Reviewing Augustine Hippo’s Book City Of God
The City of God (5th century A.D.) composed by St. Augustine, one of the founding fathers of the Church of Rome, highlights the world issues within the context of the individual, family and city-state. For him, the key to unite the world is not by might or warfare, but by breaking down linguistic and social barriers, thereby facilitating communication, understanding, peace and unity. Attaining this end of a unifying language has been purchased by bloodshed. He refers to Rome as the imperial city who imposes this language on its citizens and those subjugated under her yoke. The diversity of languages has only engendered conflict and separation within the human race. Augustine bemoans the woeful effects of war, not just in the physical domain but in the mental and spiritual which give birth to insensitivity of feeling and hardness of heart. Types of war which arise are political, social and civil in nature; however, just wars are justified – waged for righteous ends and blessed by the Church.
The Art of War (5th century B.C.) composed by Sun Tzu, a notable Chinese general, stresses the importance of war to the state and gives pithy advice on martial techniques on how to manoeuvre one’s army to secure victory. Moral influence is a very integral factor in warfare as a battle can never be won without the respect and cooperation of citizens impelled by love of king, government and country. A leader strikes the right balance between love and discipline, reward and punishment. The prime tool to emerge victor in a war is that of deception and to do the opposite of what the enemy expects or supposes. Self-knowledge and knowledge about one’s combatant are indispensable in going against the odds. The water metaphor characterizes the army because an effective and efficient army practices subtlety (hidden strength), flexibility, adaptation to adverse circumstances, inconstancy, …). The politics of warfare. It is imperative that in warfare there be no prevailing beliefs in omen, superstitions, nor portents as they would demoralize the army, cause despair and hasten loss. The objective of the army is to fight to the death no matter what the signs of nature, or the supernatural.
The Greatness of War (1900) authored by Heinrich von Treitschke explores the discourse of militarism and its role specifically in Germany. War unites a people as the citizens celebrate an ideal that is higher and beyond the individual and the self that is the welfare of the State and the glorification of a Nation seeing to its survival and prestige. In the absence of war, mental stagnation and exhaustion result but on the other hand, war quickens and enlivens the body and mental faculties. The prevalent political opinion tending to militarism lay the foundation of the World Wars which led to increased military budgets in an age where war was seen as a solution for certain crises. War is idealized in the eyes of the elite and the masses. Tritshchke plants divine justification of war where God sanctions war which serves for the best of humanity. War is a means of peace and progress. War begets the ideal of heroism where men distinguish themselves as icons, models of national pride. The joys, fond memories and euphoric feelings that war produces surpass the devastation and loss of life.
Friedrich von Bernhardi’s ‘Germany and the Next War’ (1912) advocates war and militarism where it was viewed as “a biological necessity of the first importance.” Survival of the fitness and the law of the strong ruling the weak are taken as mottos in Germany. War is indispensable because it is a process through which civilization is born and develops: the absorption of weaker nations into a larger nation which goes on to the status of empire. Yet war is inevitable because through another law: the law of self-preservation, weaker nations oppose overthrow, defeat and foreign rule, there begins a struggle and a fight for either conquest or preservation – similar that of a predator and a prey. The right of possession goes only to the victor of the strife and lies in sheer force. In the same vein, the German’s appropriate to themselves the law of the right of conquest to conquer other nations and take over territories. Civilisation gets promoted through conquest as power added/ annexed to an even higher power allegorically, the pyramid of power. The absence of war to the German is inconceivable as in peace there can be no expansion of territory no absorption of power and no growth of a state, to a nation to an Empire.
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