Magazine article The American Conservative

Old and Right

Magazine article The American Conservative

Old and Right

Article excerpt

A popular musical review of some years ago contained the refrain, "You have to be taught to hate." This is so far from being true that we can assert, on the contrary, that hating is one of the most instinctive things man does; it is rather the case that you have to be taught not to hate, or at least to control your hatred. In the same way it is false to claim that war is repugnant to man naturally and that men are always tricked into it by the artifices of society or dragooned into it by outside pressure. War appeals to the human spirit in too many ways and too subtly for us to proceed on any such generalization. As an indication of how innate the feeling for war is with us, we may recall that religions show no compunction about using metaphors of war. Consider the way in which the followers of the pacifist Christian religion sing "Onward Christian Soldiers," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and "The Son of God Goes Forth to War."

Moreover, it is palpably untrue to assert of any large group that all of its members hate war. All of them may hate it in their moments of most detached and abstract reflection, but how often will these moments occur? A small fraction may hate it sincerely and undeviatingly. But a far larger fraction will be torn between love and hate, between fascination with it as a game and a challenge and revulsion from its consequences. Any political leader preparing his country for war is able to play on this ambivalence. War is "wrong" but shift the rhetorical framework a little bit and it becomes right, and it holds out tantalizing opportunities. …

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