- [W]ar in our time — whatever was true in the days of the crossbow — can mean only mass murder, and we ought to face the fact. Oddly enough, it’s peace, not war, that has a bad name in some circles, where peacenik is a term of sneering contempt, but there is no such thing as a warnik.
In 1991 William Buckley remarked, more in sorrow than in anger, that I had become a virtual pacifist. At that point I’d opposed two consecutive American wars, so in his eyes it was already starting to look like an alarming habit. He went on to intimate that he and other conservatives were praying for me.
I wasn’t actually a pacifist, nor am I one now, and I’m well aware that the word peace can be abused. Still, it’s a holy word to me, as in “Peace on earth,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “the Prince of Peace.” If war can sometimes be justified, it can be only as a regrettable necessity, not as a thing warranting pride or enthusiasm or self-congratulation.
War is the most destructive of human activities, and because it destroys everything worth conserving, I marvel that it has come to be associated with “conservatism.” Yet conservatives who oppose war find themselves isolated like lepers among “mainstream” conservatives, who regard them as puzzling eccentrics — charitably seen, perhaps, as in some spiritual peril requiring prayer. I guess if you find yourself preferring peace, at least your conscience should be troubled about it.
I really don’t want to preen my fine conscience; I’d rather say simply that war offends my reason. I dislike sappy platitudes about brotherhood; peace and harmony are often difficult achievements. Making war can be easier than loving your neighbor, and it’s always easier than loving your enemies; but loving your enemies needn’t mean pretending they are your friends. Sometimes the best you can do is swallow your pride and cut a deal with them instead of killing them. When you choose war, you may become your own worst enemy.