Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gabriel Kolko on War

I just finished Gabriel Kolko's book "A Century of War," and I found it most profitable. I mostly hoped to learn through the examples of others about my own folly in this matter - what's the use of learning about the stupidities of others in history, if not to learn how we're like them so as no longer to do likewise?

I was by no means disappointed. Here's some of what I learned:

1) War looks predictable and easy, but it always springs big surprises on everyone involved, and often brings disaster that would never have happened otherwise to those who want to bring it on. As Sun Tzu also noted, protracted war is always disastrous, whether it's the "Long War" the Pentagon is now planning or the personal enmities we cling to in our personal relations.

2) We think we have to fight to establish the credibility of our power - the same stupidity whether it's the Americans in Vietnam, the Germans coming to the aid of Austria-Hungary, gangbangers in the 'hood doing drive-bys to prove someone messed with the wrong person, or me and you refusing to give in for fear of being ripped off or despised. Credibility is established by being credible, and that happens if we believe the truth ourselves. If we believe lies and reject the truth, it's perfect justice to find ourselves receiving the judgment owed to the lies we love. If we believe the truth of the credible God, maybe He will establish our cred for us - so I've been learning.
3) Finally, Kolko shows the futility of utopian thinking and elitism, specifically on the Left, whatever that means. He reaches this bottom line: "a quite simple dedication to being on the side of the oppressed, the disadvantaged, and the people who really work to earn what they spend." That sounds like Jesus, and the prophets and Moses before him. No system is going to settle that once for all! It was right there with the unlicensed 15 year-old kid who rolled a stop sign in front of me in his father's uninsured truck last Friday as I approached at 45 mph, nearly killing us both. Was I going to be merciful, or punish them, or just hold them for ransom? I picked right because I saw my own need for mercy - all the times I went unpunished when I could have hit someone, all the times like this one that I've escaped unhurt from some pretty bad crashes.

If you don't need mercy you won't deal it out to others, and if you do you will - and you won't think you're doing anyone except yourself a favor when you do. I think these are the only two political positions in the world - and the wiser of these doesn't win many elections. How do these parties do in your elections?

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