Hemingway’s perspective on war interesting

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.&8221;

&045; Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway brings an interesting perspective to war. Not capable of passing a physical because of a bad left eye that left him with poor vision, he joined the Red Cross and volunteered to drive ambulances to the front lines. As a journalist, he served as a war correspondent for the Toronto Star Weekly and then as a freelancer.

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His perspective was born from an observer eager to join and restrained enough only to comment. He was of war but never in war. He thrived on its raw excitement and condemned its brutal truth, with detachment and the scars of one who had witnessed both.

Hemingway’s perspective on war was best described by the greatest writer of the 20th century &045; himself. &8220;I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.&8221;

Few people could argue that war is anything in relation to that considered good, but many call it a necessary evil, as easy a metaphor for some as Hemingway’s &8220;a moveable feast&8221; was for Paris.

And in a time when our nation &045; from politician to patron &045; debates the necessity of the Iraqi war, perhaps Hemingway’s words may sound as a consideration, nothing more or less.

&8220;For a war to be just three conditions are necessary &045; public authority, just cause, right motive.&8221;

Ironically what the legendary novelist &045; an insulting title to him &045; wrote during the early part of the last century perfectly embodies the core of the debate over war today. &8220;Defense is the stronger form with the negative object, and attack the weaker form with the positive object.&8221;

In a time when wars were fought on a world stage among nations-good and evil, depending upon your allegiance &045; how well would this philosophy relate today, when a nation of good &045; based on my allegiance &045; is attacked by ambiguous allegiances not to a nation but to a cause or the perversion of a world religion?

&8220;Wars are caused by undefended wealth.&8221;

Consider the contracts awarded to Haliburton in the context of this quote, and it should lead us to demand why we as a nation are not requiring more accountability in the billions of dollars we are spending.

&8220;The sinews of war are five-men, money, materials, maintenance (food) and morale.&8221;

Imagine a war in which our leaders do not spend the money to support the men with material and maintenance (food) and what that would do to their morale. Remember this when politicians start debating more spending for war, and reference the opening quote of this column as the ultimate goal of the war &045; just or not.

&8220;Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.&8221;

Just or not, now takes on a new meaning. &8220;In modern war…you will die like a dog for no good reason.&8221;

Modern war for Hemingway is nearly a century passed. The horrors have grown, not only in the sheer destructive power of today’s weapons, but in the brutal means our enemies undertake in their cause.

&8220;All you can be sure about in a political-minded writer is that if his work should last you will have to skip the politics when you read it. Many of the so-called politically enlisted writers change their politics frequently. Perhaps it can be respected as a form of the pursuit of happiness.&8221;

So that one’s not about war but just a chiding reminder for poor political writers such as myself.

Sam R. Hall

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