November 06, 2008

War Analogy

One of the peculiar effects of believing in good and rightness is that all the ruination of it in the world gives a constant impression of being besieged and assaulted by evil. With such weight pressing on the upright man and the great temptation to despair, it is very comforting to think of upholding right in terms of fighting a seemingly hopeless but nonetheless heroic battle. Thus the so-called "War Analogy" is always going to be attractive to those struggling for good.

With that said, it is true that the war analogy can give the wrong impression -- both to those hearing it and believing they are the "enemy" in it and to those using it to encourage themselves.

On the one hand, let's take conservatism for an example of how people could be afraid of those who see themselves as at war, even metaphorically. The conservative movement has long been tied to the so-called culture wars. In more recent times, conservatism has become tied to fighting a literal war against evil on the other side of the globe. Although the Republican leaders have tried to claim that damage will be carefully limited to those who deserve it and only done to bring about good, concerns persist that unnecessary and often downright wrong harm is being done. With that as an example of what conservatives can mean by "war", it isn't as unreasonable as we might think for those who find themselves in disagreement with some aspect of the conservative movement in the culture wars to worry that conservatives would be similarly ruthless in "fighting evil" in said culture wars.

On the other, let's take the even graver danger that someone thinking in terms of the war analogy faces. If one does forget that the people who work for the evils we seek to repell and overcome are not themselves evil, we face a very great risk of sinnig against charity by hating the people themselves. If we do that, we throw away any chance at all of doing what we truly should be focused on, bringing them to understand good and be willing to uphold it. Not only do we throw away this chance, we do damage to our own upholding of good by implicitly refusing to uphold the good of the person.

The question is, given the usefulness of a properly understood war analogy that does not see the other person as evil, is there a way to maximize the safety of using the war analogy? Say, is it enough to consider others who seem on the side of evil rather as prisoners of war? Or is it possible to be careful enough in when, where and how we use the war analogy to make its risks less than its benefits? These are questions I unfortunately do not know the answer to; they are questions we ought to consider as we work through very troubling times.

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Blogger The Sojourner said...

This reminds me (in a very tangential way) of a post I want to put up at Things Aloft. Too bad I already posted today. My professors need to work on not all being insightful the same day.

November 06, 2008 8:48 PM  

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