21 May 2006

Professor Grayling Ponders War

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Those of us on the Right often contrast the patriotism of the British and American intelligentsia and media during WWII with the open treason and defeatism which have since become de rigeur fashion accessories for the same classes of society.

The joke is on us. British philosopher A.C Grayling turns the WWII patriotism meme on its head by systematically applying to Allied war policies in WWII the same sort of scrupulous ethicism, combined with Olympian neutrality of personal perspective, today’s treasonous clerks customarily apply to current events.

Allied bombing attacks on enemy civilian population centers (surprise! surprise!) are judged unnecessary and wrong. He’s right, of course, but (though I have not yet received my copy, and therefore not read his book) I doubt very seriously that he has fully addressed the reasons for the adoption by civilized countries of that lamentable war tactic, or done justice to just how far beyond the same kind of standards Germany and Japan by deliberate and conscious policy proceeded.

Mr. Grayling has, undoubtedly, also scanted the attention due to the interesting question of the ethics of publishing a monograph of this kind, addressing these kinds of issues and reaching these conclusions, in time of war, when his countrymen are fighting overseas.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.

–Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1.

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