRay
on 3/01, 11:49am)




Post 6

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 12:21pmSanction this postReply
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Jeremy,

You speak of war the way Roark felt about building. Good for you. We need people who relish war and see it as a beautiful thing. I donít relish clearing stuck toilets, but thank god there are people who do, because without them there would be way too many plugged toilets.

How old are you? Are you planning for a career as a soldier?




Post 7

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 12:28pmSanction this postReply
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Do not confuse conflict with war....

As Jacob Brownowski pointed out in The Ascent of Man, 'war is organized theft..'  ... are ye then agreeing to thievry?

(Edited by robert malcom on 3/01, 12:30pm)




Post 8

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 12:40pmSanction this postReply
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I want to clarify a few things.

First, the idea that this book made a pacificist out of me, far from it.

Despite conducting a reasonable enough survey of Western History for the last 10 years, I never really considered the conduct of the act of war itself. That is why I asked:

Does anyone here at RoR find goodness in the act of war itself?
 
What this book did was show me that although there may be just war, the act of it is nothing but force, brutal force. The book clarified for me that to define war in any other way is wrong.

Perhaps I should have said:

Does anyone here at RoR find goodness in the conduct of war itself, not the reasons going to war?
 
This may have been more clear.

Second, Ted insinuated, ala Romantic Manifesto that I considered this book to be art, well I don't. I put in the category of brutal news piece, right along side Biafran starvation pieces. The facts of the story are brutal and demand that we question whether the events are just.

And Ted, I'll get back to you on the recommendation for British History reading. I am considering coming out to TAS Summer Conference in Maryland in July maybe I'll have an actual book for you if you attend.

Finally, I would just like to add that an American soldier in the War on Terror must have very good personal reasons for acting in this war. Acting as a  response to September 11th is one of them. However, he should ask his commanders how come Iran is not the target. I have a tough time imagining why a soldier would act to defend the status quo Republic of the United States of America.

Is it just to defend your nation for what it can be rather than what it is or does that reduce you to the level of a terrorist? Perhaps if that is the case then another revolution may be in order.!?

All the best,

T

(Edited by Tyson Russell on 3/01, 12:42pm)




Post 9

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 2:12pmSanction this postReply
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Als Junge, nachdem ich die alte Filme gesehen hatte (guke mal hier: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020629/) hatte ich dieses Buch beide auf Deutsch und auf Englisch gelesen. 

As I remember the ending: He fell on a day that was clear and the dispatch said only, "In the west, nothing new."

The senselessness of war is patently obvious but the book was also about their humanity.  They held on to who they were.  They had to live through an experience that was metaphysically impossible.  As I recall, it was only the martinet lieutenant who was destroyed internally before being killed... but, yes, one by one, Tschaden, Kat, Paul... they all died.  And, oh, yes, the story opens with Paul in school, listening starry eyed as his teacher speaks of the Ideal.

War is literally and truly and completely for idealists -- Platonists, Kantians, and Hegelians.  Too bad that they manage to inflict it on the rest of us.
Hellenism, for example, made war into a contest of aristocratic virtues, Hector and Achilles armed with cordite and barbed wire. In his autobiography in 1928 the German classicist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff speaks fondly of a Scottish colleague, who "was a gentleman in the full sense of the word. . . . [He was] proud of his great nation and of the British Empire, as was proper, but also as true patriot ready to give free play to the patriotism and pride of another. United in this frame of mind as good friends," he continues, dreaming of Ilium and glory, "we sent our sons to meet each other in the field." Wilamowitz's son Tycho attained in the trenches of the War "an early death on the field of honour," honorably gassed, perhaps, or suffocated in his bunker, or run over by a truck.
-- Dierdre McCloskey, "Bourgeois Virtues" 1994
http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Economics/McCloskyBourgeoisVirtue.html



(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 3/01, 2:29pm)




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Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 2:33pmSanction this postReply
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Michael:

[B]ut the book was also about their humanity.

That is why I wrote that "[T]o commit to and endure a war of any length is to forfeit our humanity for the interim."

However, I do disagree that war is something only for idealists. A perfectly valid and just war begins when a justified actor responds with force against their aggressor. Practically speaking of course, no war in history has gone that way.

For one side to say we were justified is to beg the question of the state of mind of the individual soldiers. It is not possible to probe the thoughts and philosophy of each individual, therefore a right war for right reasons is never possible, unless...

Only a non-coercive partnership between state, citizen, and soldier can begin to respond justly to an act of aggression, whether internal or external.

T




Post 11

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 2:58pmSanction this postReply
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Tyson Russell: However, I do disagree that war is something only for idealists. A perfectly valid and just war begins when a justified actor responds with force against their aggressor. Practically speaking of course, no war in history has gone that way.
Back to that Idealism thing, again...  Ever hear someone say that communism is good in theory, but has never been put into practice?

