a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're
going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough
kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their
heads blown off for the President's amusement.
Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark Jr (19 October 2007)
Negative comments from politicians played over television have a
dramatic effect on morale, especially on troops who are otherwise
indifferent and disdainful of politics in general. I cannot tell
you how many times I have overheard marines and soldiers talking
about various inconsiderate comments made from the likes of John
Kerry, Murtha, Reid, and Pelosi about how we cannot win, how we
should be brought home, etc. The Kerry comments really cemented
his reputation with the troops and upset people [here] more than
anything else. It is unnerving to volunteer for service during
wartime hoping to be deployed and having to listen to a
politician explain how the troops need to come home, especially
when we clearly have not finished what we started. There is a
widespread perception amongst the marines I know, even those
uninterested in politics, that the Democratic Party does not want
us to win in Iraq for whatever reason. This is true even amongst
Democrats who still maintain the Party viewpoint on almost every
other issue but the war. Morale is always a tricky issue to deal
with, and it is difficult to tell a marine to buck up when he
sees important people back home undercutting his primary reason
for existing at the moment.
David Goldich, CPL USMC (Iraq 2007)
National [war] efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan
politics that have prevented us from devising effective,
executable, supportable solutions. These partisan struggles have
led to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons
and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was
that political power had greater priority than our national
General Ricardo S. Sanchez
You will never be alone as long as you can live with your
decisions, and you will never be disappointed as long as you
maintain your own integrity.
The military builds muscle on the body politic, and danger keeps
those muscles well toned.
paraphrase of Jeff Rovin
Militarism is the great preserver of our ideals of hardihood, and
human life with no use for hardihood would be contemptible.
William James [The Moral Equivalent of War (1910)]
A man who experiences no genuine satisfaction in life does not
want peace .... Men court war to escape meaninglessness and
boredom, to be relieved of fear and frustration.
Nels F.S. Ferre
It is required of a man that he share the action and the passion
of his times at peril of being judged not to have lived [fully].
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Just as wilderness without the untamed is not genuine, and
adventure without risk is not authentic, so soldiering without
sacrifice is not true soldiering, and war without destruction is
not real war. It's not that peril and devastation are so
appealing, but that life without meaning is pointless.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the
homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name
of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
Mohandas Karamchand Mahatma Gandhi
Nothing serious ever gets accomplished in this world unless
someone's willing to die for it.
G. Gordon Liddy (2003)
There is indeed an increasing tendency among modern men to
imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their
vices to larger and larger groups. To act on behalf of a group
seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which
control their behavior as individuals within the group.
If the excesses of mob violence are just the indulgences of
immaturity or the atavism of primitives, then modern armies, with
all their disciplined complexity, are not more civilized for
being more extreme in their destruction.
The sight of a battlefield is one of the most awful lessons in
international ethics which a civilized man can receive.
So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's
disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, ... so long
they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation.
William James [The Moral Equivalent of War in
Memories and Studies (1911)]
War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.
War, without virtue in itself, breeds virtue. It breeds patience
in the impatient, and heroism in the cowardly. But mostly it
breeds patience. For war is a dull business, the dullest business
on earth. War is a period of waiting. Each day of it is crammed
with the little hesitations of men uncertain of themselves, and
awed by their ghastly responsibilities. The responsibilities of
life and death. The responsibilities of God that have been thrust
into their hands.
Harry Brown [A Walk in the Sun (1944, 1971)]
So strong is the propensity of mankind to fall into mutual
animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself,
the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient
to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent
James Madison [#10 The Federalist (1787)]
Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It
can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer be of
concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by
winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the
small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted
alike. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to
John F. Kennedy
If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in
the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to
do with conquest.
Thomas Jefferson [28 July 1791 letter]
Power usually lasts ten years, but influence not more than a
If enough influential people excuse it, whatever "it" may be,
then nothing will ever be wrong; and if nothing is ever wrong,
then everything must be right ... and are my enemies not
destroyed when we have made peace?
We should keep silent about those in power; to speak well of them
almost implies flattery; to speak ill of them while they are
alive is dangerous, and when they are dead is cowardly.
Jean de la Bruyère ["Of Great Nobles" aph 56
When you hear somebody usin' words ag'in somebody, don't go by
his words, for they won't make no damn sense, [but] go by his
tone, and you'll know if he's mean and lying.
Forest Carter [The Education of Little Tree (1976)]
It should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler
ought to determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict.
