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In Chapter 3, the boys are sent to the field, and begin to learn more about war, authority, and power within the ranks. Kropp, who is "a thinker," has a theory about how wars should be conducted.
"He proposes that a declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the arena the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing-drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out among themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be much simpler and more just than this arrangement, where the wrong people do the fighting."
Kropp's scenario, while seemingly ludicrous, actually conveys a truth which is disturbing. Wars, in theory, are ridiculous, and one wonders why indeed the conflicts which result in wars could not be resolved in this manner, thus eliminating the obscene waste of lives that modern warfare entails.
The men discuss authority within the ranks of the military, and how power ultimately corrupts. Paul ruminates,
"The army is based on that; one man must always have power over the other. The mischief is merely that each one has much too much power."
"Let a man be whatever you like in peacetime, what occupation is there in which he can behave like that without getting a crack on the nose? He can only do that in the army. It goes to the heads of them all, you see. And the more insignificant a man has been in civil life the worse it takes him."
When the soldiers wreak revenge on their sadistic superior Himmelstoss, Paul notes the result of the unrestricted system of power in the army; essentially, monsters breed more monsters. He says,
"Himmelstoss ought to have been pleased; his saying that we should each educate one another had borned fruit for himself. We had become successful students of his method" (Chapter 3).
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