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The Devil’s choice

Posted June. 13, 2023 08:15,   

Updated June. 13, 2023 08:15


Carl von Clausewitz famously stated that war is an extension of politics. While this quote is often cited, it possesses both plausibility and ambiguity, allowing for multiple interpretations. The closest approximation to the original meaning is captured by the phrase "what can be resolved through dialogue is settled through force" or vice versa, suggesting that when words fail, physical conflict may arise. This scenario aligns with what we commonly refer to as war.

In essence, it is a recommendation to states to exhaust political avenues before resorting to the last option of war. History has demonstrated that numerous countries have indeed made efforts to pursue such peaceful solutions. Engaging in warfare, even for a superpower, exacts a heavy toll, burdening the nation with losses. Defeated nations often experience profound feelings of anger and a desire for revenge. While saints advise against retaliating with violence, it is a human emotion to seek retribution through the same means.

Hence, Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of carefully deliberating before engaging in wars and advocated for swift and efficient resolution once initiated. It is precisely for this reason that Sun Tzu devoted his studies to strategy and tactics, ultimately penning the renowned book, "The Art of War."

When wars drag on, resentment builds, fear accumulates, and everyone, from leaders to commanders to frontline soldiers, becomes increasingly irrational and desensitized, leading to the making of irrational choices. Even the most disciplined armies often commit heinous war crimes when faced with defeat. This is because few sane means are left to carry out the absolute proposition of returning to one's family alive, which is also an apt ending for them. As a result, all irrational means are justified in pursuit of this rational proposition.

Eventually, regardless of how rational and justified the cause may be, wars devolve into a state of rationalizing irrational means, presenting devil's choices, and demonizing everyone involved, where any means and any act become possible.

The collapse of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine shocked the world, once again demonstrating the capacity of war to make any choice possible. And unfortunately, those choices may have only just begun. It is often easier to embody the role of a devil rather than that of an angel.