War Is Someone Else's Fault

How nations that go to war perceive themselves

Some of the 3.6 million Austro-Hungarians wounded in the war learn to walk with prosthetic limbs at a hospital in Budapest. Altogether, more than 21 million men were wounded. (Stefan Sauer/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP)

To denounce war as a crime is to denounce something which a nation when it is entering a war never thinks it is committing. Invariably in modern times a nation goes to war to stop another nation from committing the crime of war. As the Austrians saw it in 1914, they did not make war on Serbia. They believed they were acting to prevent Serbia, backed by Russia, from making a criminal attempt to destroy the Austrian empire. The Germans did not make war upon Russia. They made war to prevent Russia from making war. The French did not make war. They defended themselves. The British did not make war. They stopped an aggression. We did not make war. We tried to make the world safe for democracy …

Nations on the eve of war almost invariably feel that they are innocent householders who are about to be attacked by robbers, or that they are witnesses of some dastardly outrage which is about to be perpetrated against their neighbors. The choice as it presents itself is not between the crime of war and the righteousness of peace, but between ruin and disgrace on the one hand, and self-preservation, courage, and honor on the other.

Originally titled "The Political Equivalent of War"