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The consistent pacifist looks upon war as the greatest of all evils; and in this he finds few opponents to-day. The horrors of the present war have converted to this view a large proportion of those who have in past years appeared as apologists for war.
He finds, as he looks back at history, that, apart from the rare cases where the victor has actually crushed his opponent, few if any wars have closed with the full accomplishment by the victors of the ends that their wars were undertaken to attain.
He sees, on the other hand, that wars begun for a given end are likely to lead to other wars which would not otherwise have occurred. The spark that was struck in Servia in 1914 has developed the world-wide conflagration which has at last leaped across the broad Atlantic.
He sees that each war has left seeds in ground which has yielded abundant fruitage when time has become ripe for a new war harvest.
He notes in all this a likeness to the usual reactions of hostile individuals. The individual combatant, even where he completely vanquishes his opponent, seldom gains as the result of his success redress of the supposed wrongs which aroused his anger. His success is likely to create a host of enemies among the friends of the one vanquished. It arouses a spirit of revenge which frequently leads to long successions of new ebullitions of violence.
He notes again that the emotions which lead to war are the same emotions which lead to combat between individuals, but which, appearing coincidently in many individuals of a race, are nationalized, if we may so speak.
All this leads him to ask whether the means man has invented to prevent hostile combat between individuals may not suggest methods by which war can be avoided altogether.
His thought, perhaps not unnaturally, turns to the familiar complex legal and extra-legal social restrictions adopted to control individuals; the result of such considerations appearing in the hopeful propositions, so prominent in our day, looking to the establishment of fully recognized international courts, sustained by national forces. But he too often overlooks the fact that judicial systems, and effective methods of control of the violent individual, are found only in highly socialized communities; that national life is much less fully organized than the life of individual men; that therefore it is scarcely comparable with the life of those who are controlled by social pressure, but is more properly likened to the life of men in a crude community, where legal restrictions are unformulated; as, for instance, among the head hunters of the Philippines.
Or we may come nearer home, if we consider the action of the people of California at the time of the sudden emigration to its gold-ladened mountains. There, in the effort to overcome the evil of violence between individuals, resort was first had to repression of the individual ruffian by extra-legal ‘vigilance committees,’ which aimed to control combat between individuals by organized violence, much as, in national affairs, the great powers joined in their punitive expedition in China after the Boxer movement.