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1908 the Delusion of Militarism

1908 the Delusion of Militarism

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The rise of pacifism as indicator of imminent war.
The rise of pacifism as indicator of imminent war.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: David Arthur Walters on Dec 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/15/2013

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ON THE DELUSION OF MILITARISM
 BYDAVID ARTHUR WALTERSA fascinating article entitled 'The Delusion of Militarism' appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in1908. It was penned by Charles Edward Jefferson (1860-1937), a New York author and minister.The first paragraph grabs the eye:"The future historian of the first decade of the twentieth century will be puzzled. He will findthat the world at the opening of the century was in an extraordinarily belligerent mood, and thatthe mood was well-nigh universal, dominating the New World as well as the Old, the Orient noless than the Occident. He will find that preparations for war, especially among nations which
 
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confessed allegiance to the Prince of Peace, were carried forward with tremendous energy andenthusiasm, and that the air was filled with prophetic voices, picturing national calamities andpredicting bloody and world-embracing conflicts."The imagined violence and prophecies of coming horrors would be realized in fact even thoughpeace was being championed by world leaders and national statesmen, international workers'organizations and peace leagues, conventions and courts. Indeed, prior to the outbreak of theGreat War in 1914, many experts considered international peace to be the foregone conclusion of economic development; after all, with the world inextricably linked by trade, what capitalist inhis right mind would want to destroy accumulated capital and sever trade relations by wagingwar? Still, contrary to the proposition that perpetual peace was at hand, rumor had it that worldwar was imminent. As a matter fact, we know that generals had been preparing for 14 Augustseveral years prior to the invasion.Charles Jefferson, confronted by the contradiction between professed peace and the profession of war, with the "unprecedented growth of peace sentiment, accompanied by a constant increase of  jealousy and suspicion, of fear and panic, among the nations of the earth," conducted aninvestigation, and tracked down the source of the war rumors to their origin: "(The) fountainsfrom which flowed these dark and swollen streams of war rumor were all located within themilitary and naval encampments."Jefferson followed the flow of war talk downstream to legislative bodies where representativeshad been convinced by the violent images and affirmations of the military experts that war wasin fact imminent; therefore their countries were really in grave danger. Hence an insanearmament race around the world was launched. For instance, the infamous Dreadnought racebetween Germany with its Naval League, and Britain with its two-for-one policy, requiring it tohave twice the naval power of any other two nations in order to secure world peace. The UnitedStates also suggested war along naval channels, sending a fleet of battleships on a peace missionaround the world. And armies were enlarged accordingly and weapons improved and proliferatedso that the world would have peace. The militant vision was literally driving men mad:"(The) mere presence of the shining apparatus of death may have kindled in men's hearts feelingsof jealousy and distrust, and created panics.... It was only men who lived their life with guns whowere haunted by horrible visions and kept dreaming hideous dreams and that the larger thearmament the more was a nation harassed by fears of invasion and possible annihilation.... Was ita form of national lunacy, this frenzied outpouring of national treasure for the engines of destruction? Was it an hallucination, this feverish conviction that only by guns can a nation'sdignity be symbolized, and her place in the world's life and action be honorably maintained?"Knowing fully well that war is butchery, murder, hell on earth, men built more guns, launchedmore battleships, recruited colossal armies and justified all this as peace-making with a paganmaxim in mind: "If you wish for peace, prepare for war." What was the result of this massdelusion? Chaos and war: but of course. It is as if anxious people in want of peace were to join aperverse group therapy program, where, in session after session, they are firmly commanded torelax and to breathe deeply as the group-affirmation is repeated: "The enemy is out to get us, killthe enemy; the enemy is to get us, kill the enemy...." Full attention is then directed at clearimages of invading armies committing all sorts of atrocities, followed by images of glorious
 
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victories over the enemies of peace. If the therapy is effective, the subjects will be possessed byan unshakeable conviction in the patently absurd creed that peace is made by murdering otherpeace-makers.This warmongering creed will be something different than normal dogmatism and fanaticism: If the power of suggestion in professional hands is as powerful as it is said to be, the subjects willeventually be rendered unable to believe in any alternative concept of reality. They shall begin tohallucinate, to see an enemy approaching where there is none, and no argument shall suffice toconvince them otherwise: "A man who has the impression he is being tracked by a vindictive andrelentless foe,” wrote Reverend Jefferson, “is not going to sit down and quietly listen to anargument the aim of which is to prove that no such enemy exists."The group will take on an overpowering significance to which all ideas of persecution will bereferred for the suggested response—killing people to save the world. It will be difficult to wrestthe overarching delusion, that of the supreme importance of the all-absorbing state, frommembers of the group, because the delusion gives them a feeling of security. Reverend Jeffersonduly noted that the militarist "is exceedingly impatient under contradiction; and, here again, he islike all victims of hallucinations. To deny his assumptions or to question his conclusions is tohim both blasphemy and treason, a sort of profanity and imbecility worthy of contempt andscorn."Delusions are usually individual mistakes, not mistakes held in common such as the opticalillusion that the world is flat. Mr. Jefferson posed the question, "Is it possible, someone asks, fora world to become insane?" He answers in the affirmative and provides several examples: thewitchcraft delusion in Salem; the insanity associated with the Gunpowder Plot in London; the"hallucination" a thousand years ago that the world was coming to an end. Since he wrote hisessay in 1908, he had not yet for examples the mass insanity of the Great War and its devastatingsequel, World War II.The implications waging war to make peace are stupendous today: much more can be done withmuch less; splitting a few atoms here and there can devastate a large portion of the world. A fewmen and women can destroy a city with a suitcase. Even a relatively small act of terror incomparison to the murder of millions can terrorize a paranoid populace into running amok in thename of global peace. Whether the force is exercised by a legitimate state or a group without acountry, in both revolution and war we find a militant fundamentalist minority egging the masseson to chaos, They would soon make cannon meat out of millions of people. These militant neo-fundamentalists in state departments and remote caves preach the old doctrine that life is a war of all against all; that might makes right; that life on earth, according to the old model of god, ismeant to be hell on earth so that the fittest who obey god's orders may survive, at least in thenebulous Hereafter. All those who die in battle are said to rest in Eternal Peace, or to have goneHome.Proposals have often been made to liquidate the war-mongering minority at home and abroad:kill the enemy terrorists and kill one's own leaders. Of course he who kills his own kind is evil,while killing another kind is fitting in the international jungle of anarchic natural right, where thenatural law of reasonable society is not recognized. Naturally there are exceptions to that rule:one may murder hundreds, thousands, millions of one's own kind, providing they are sent off to

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