quotations about war

Alas for my country, thy evergreen valleys,
Are wet with a tide that is red,
Alas for thy hills for they shudd'ringly cover
War's sacrifice, bloody and dread!

MARY T. LATHRAP, "Man's Work in God's World"


Tags: Mary T. Lathrap

Men who fight wars in winter don't live till spring.

URSULA K. LE GUIN, Planet of Exile


Tags: Ursula K. Le Guin

For wide, ah! wide is the woe when the foeman has mounted the wall;
There is havoc and terror and flame, and the dark smoke broods over all,
And wild is the war-god's breath, as in frenzy of conquest he springs,
And pollutes with the blast of his lips the glory of holiest things!

AESCHYLUS, The Seven Against Thebes


Tags: Aeschylus

Hollywood blockbusters, like The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, and Lone Survivor, have popularized a narrative rooted more in tropes than truth: a combination of the PTSD-riddled warfighter, the morally ambiguous killer, and the gallant, altruistic hero. However, this narrative is a Frankenstein summation of extremes, arbitrarily splicing and simplifying the truth into digestible and marketable bits. They are stories of exceptionality designed for an audience who has come to expect and want a narrow, unrealistic narrative of war and its combatants. The truth of the war is complex and paradoxical, equal parts nightmarish terror, jaw-dropping inspiration, mind numbing boredom, and incongruous humor. But most of all, the story of the war is as numerous and diverse as those who fought and endured them.

THOMAS E. RICKS, "Writing today's war literature: Figuring out our story, not Hollywood's or D.C.'s", Foreign Policy, February 4, 2016


While aggression is deeply rooted in the human psyche, the roots of organised conflict remain unclear with most experts believing warfare developed when nomadic groups finally settled with the emergence of agriculture some 6,000 years ago.... Cambridge researchers argue that the Nataruk massacre may have been a "raid for resources" such as women, children or stored food because pottery found at the site may suggest a family group that had begun to settle. Such a finding would extend by up to 4,000 years the known time frame for war-like conflict. Alternatively, the killings may simply have been an example of what happened when two groups of prehistoric humans crossed paths.

CAHAL MILMO, "War is as old as time: Cambridge University researchers unveil massacred bodies dating back 10,000 years", The Independent, January 20, 2016


In war any lessons learnt must often be paid for with blood.

MARTIN VAN CREVELD, "Why the best teacher of war is war", OUP blog, April 9, 2017


War ... it paid well and liberated children from the pernicious influence of their parents.



Tags: Joseph Heller

The second best thing about space travel is that the distances involved make war very difficult, usually impractical, and almost always unnecessary. This is probably a loss for most people, since war is our race's most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. But it is a great boon to the intelligent man who fights only when he must--never for sport.

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, Time Enough For Love


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What weak, inglorious fools we mortals are
That war must be, or any need of war.
And yet, the better day is coming when
The teachings of the lowly Nazarene
Shall be the rule of nations--as of men;
The sword and bayonet shall be preserved,
By the fair children of a nobler race,
As relics only, of a barbarous past.

ANDREW DOWNING, "The Bluebird"


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If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both.

URSULA K. LE GUIN, The Left Hand of Darkness


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We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.

HOWARD ZINN, The Progressive, November 2001


War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, The Second World War, Volume III: The Grand Alliance


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It is the good war that hallows every cause.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


Tags: Friedrich Nietzsche

For what can war but endless war still breed?

JOHN MILTON, On the Lord General Fairfax


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I know but little of the customs of war, and wish to know less.



Tags: James Fenimore Cooper

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


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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


Tags: Nancy Pelosi