He should inflict them once and for all, and not have to renew
them every day. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity
or bad advice, is always forced to have the knife ready in his
hand. ... Violence should be inflicted once and for all; people
will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful.
Niccolò Machiavelli [ch 8 The Prince (1514)]
Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and
make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make
their lies come true.
Eric Hoffer [aph 78 The Passionate State of Mind
Power! Did you ever hear of men being asked whether other souls
should have power or not? It is born in them. You may dam up the
fountain of water, and make it a stagnant marsh, or you may let
it run free and do its work; but you cannot say whether it shall
be there, it is there. And it will act, if not openly for good,
then covertly for evil; but it will act.
Olive Schreiner [ch 4 pt 2 The Story of an African Farm
You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too.
Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.
George Bernard Shaw [act 3 Major Barbara (1905)]
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]
Retreat, hell! We're attacking in a different direction!
O.P. Smith [Chosin Reservoir (1950)]
Retreat, hell! We just got here!
Lloyd Williams [Belleau Wood (1918)]
An army, like a snake, goes on its belly.
Frederick II "the Great"
A preoccupation with peace is simply a desire for death. From the
day we are born we must fight to survive. When we are not
fighting the elements, we are fighting each other. When we stop
fighting for air, for food and water, for sex and power, then we
begin dying. And anyone who does not want to fight for his share
has lost the will to live. Peace is just another form of suicide.
paraphrase of Sigmund Freud [The World and its
There is nothing I love so much as a good fight.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (22 Jan 1911)
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
Edna Saint Vincent Millay
When folks get heated up, there ain't no halfway. It's one thing
or the other ... the sheep or the goats, followers or avoiders,
friends or foes. You're either with them or against them.
paraphrase of Ernest Haycox (1939,1967)
Peacetime, in the time of capitalism, can only be understood as
the preparatory interval between wars. That idea is intrinsic to
understanding the socialist perspective on war and peace.
For WAR, consisteth not in Battle only, or the act of fighting;
but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to content by Battle is
sufficiently known .... So the nature of War, consisteth not in
actual fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all
the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is
Thomas Hobbes [ch 13 Leviathan (1651)]
It is paradoxical that violence not only breaks the peace, but it
takes violence to restore the peace.
The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern.
Every class is unfit to govern.
John E.E. Dalberg-Acton
Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be
justified by something more than the will of the majority. They
must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state
is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest
instruments for the discovery of law.
Calvin Coolidge [address to the Massachusetts State senate (7
Herein lies a riddle: How can a people so gifted by God become so
seduced by naked power, so greedy for money, so addicted to
violence, so slavish before mediocre and treacherous leadership,
so paranoid, deluded, lunatic?
We are a conquering race. We must obey our blood and occupy new
markets and if necessary new lands.
Albert J. Beveridge [27 April 1898 address]
The desire to conquer is itself a sort of subjection.
George Eliot / Mary Ann Evans [bk 1 ch 10 Daniel
If the Nuremberg laws were [equally] applied, then every post-war
American president would have been hanged.
Avram Noam Chomsky
It's remarkable how many political solutions today are directed
toward dealing with the problems created by previous political
Conquest is the missionary of valour, and the hard impact of
military virtues beats meanness out of the world.
Walter Bagehot [ch 2 sct 3 Physics and Politics (1872)]
Violence is the first resource of the insane, and the last resort
of the foolish.
paraphrase of Isaac Asimov
The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem,
it is generally employed only by small children and large
At once the most preposterous and the most dangerous of
contemporary beliefs is 'nothing was ever settled by
violence'. A cursory reading of history makes it clear
that virtually every important development in the history of
mankind has been, for good or ill, a product of violence.
The use of violent force may not be fair or right, may be
incapable of justification, but because nothing else prevents or
persuades evil, protects the innocent from wrongdoing, then it
remains essential ... and it is a mark of our humanity that we
can regret its necessity.
Our strengths are our weaknesses.
Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified,
is not a crime.
Ernest M. Hemingway
The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the
sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and
constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops ....
Noah Webster [An Examination of the Leading Principles of
the Federal Constitution (1787)]
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong [6 Nov 1938 speech "Problems of War
Power may be at the end of a gun, but sometimes
it's also at the end of the shadow or the image of a gun.
Jean Genet [pt 1 Prisoner of Love (1986)]
Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you
Saul Alinsky ["Tactics" Rules for Radicals (1971)]
You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can
with a kind word alone.
Alphonse Scarface Capone
I had wished to instruct the brothers myself, that their hearts
might grow much larger than the castles and armour of all the
godless rascals on earth. Forward, forward, forward while the
fire is hot! Let your swords be ever warm with blood; forge the
hammer on the anvil of Nimrod raze his tower to the ground!