There is no dichotomy between the practical and the moral, though the definition of "practical" does depend on what you want to practice.

See here:
http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/GeneralForum/0890_1.shtml
Posts 26, 27, and 29

and here:
http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Quotes/1059.shtml#3
Post 3





Post 12

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 5:50pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry Michael I am confused. Unless I am missing something and because you are invoking the "practical is the moral" principle, are you implying that the conduct of war can be moral but that it's reserved only for idealists. I know this cannot be what you mean.

Sorry for splitting hairs.

And let me clarify that I agree that the wish for war and the force necessary to bring it about is only for idealists. However, the use of physical force against the aggressor as a response is justified whether the defender is an idealist or not.

Are all statists idealists? ...

All the best,

T




Post 13

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 6:08pmSanction this postReply
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Merci beau coup, Jon Letendre. Thank you for the Atlas points.

And, as far as confusing conflict with war goes, that's either an important distinction to be made, or a distracting bit of semantics. I haven't decided which.

Suffice it to say that there is a distinction to be made between essential, reason-based wars, and gratuitous, addiction-based wars. One is justified, the other is not.

Whether you choose to label them as "war" and "conflict" or "cheese" and "crackers", is immaterial to me. The point is that, yes, there is a difference and that, yes, the distinction needs to be made.

*poof*



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Post 14

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 7:07pmSanction this postReply
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I have slightly modified my second post above, for those who might have been interested.

I have argued at lenth before on this forum that war is the natural state of man, as it is with primitives, and with chimpanzees (see Nicholas Wade, Before the Dawn) and no human polity has ever arisen or long maintained itself without war or preparation for war, whether external or civil.

There is a reason why the British call the party out of power the loyal opposition. Think about it. Think how close Al Gore actually brought this country to civil war in 2000, and how remarkable it is that our institutions worked to contain the strife that he loosed.

Peace is never spontaneous, neither is liberty. They are both what the just victors of wars achieve. Two evil states can go to war, neither will achieve liberty, and neither will achieve peace for long.

Some day world peace may come. I doubt it will be in this millenium, and if it does come, it will probably only be because we have also moved out into space - or have virtually exterminated ourselves.

Ted Keer

Oh - and I would gladly go to war. I considered volunteering to serve as a linguist (although I would have needed training, I can pick up a language in a few months.) Then I heard they fired all those Arabic linguists because they were (shudder) homosexual. At this point, I could never pass a physical, but I do my part to support those who can fight.




Post 15

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 8:22pmSanction this postReply
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Jeremy,

I didnít give you any atlas points.




Post 16

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 8:51pmSanction this postReply
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TR: Sorry Michael I am confused.

Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. 

War is caused by philosophical errors and those who justify it (on any grounds) are wrong, morally, practically, metaphysically, wrong.

I say this because I am an capitalist, a consistent, rational, empirical, objective advocate of achievement.




Post 17

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 9:22pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

I assume you mean organized imperial wars of conquest between states with standing armies, conscription, and all the rest? I think the rest of us may be using the term more broadly. Else I think you'd better move back to Canada, rather than support that philosophically mistaken bunch who sined the Declaration of Independence. Or is that back to England? Or back to the shores of Jutland and Frisia? Or back to the Russian Steppe? Or back to the foothills of Mongolia? Or Back to sub-sharan Africa? Or back to the Rain Forests of West Africa? Or back to the Tethys Ocean, off the shores of pre-Pangaea...

Ted

PS I have long finished The Sparrow and Children of God, and am in the middle of Thread of Grace.



Post 18

Friday, March 2, 2007 - 3:54amSanction this postReply
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Have read  The Sparrow - an interesting book, to be sure, since the ending smacks the 'god' issue on its face [even tho, unfortunately, it reeks with religiosity as if a necessity].... have, but not read yet, Children of God - only because it is a sequel, and am intrigued enough to wonder at further outcomes on questions raised...   and ye say there is a third book?



Post 19

Friday, March 2, 2007 - 6:04pmSanction this postReply
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The third book bears no relation, but is about Jews and Catholics in Italy in 1943.

The author is a non-believing Catholic who converted to Judaism in order to have a tradition in which to raise her son. She portrays both religions with empathy, accuracy and respect, but it seems obvious she views religion as a human construct, and has no faith in a personal God.

The Sparrow is the tale of the lone surviving member of a Jesuit mission to an alien planet who returns to earth in 2064 a broken man. The book is not truly religious at all, it simply has characters who are religious. The characterizations are of Randian quality, each persona is fully and uniquely developed. The plot of the first book is impeccably executed. I will refrain from a full review of the two books, but will rate the first 4.75 out of 5, and the second 3.75 out of five. I am enjoying and am half-way through the WWII novel.

Ted



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