Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fudging The Issues Part 2

Fighting vs. Warfare

People have always fought. They get angry over something and slap each other around. Such quarrels might even lead to murder. Young males with more testosterone than brains might pick a beef with other equally mindless young males of a neighboring tribe and start a long-lasting feud. But fighting is not war. To have war you must have an army. To have an army you must have a state. Warriors are not soldiers. They are independent individuals fighting as individuals to prove how brave they are or to revenge themselves for some real or imagined slight. Soldiers are part of a machine, ordered around like robots and are in the army either because they have been conscripted or for the pay.

Warriors feud, raid and take prisoners as hostages or slaves, but they don’t generally seize and hold territory and its inhabitants. An army exists to conquer the enemy and grab its land, towns and people, enlarging the power, territory and labor force of the ruling class. War is essentially an imperialist venture. War is about power and wealth accrued through violence. Fighting is about any number of things.

War requires the existence of a state. Fighting pre-exists the state.

War and fighting are usually confused. As in the case of status and class, I think the confusion is ideologically based. Since interpersonal violence is not that uncommon, and war and fighting are confused, it becomes easy to claim that humans are naturally warlike. This attitude is an apology for war and imperialism. Opponents of war are branded as naive, since "war is natural" and "they are going against human nature."

2 Comments:

Blogger Werner said...

Well put. A certain amount of aggressive behaviour is probably unavoidable. But namecalling or a fight outside a bar is not the same thing as war.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Lady Aster said...

I generally agreeing with your distinction between soldiers and warriors, and I think it is a crucial. My moral sense finds me unable to do anything but unequivoacably condemn a love of war, while at the same time my aesthetic sense leads me to place a martial spirit more generally as among humanity's central passions, which could not be extinguished without immense spiritual harm. I can't see how one can simply oppose the spirit of violence without opposing everything from heroic sagas to video games. Beign able to separate the two seems neccesary for anyone who wishes to combine a serious humanism with a moral conscience.

That said, I'm less optimistic as to whether this is possible. How certain are you that the cry for victory, the solidarity of discipline, the delight in strategy which are also among the passions which fuel warfare are not an essential in the human spirit as simple pugnacity? Nationalism and tribal hatred are all very common phenomenon. One might say these passions grow strong in patriarchal ('dominator') society. Granted. But perhaps pugnacity does so in precisely the same relation to the dominator ethos. And if so, it would suggest that the restraint of domination is bound up with the restraint of all bellicose tendencies in humanity.

I think you distinction is a useful one. I think people should oppose war without guilt over their own simple aggressiveness. But I sadly doubt it's that easy.

2:51 PM  

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