Tuesday, December 5, 2017

War Games?

There’s the experience of war itself that ranges from the unspeakable to Remarque’s All’s Quiet on the Western Front and Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night and more recently Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato amongst others. And then there are the famous treatises beginning with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War dating from the 5th Century B.C. and a perennial favorite of martial artists and leading up to Clausewitz's On War. Clausewitz remarked, "War is diplomacy by other means.” But being prepared for war is a little like trying to predict the outcome of an operation. No act of reason can truly anticipate the outcome of this insult to the body of civilization. Some people have serious surgeries and emerge almost as good as new and others go into the hospital for a simple surgery and emerge feet first. The European body politic was never the same after the First World War, with its enormous casualties that knocked out whole generations of British citizens and led to the economic ruin of Germany where old news footage of the Weimar Republic shows inflation reaching the point where money was transported in wheel barrows. Some populations are resilient, and others never fully recover from their defeats. How does historical memory cope with the atrocities of the Japanese siege of Nanking, the bombing of Dresden or the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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