Good persons, who can only win a war by unfair means

Author Gurcharan Das
In Mahabharata, firmly believes that once you make the fateful decision to go to war, then you must win at any cost. had made a similar point in the American Civil War. He believed that once leaders start a war, soldiers have to win it at any cost. He expressed this doctrine in the phrase, “War is hell.” It is a common mistake, perpetrated by movies, to think that this is a description of war. It is a doctrine.

“It is a moral argument, an attempt at self-justification. Sherman was claiming to be innocent of his many questionable acts : the bombardment of Atlanta, the forced evacuation of its inhabitants, the burning of the city, and the march through Georgia.” Sherman’s Doctrine is that war has Its own logic and momentum once it begins. It Inevitably escalates and you cannot blame soldiers or generals for the killing. You can only blame those who start the war.

When he heard about Sherman’s plan to burn Atlanta, General Hood, the shocked Confederate commander, wrote to stop him. Sherman replied that war was indeed dark. “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Therefore, “Those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” He himself was, he said, only an innocent soldier who was doing his job.

“War is hell” is the moral position of those who have to fight and win wars which they did not start. The Pandavas, of course, do not have the luxury of falling back on General Sherman’s defence for they were the leaders. And indeed, as victors, they feel enormous guilt and remorse for their wrong acts during and after Kurukshetra.

The Allies behaved no better than Krishna in the terror bombing of Dresden, and other German cities in the World War II. They had a clear intention of killing German civilians in order to destroy Nazi morale, Hoping that this would lead to surrender. In doing so, they clearly violated the “just war” doctrine. Yet they were not hauled up before any Nuremburg court, which judged Nazi war criminals after the war. This is because the Allies victors and only losers are tried for war crimes.

The faces this dilemma squarely. What if good persons, who have excellent reasons to wage a war, can only win it by unfair means? In that case, how can one think of them as Good persons? ‘

[Published with permission from Penguin Random House India, from the book
"The Difficulty of Being Good", by Gurcharan Das]
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