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Today's quote:

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Why Nations Go To War


If you look too deeply into the abyss", said Nietzsche, "the abyss will look into you." The face of war in our time is so awesome and so terrible that the first temptation is to recoil and turn away. Medusa-like, the face of war, with its relentless horror, threatens to destroy anyone who looks at it for long.

But history tells us that these things snowball. In "Why Nations Go to War", John Stoessinger discusses the start of World War I. He quotes extensively from the famous "Willy-Nicky letters", the notes passed back and forth after the Sarajevo incident by the Kaiser and the Czar, who were cousins (Britain’s George V was also their cousin: incredible that the world was run that way!) Those letters were at first cordial and filled with demurrals; why, no, cousin, war is out of the question! And yet, within a month or so, they were writing to each other that, alas, there was no alternative.

When I was a youngster in post-war Germany, reading about the horrors of World War I in Erich Maria Remarque's anti-war book "Im Westen Nichts Neues" turned me into a pacifist for life. Here's the movie:



Has the world changed in a hundred years? Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem so different from the czars, in terms of imperial ambition. And we have no idea what he’s capable of. Basically, what President Putin has said quite explicitly in recent days is that if anybody interferes in Ukraine, they will be met with a response that they’ve ‘never had in [their] history.’ And he has put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert. So he’s making it very clear that nuclear weapons are on the table.

If he gets desperate, he may well decide that his best move is to drag everyone into world war. If the Russian economy is going to tank, why not tank the world economy? If Russians are dying, why not all the others as well? From the point of view of a cornered imperialist whose imperial dreams have gone off the rails, it’s the most logical play.

If these thoughts keep you up at night, you may as well spend those sleepless nights reading John Stoessinger's "Why Nations Go to War". To read the book online, simply SIGN UP (it's free!), LOG IN, and BORROW.

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