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Authentic morality demands realism

Reader comment on item: Give War a Chance

Submitted by Dave (United States), Jun 7, 2021 at 10:44

In any culture there are moral standards. These make up the criteria by which people judge themselves and others as good or bad, worthy or unworthy. We've all seen these values in action, and we often take them for granted: The nurse who risks her life to save patients, the generous philanthropist, the brave soldier falling in defense of his country. Then there are those values that are less admirable: ostentatious wealth, status, external beauty, power. More subtly, in the West, with its inheritance from Judeo-Christian ideal, we are taught to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and that the meek will inherit the earth.
These latter pacifistic ideals stand in stark contrast to power ideologies such as fascism, Communism or Islamism. It was no accident that Hitler was able to bamboozle his adversaries for so long, since he just wanted power and domination, but they kept wishing for peace and reconciliation despite ample evidence to the contrary. The Islamic ethos glorifying victory over infidels is the opposite of Christian virtue: A virtuous Muslim is a triumphant warrior, emulating Muhammad, a virtuous Christian is a peacemaker, emulating Jesus.
These moral values are intimately bound up with a person's self-respect. This is where the trouble begins, since all people want to be seen as socially respected and virtuous. Muslims will delude themselves about achieving phantom victories and Christians and Jews will delude themselves about phantom lambs lying down with imaginary lions.
This would all be amusing were it not for the horrible consequences. If war is a a virtue in itself, then peace will always be elusive. If peace is an absolute good that resists a realistic assessment of one's adversary's intentions, then war will follow from non-deterrence. The West came within a whisker of destruction had Winston Churchill not corrected Neville Chamberlain's folly. Nowadays, jihadists and the Global Left are partners in delusion, making peace much more difficult.
Perhaps the answer is to make peace through strength and realism the ultimate virtue, regardless of one's religious inclinations, thereby elevating realistic leaders as the saviors they deserve to be.

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