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I believe Anne is right, which is ironic considering her overall optimistic perspective of human nature. One point to make, though, is that in her analysis Anne might have been guilty of a faulty argument that my students often make. They usually state that they believe mankind is basically good and that society corrupts humans. When I ask them who makes up society and how it gets corrupted, they realize the error of their claim. I think that Anne might have been missing this point too, forgetting that when she writes that people are basically good that they are the same people to whom she attributes wars. Of course, humans are responsible for wars. Would a war start if no humans were on the earth? Likewise, would we have institutions or governments if not for mankind?
In response to Post #4, thank you for your supporting comments about our armed forces. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and received nothing but spit in the face when he returned home. My husband is a two-time Iraq War Veteran and current member of the military and faces on a regular basis the misdirected sentiments that you addressed in your post.
It is interesting that most wars have been waged as solutions to economic problems or for economic gain. So, to agree with post #7, it is, indeed, as Gene Forrester comments upon reflection on World War II, "something ignorant in the human heart" that causes wars along with the fear of the uninformed or misinformed (ignorant, either way) populace that acquiesces to the disguised greed of their leaders.
Anne believed that the common people were responsible for wars, not just politicians. She was right. We elect politicians, and they are supposed to be responsive to our opinions. Many people do not even go out and vote at election time. Few people get involved in the campaigning process. At least I believe this is true in the U.S. People in general want someone to blame their troubles on, especially a someone is is far away and unknown on a personal level. The end of WWI left a treaty that punished Germany too severely for them to recover when the Great Depression hit. As the economic situation deteriorated, the common people blamed the Jews. So many Jews owned businesses and seemed to thrive that others resented them. Jews lived in their own neighborhoods which were mostly segregated. The non-Jewish Germans had many erroneous conceptions of Judaism and found the Jews suspect. Bigotry followed. This one specific example is repeated in history with many other groups replacing the Germans and the Jews as opponents.
There is a famous quote from Edmund Burke, an Irish philosopher and politician, which sums up an essential idea about who should be blamed for any evil in the world, including war. Here is the quotation:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
This is a quote that is particularly applicable to the situation in which Anne found herself. It is not necessarily true that all of the people of Germany were evil. There were good people and bad people, just as there are in any country. But the fact is that very few good people did anything to prevent the war or the Holocaust, and thus, good and bad were to blame.
Doing nothing can be an act of evil, don't you think? If you see something terrible happening, something that you could prevent by speaking up, what will you do? You might be a good person who does nothing, or you might be a good person who does something.
People are indeed responsible for starting wars. However, I do not believe that this extends to humankind in general, but rather to evil people who act on their desires to dominate others. Hitler was a classic example of a megalomaniac who wanted to exterminate entire groups of people. It is impossible to argue that anyone outside of the Third Reich was responsible for starting the Nazi military campaign. The entry of the various Allied nations into the Second World War was necessitated by Hitler’s actions, not by evil desires or actions in the Allied governments. If anything, to delay dealing with a madman such as Hitler is almost as evil as launching an unprovoked war.
Nathaniel Hawthorne spoke of "the dark corners of the human heart." John Knowles' character, Gene Forrester, said that wars were caused not by generations but by "something ignorant in the human heart." And Lord of the Flies examines the nature of human evil. There is something in human nature that compels people to make war. "War and rumors of war" will always be with us, so long as human nature does not change.
Indeed, the previous posts do a fine job of explaining the complexity within the causation of war. Indeed, both individual actions and institutional dynamics work in tandem in war. I think that Anne's statements are spoken from a time in history when Anne and others in her predicament experienced how individuals, specific individuals, acted in wartime. For Anne, the Nazis were represented not by ideas or the National Socialism institutional machine, but rather in the footsteps of Gestapo officers or in the whispers of individuals who speak in hushed voices while in hiding. The role of individual action in the time of the Holocaust was powerfully compelling. Granted that individuals were operating within the scope of governmental control or under the guise of political ideology, but from Anne's point of view, individual action was critical in the war. This might be why Anne feels that there is hope in the faith of human actions.
That's a great question. Unpopular wars are not supported by the public, and therefore there is more pressure for the government to pull troops out of the combat. However, sometimes war is necessary--popular or not. As long as people remain greedy, power-hungry, and self-centered, there will always be war. Until we can learn to put aside those negative traits and deal with one another (individuals and countries) in non-violent ways, there will be war.
Consider too, that those who are in the armed forces do not create the war. They answer to higher ups who give orders which they must follow. Regardless of your opinion of war, support for troops should always be there. It is an abomination how the veterans of the Vietnam war were treated when they returned, as well as how Hanoi Jane Fonda treated our troops on her visit to that country.
Yes and no. While people in general are responsible for war, it is not always easy to assign responsibility to people as individuals. The people who are ultimately responsible are those in the positions of decision-making and authority within a government; one would hope that a government would exhaust as many diplomatic avenues as possible before proceeding to a violent resolution, but as we see over and over again, that is not always the case. On the other hand, you can certainly make the argument that diplomatic efforts to stop Hitler over the years weren't wildly successful either; indeed, looking back at the efforts that were made to appease Hitler, it is easy to say now that something should've been done about that madman a lot sooner. Anne exhibited a normal youthful idealism in her words, as well as an understandable frustration with the state of the world, and the way that it was being played out in her individual life.
I believe, common people are also indirectly responsible to some extent for the decisions and actions of the political leaders and other people in authority. They contribute to such decision and actions in two ways. First by supporting the leadership of wrong kind of people and for wrong kind of people. For example, Hitler attained his position of power because many of the non-Jewish majority of Germany supported him and his anti-Jewish sentiments. Second choosing to accept and submit to wrong decisions and actions due to fear and for personal gains. By refusing to submit to oppression it is possible for even helpless and weak people to fight oppression effectively. The success non-violence movement of Mahatma Gandhi for securing independence for India and Pakistan, and that of Martin Luther King Jr. for securing justice for African Americans illustrate how even weak and helpless people can fight justice effectively.
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