The objective of War

It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it.
~R.E. Lee

I had a brief chat with the professor I will be grading for yesterday, during which I noted that I like Horatio Nelson. He responded that when Nelson was at Copenhagen, he not only destroyed the Danish Fleet, but also shelled the city, in his words: “A blatant act of terrorism.” Two thoughts stem from this: in the eyes of the offending nation, this does not necessarily diminish anything; and in some sense, all war is a blatant act of terrorism.

There reaches a point in a war that one nation is defeated and the other victorious, but, in theory, the defeated always has the option of holding out. What stops them is a realization that they have already given in below a stronger force, hundreds, thousands or millions of their people have already died and the horror–of continued resistance, or past slaughter–is too great. Even the “bloodless” conflict is nothing more than overawing the opposition by the terror of what could be visited upon them.

True, shelling towns like Copenhagen and Tripoli, firebombing Dresden and Tokyo, dropping nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, launching missiles at London, burning Persepolis and Carthage, ravaging Georgia and Nanking and selling Tyre into slavery generally are considered going beyond the acceptable level of horror for “civilized war,” but war is not civilized. War is brutal, war is savage and war is terror.

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