‘THE war,” wrote one of its fiercest opponents, “was founded in delusion and error, and we richly deserve to reap nothing but mortification and disappointment in return for all the blood and treasure we have spent.” Robert Manne on the 2003 invasion of Iraq? A German revisionist historian on World War I? No: these words were written during the Crimean War of 1853-56, by an English diarist named Charles Greville. Let it be recalled that England and its allies “won” this territorial dispute with Russia fought in and around the Black Sea. It claimed the lives of 525,000 soldiers. Greville’s words are quoted by Australian philosopher-historian Ian Bickerton in The Illusion of Victory. Bickerton’s thesis in this book is that “the costs of war are rarely, if ever, worthwhile”. That “if ever” is important: Bickerton rejects the notion that war is sometimes a necessary evil. All war is “a betrayal of human purpose and a total failure of imagination”. His argument is essentially utilitarian, based on a retrospective cost-benefit analysis of major European-based wars in the past 200 years.
more from Roy Williams at The Australian here.