quotations about war
War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.
WINSTON CHURCHILL, The Second World War, Volume III: The Grand Alliance
It is the good war that hallows every cause.
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
KURT VONNEGUT, Cat's Cradle
I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.
ROMAIN ROLLAND, "Journal de Genève", Inter arma Caritas
For what can war but endless war still breed?
JOHN MILTON, On the Lord General Fairfax
I know but little of the customs of war, and wish to know less.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The Spy
Military arrangement, and movements in consequence, like the mechanism of a clock, will be imperfect and disordered by the want of a part.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to the President of Congress, December 23, 1777
If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, fifth annual address to Congress, December 13, 1793
I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter, April 21, 1778
The art of war is at once comprehensive and complicated; ... it demands much previous study; and ... the possession of it, in its most improved and perfect state, is always a great moment to the security of a nation. This, therefore, ought to be a serious care of every government; and for this purpose, an academy, where a regular course of instruction is given, is an obvious expedient, which different nations have successfully employed.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, speech to Congress, December 7, 1796
I don't reject the concept of preemptive war. I'm a mother of five. I have five grandchildren. And I always say: Think of a lioness. Think of a mother bear. You come anywhere near our cubs, you're dead. And so, in terms of any threat to our country, people have to know we'll be there to preemptively strike. But what the president [Bush] did was, on the basis of no real intelligence for an imminent threat to our country, chose to go into a war for reasons that are still unknown to us.
NANCY PELOSI, Online NewsHour, March 30, 2006
The power of making war often prevents it.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to General Washington, December 4, 1788
There would be an end of war and preparations for war if the cost were borne by those responsible for war. There would be an end of armaments and preparedness if incomes and inheritances and the landed estates of the feudal classes paid for the protection which their privileges enjoy. War and preparations for war are possible only because the ruling classes are able to shift a great part of the cost onto the poor by indirect taxation and loans. War expenditures are tolerated only because the burdens are concealed in the increased cost of the things people consume. "The art of plucking the goose without making it cry out" has been developed to a high state of perfection at the hands of the war makers.
FREDERIC CLEMSON HOWE, Why War
A nice war is a war where everybody who is heroic is a hero, and everybody more or less is a hero in a nice war. Now this war is not at all a nice war.
GERTRUDE STEIN, Wars I Have Seen
We shall not enter into any of the abstruse definitions of war used by publicists. We shall keep to the element of the thing itself, to a duel. War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.
CARL VON CLAUSEWITZ, On War
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 war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their own free choice--is often the means of their regeneration.
JOHN STUART MILL, "The Contest in America", Dissertations and Discussions
War is bestowed like electroshock on the depressive nation; thousands of volts jolting the system, an artificial galvanizing, one effect of which is loss of memory. War comes at the end of the twentieth century as absolute failure of imagination, scientific and political. That a war can be represented as helping a people to "feel good" about themselves, their country, is a measure of that failure.
ADRIENNE RICH, What is Found There
For most of history, war has been a more or less functional institution, providing benefits for those societies that were good at it, although the cost in money, in lives, and in suffering was always significant. Only in the past century have large numbers of people begun to question the basic assumption of civilized societies that war is inevitable and often useful.
GWYNNE DYER, War: The Lethal Custom
War-making is one of the few activities that people are not supposed to view "realistically"; that is, with an eye to expense and practical outcome. In all-out war, expenditure is all-out, unprudent--war being defined as an emergency in which no sacrifice is excessive.
SUSAN SONTAG, AIDS and Its Metaphors
War was return of earth to ugly earth,
War was foundering of sublimities,
Extinction of each happy art and faith
By which the world had still kept head in air.
ROBERT GRAVES, Recalling War