While “peace” can refer to an inner peace as well as civil peace, war is usually about armed conflict involving physical violence between groups, states, or nations.  In a war, each party competes for power over the other or for freedom from oppressive power.  What are some of the reflections of great thinkers about war?

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If we are going to stop wars on this earth, we are going to have to make war on hunger our number one priority.

— David W. Brooks

Even when it comes to war, historical memory has a sadistically short half-life, horrors and their causes gauzily evanescing into familiar folklore in less than the span of a single generation. But most wars throughout history, it is important to remember, have been conflicts over resources, often ignited by resource scarcity, which is what an earth densely populated and denuded by climate change will yield. Those wars don’t tend to increase those resources; most of the time, they incinerate them.

— David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

It’s our tendency to approach every problem as if it were a fight between two sides. We see it in headlines that are always using metaphors for war. It’s a general atmosphere of animosity and contention that has taken over our public discourse.

— Deborah Tannen

They have not wanted Peace at all; they have wanted to be spared war — as though the absence of war was the same as peace.

— Dorothy Thompson

Passivity and quietism are invitations to war.

— Dorothy Thompson

I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems between nations.

— Douglas MacArthur

I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.

— Douglas MacArthur

Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

— Eleanor Roosevelt

When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which, though they might be ornamental enough in peace-time, would be out of place here.

— Erich Maria Remarque

A hospital alone shows what war is.

— Erich Maria Remarque

Truth is the first casualty in war.

— Ethel Snowden, misattributed to Hiram Johnson

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.

— Eugene V. Debs

A privately owned world can never be a free world and a society based upon warring classes cannot stand.

— Eugene V. Debs

The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.

— Eugene V. Debs

The working class who fight the battles, the working class who make the sacrifices, the working class who shed the blood, the working class who furnish the corpses, the working class have never yet had a voice in declaring war.

— Eugene V. Debs

War has always been the grand sagacity of every spirit which has grown too inward and too profound; its curative power lies even in the wounds one receives.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.

— George Bernard Shaw

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.

— George F. Will

I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction, and I knew that many great and wise people felt the same way about it.

— George Grosz

I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

— George McGovern

All war propaganda, all the screaming and the lies, and the hatred comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

— George Orwell

The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.

— George Orwell

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful…. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

— George W. Bush

No, I know all the war rhetoric, but it’s all aimed at achieving peace.

— George W. Bush

I’ve been to war. I’ve raised twins. If I had a choice, I’d rather go to war.

— George W. Bush

The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.

— George Washington

There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.

— George Washington

I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.

— George Washington

War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.

— Georges Clemenceau

Never advise anyone to go to war or to get married. Write down the advice of him who loves you, though you like it not at present. He that has no children brings them up well.

— Germaine Greer

A nice war is a war where everybody who is heroic is a hero, and everybody more or less is a hero in a nice war. Now this war is not at all a nice war.

— Gertrude Stein

All wars are planned by older men
In council rooms apart,
Who plan for greater armament
And map the battle chart.

— Grantland Rice, “The Two Sides of War”

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

— Harper Lee

Whether we are speaking of warring couples or nations, it is an extraordinary challenge to move from blaming people, toward understanding patterns and our own part in them. It is a huge challenge that our wish to understand the other party be as great as our wish to be understood.

— Harriet Goldhor Lerner

Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.

— Harrison Ford

I hate war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatreds it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in the place of democracies, and for the starvation that stalks after it. I hate war, and never again will I sanction or support another.

— Harry Emerson Fosdick

I look upon the whole world as my fatherland, and every war has to me the horror of a family feud.

— Helen Keller

You don’t spread democracy with a barrel of a gun.

— Helen Thomas

As peacemakers we must resist resolutely all the powers of war and destruction and proclaim that peace is the divine gift offered to all who affirm life.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen

A peace which depends upon fear is nothing but a suppressed war.

— Henry Van Dyke

Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Religion and science both profess peace (and the sincerity of the professors is not being doubted), but each always turns out to have a dominant part in any war that is going or contemplated.

— Howard Nemerov

During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.

— Howard Thurman

I suggest that if you know history, then you might not be so easily fooled by the government when it tells you you must go to war for this or that reason — that history is a protective armor against being misled.

— Howard Zinn

When people don’t understand that the government doesn’t have their interests in mind, they’re more susceptible to go to war.

— Howard Zinn

One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression.

— Howard Zinn

I am willing to accept that there might be rare circumstances where applications of force might be effective,

— Howard Zinn
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