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imperialism & war

William James on the desirability of war

A quotation
"The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping
party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their
place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the
glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the
ups and downs of politics and vicissitudes of trade. There is something
highly paradoxical in the modern man's relation to war. Ask all our
millions, north and south, whether they would vote now (were such a
thing possible) to have our war for the Union expunged from history,
and the record of a peaceful transition to the present time substituted
for that of its marches and battles, and probably hardly a handful of
eccentrics would say yes. Those ancestors, those efforts, those
memories and legends, are the most ideal part of what we now own
together, a sacred spiritual possession worth more than all the blood
poured out. Yet ask those same people whether they would be willing in
cold blood to start another civil war now to gain another similar
possession, and not one man or woman would vote for the proposition. In
modern eyes, precious though wars may be, they must not be waged solely
for the sake of the ideal harvest. Only when forced upon one, only when
an enemy's injustice leaves us no alternative, is a war now thought
permissible."
--- William James, from "The Moral Equivalent of War", February
25,
1906, originally an address to the Stanford University Assembly.
Published in the Association for International Conciliation: Leaflet
No. 27, February 1910.

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