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?
It is doubtless only during a time of war that the men and women of Chicago could tolerate whipping for children in our city prison, and it is only during such a time that the introduction in the legislature of a bill for the re-establishment of the whipping post could be possible. National events determine our ideals, as much as our ideals determine national events.
You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.
We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.
Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.
The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.
I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
May we look upon our treasure, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try to discover whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.
I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private individuals.
Villager : An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
Tevye : Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.
For capitalism, war and peace are business and nothing but business.
I am passionately interested in understanding how my country works. And if you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.
War is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves.
The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure.
Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.
Every drop of blood that falls in Tibet or Cambodia or Gallipoli or Iraq lands upon our shoes and spatters the hem of our best suit.
For every Crusade and Revolution and Civil War, there have always been those who argued, with great clarity, that violence not only was immoral but that it was even a less effective means of achieving laudable goals.
War is a malignant disease, an idiocy, a prison, and the pain it causes is beyond telling or meaning; but war was our condition and our history, the place we had to live in.
Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.
I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark,’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children.’ There is something wrong with that press.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.
You actually cannot sell the idea of freedom, democracy, diversity, as if it were a brand attribute and not reality — not at the same time as you’re bombing people, you can’t.
War is hell!
Nationalism among nations is like racism among races. Racism and nationalism are forms of tribalism. Tribalism always, always leads to war. Why? Because every nation thinks they’re superior to other nations, and their own self-interest is more important than the self-interest of other nations.
As far as I am concerned, war itself is immoral.
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.
People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! [March 23, 1775]
A tyrant is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.
Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you will come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy.
Either war is obsolete or men are.
There are no warlike people, just warlike leaders.
The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.
Before a war military science seems a real science, like astronomy; but after a war it seems more like astrology.
We pass and leave you lying. No need for rhetoric, for funeral music, for melancholy bugle-calls. No need for tears now, no need for regret. We took our risk with you; you died and we live. We take your noble gift, salute for the last time those lines of pitiable crosses, those solitary mounds, those unknown graves, and turn to live our lives out as we may. Which of us were fortunate — who can tell? For you there is silence and cold twilight drooping in awful desolation over those motionless lands. For us sunlight and the sound of women’s voices, song and hope and laughter, despair, gaiety, love — life. Lost terrible silent comrades, we, who might have died, salute you.
When people talk about war I vow with all beings to raise my voice in the chorus and speak of original peace.
It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.
Dream always of a peaceful, warless, disarmed world.
War is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.
History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.
All oppression creates a state of war.
A self-respecting nation is ready for anything, including war, except for a renunciation of its option to make war.
War loves to seek its victims in the young.
I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarised technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous.