War is not ultimate evil

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003

A few weeks ago the Yukon capital Whitehorse proclaimed itself a "city of peace." The city council voted 6-1 to approve a resolution that had been brought to them by the Yukon Peace Coalition.

According to the Whitehorse Star, a large group of peace activists were present to support the resolution. But it was a college instructor's quoting of a Norwegian philosopher that caught my attention.

This philosopher suggested that if people had just been a little more tolerant, the Nazi regime would have passed away without need to fight the Second World War - at the same time recognizing the Holocaust, and the Nazi's other brutalities, might have continued for awhile.

I'm just glad this philosopher doesn't teach any of our state's young people. I see a little more wisdom in the words of an English philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who recognized war was not the ultimate evil. He said this:

"For these reasons I cannot join with those who cry Peace, peace. War, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Mills' quote is taken from a longer article he wrote on how Great Britain should respond to our Civil War. Many at the time felt the war could be averted if Britain extended diplomatic recognition to the Confederate States. But Mill argued the anti-slavery cause was worth the expected negative impacts on Britain's economy.

Mills' quote has been memorized by many of our servicemen and women.

It is not a call for violence, as the antiwar activists argue. Rather it is a call to the better natures of our nation, following the terrorist attack of 9-11.

Sen. John J. Cowdery


The following is the excerpt from the March 25 edition of the Whitehorse Star to which Sen. Cowdery refers. - Editor

... College instructor Bob Jickling shared a story with the crowd. He noted a discussion he had with a Norwegian philosopher. He asked the philosopher if philosophy was enough to make a difference.

"He said no; sometimes, you have to get people away," Jickling said.

He told Jickling a story about how, just before the Second World War, he went climbing with a man close to Hitler. When the pair stopped for lunch, the philosopher took out some bread and offered to share it with the man, telling him the bread had been baked by a Jewish girl.

The bread was reluctantly taken by the man, who admitted perhaps not all Jewish people were bad.

"And I thought about that and I thought, 'Well, we could say that perhaps that didn't do a lot to stop the Holocaust,' but the other response to that is perhaps there weren't enough people sharing bread," Jickling said. ....

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