Peace purchased at the cost of any part of our national integrity
is fit only for slaves, and even when purchased for such a price
it is a delusion, for it cannot last.
By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.
Massachusetts motto [Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.]
The essential American character is hard, insular, stoic, and
paraphrase of David Herbert Lawrence
We know more about war than we know about peace, more about
killing than we know about living.
Omar Nelson Bradley
Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back.
Fighting isn't about bravery. It's about failure ... failure to
communicate, failure to compromise, failure to say I'm
Steven Bochco (2003)
War will reveal more to a man about himself than anyone would
ever want to know ... and having learned, there is nothing he can
do to change it, though he wish it could be otherwise.
paraphrase of James W. Huston (2002)
Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.
The most violent element in society is ignorance.
He had undergone a fundamental change. He was no longer a man who
knew how to kill – he had become a killer who still wore
the trappings of a man. It wasn't his fault. In living with the
cunning and ruthlessness of an animal, he had become an animal.
In waking each morning with a sense of impending death, he had
lost all respect for life.
William P. Kennedy (1993)
There are many reasons for becoming a soldier. It may be a matter
of hereditary luck or abject hunger or heroic virtue or fugitive
vice; it may be an interest in the work or a lack of interest in
any other work.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Wars change in the details, but soldiers pretty much stay the
James Brady (2003)
Armies, for the most part, are made up of men drawn from simple
and peaceful lives. In time of war they suddenly find themselves
living under conditions of violence, requiring new rules of
conduct that are in direct contrast to the conditions they lived
under as civilians. They learn to accept this to perform their
duties as fighting men.
Gil Doud and Jesse Hibbs [prologue delivered by General Bedell
Smith in 1955 film version of To Hell and Back by Audie
Killing someone is more difficult than it seems. Soldiers are
specially trained to do it, and so are cops. Society gives them
permission to do this terrible thing for the greater
good, and it still messes them up afterwards.
paraphrase of Steven Bochco (2003)
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that
they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses
slowly, and one by one!
Charles Mackay [Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the
Madness of Crowds (1841)]
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things. As willingly as one
would kill a fly; And nothing grieves me heartily indeed. But
that I cannot do ten thousand more.
William Shakespeare [Titus Andronicus (1594)]
At bottom, we are not homo sapiens [rational humans] at all. Our
core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was
too polite to say is that we came to rule the earth not because
we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have
always been the craziest – [the] most murderous
motherfuckers in the jungle.
Stephen Edwin King
Sanity is like a clearing in the jungle where the humans agree to
meet from time to time and behave in certain fixed ways that even
a baboon could master.
Wilfrid Sheed [In Love with Daylight (1995)]
Out of the crooked tree of humanity, no straight thing can ever
Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must
somehow make sense. The thought that The State has lost its mind
and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so
the evidence has to be internally denied.
Thought for many is like visiting a foreign land. When we go
there, we go as tourists, and like most tourists, we feel
uncomfortable and out of place. Like most tourists, we therefore
move on before too long, going somewhere else and doing something
paraphrase of Robert McAfee Brown
I think I feared guns and violence because they were so much a
part of me. Perhaps no one is more aware of, and is enticed by,
and frightened of violence than the man whose brain is a bomb.
Joe R. Lansdale
War is a stupefying and brutalizing business ... but that does
not mean that the people involved in it are either stupid
anonymous Marine Corps officer (1965)
In our own time we have seen domination spread over the social
landscape to a point where it is beyond all human control. ...
Compared to this stupendous mobilization of materials, of wealth,
of human intellect, of human labor for the single goal of
domination, all other recent human achievements pale to almost
trivial significance. Our art, science, medicine, literature,
music and "charitable" acts seem like mere droppings from a table
on which gory feasts on the spoils of conquest have engaged the
attention of a system whose appetite for rule is utterly
Murray Bookchin [Epilogue Statecraft as Soulcraft
Only the bee stores more than he can use, and so he is robbed by
the bear, and the coon, and the Cherokee. It is so with people
who store and fat themselves with more than their share. They
will have it taken from them. And there will be wars over it, and
they will make long talks trying to hold more than their share.
They will say a flag stands for their right to do this. And men
will die because of the words and the flag. But they will not [be
able to] change the rules of the way.
Forest Carter [The Education of Little Tree (1976)]
Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness,
or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry,
full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is
not natural. A wonder is what it is.
Wendell Berry ["A Warning to My Readers"]