This is what I was trying to say:
War is a very powerful tool. Let me compare it to an axe. An axe is a very powerful tool. It can bring down a mighty oak, perhaps one that has stood for a hundred years. Cutting down such a tree should not be a decision made lightly. Perhaps the tree is in the way of your new condominium you want to build. Should you apply the axe to the tree? I don’t think so. Perhaps the soil has washed out from under the tree and it is leaning precariously over the home of a family. Should you apply the axe to the tree? If other methods of securing the tree and keeping the family safe have proved fruitless, than yes, you should chop down the tree with the axe.
But an axe is not a maintenance free tool. Chopping down a tree wears down the axe. Every time you resharpen the axe, a little of the metal is worn down. Chopping down the tree is necessary. The tree itself might not have done anything wrong. It’s just doing its job, which is to grow. It must obey gravity; it has no other choice. The soil is the part which has failed, causing the tree to endanger the safety of the family. But the tree still must be removed.
But do not think for a minute that there isn’t a price to pay. The axe head will be worn down. It will have to be sharpened and eventually replaced. The bigger the tree, the more of your axe you are going to wear away. If you haven’t counted the cost and do not have sufficient axe heads, you will be left with a tree which is even more unstable than before and an axe head which is all used up. You will have consumed the axe and not gained any safety for the family.
But if you do count the cost and do have enough axe heads to finish the job, you have made the family safer. You have also removed a living tree from the ecosystem and however many axe heads from your tool belt. What’s left of the axe heads can be remelted and turned into new axe heads but there is a net loss of metal. So in the end, if you were successful, you are still one tree shorter and X amount of metal shorter. There is an intangible gain (the safety of the family) and a tangible loss (the tree and the axe heads).
If the tree is the “enemy” and the axe heads are the “good guys,” in the end, there has been a net loss of life. If you believe that human life is precious and the ending of it bad, than you have to believe that war, which results in a net loss of life, is bad. It might be less bad than doing nothing, which would result in the net loss of the tree and the innocent family. But it is bad. Is the axe head bad? No. It’s simply doing its job, wielded by someone else. Is the lumberjack bad? No, he’s doing his job, too. Is the soil bad, for washing away and leaving such a precarious situation? No, it was following the rules of phyics. So who’s to blame for the net loss of life, tree and axe head?
Well, it’s complicated. Who planted the tree on a hill above a house? No one? Who didn’t maintain situational awareness to be aware there was a tree growing on the hill over the house? Who should have noticed the tree when it was small and removed it then, perhaps relocating it somewhere safer? Who made the decision to let nature take its course and not shore up the hillside to prevent errosion? Maybe there was strip mining going on which caused the hill to erode so quickly. Maybe pollution killed the ground cover, exposing the soil to the effects of erosion. There is a HUGE chain of events leading up to the current crisis of tree threatening house. Is there any one person or group to blame? Who made the family build under the tree? Why didn’t they move? Why didn’t they cut down the tree when it was smaller, using their own axe heads at their own expense?
And so on, and so forth. I believe that war is evil but as as John Stewart Mill said, “It’s not the ugliest of things.” War is bad. It might be a necessary bad. It might be better than allowing nature to continue her course. But it is bad. However, the people fighting the war aren’t bad. They are just doing their jobs, many heroically. Many are heroic in a bad situation. But they are not in a heroic situation. They are in a bad situation and they, because of their character, become heroes. But they are the hereos, the heroic ones, not the situation they are in.