Waugh on War And Honor
under which a war against the Taliban might be considered righteous,
and perhaps even honorable, are conceivable, of course. But at present
other circumstances prevail.
United States is engaged in a cruel war of bombing in Afghanistan,
destroying property and killing civilians. In order to make these
bombings possible the support and approval of a colorful band of
international rogues has been actively sought. American soldiers
now fight alongside the dictator of Pakistan and the murderous tribal
warriors of the Northern Alliance.
would be a good time to turn to the writings of novelist Evelyn
Waugh; The Sword
of Honour Trilogy in particular. These books were inspired
by the authors war-time experiences in North Africa and Yugoslavia.
They deserve to be read time and again. In the words of William
Sword of Honour trilogy contains the best of Waugh’s comic genius
but also something deeper and more profound. As a study of a nation
and its people at their hour of greatest crisis, the novels are
unsparingly honest and clear-eyed. Portraying the utter stupidity,
absurdity and blind chance of war and conflict, they are without
doubt the finest British novels to have come out of World War
books revolve around the experiences of Guy Crouchback, a Catholic
gentleman who regards the Second World War as an opportunity to
fulfil childhood dreams of honor and chivalry. Reading about the
Russian-German alliance the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
he sees an opportunity to fight the good fight:
enemy was at last in plain view, huge and hateful, all disguise
cast of. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there
was a place for him in that battle."
change, however. Crouchback soon finds himself allied to Josef Stalin’s
Red Army. The sword in the trilogy’s title is the Sword of Stalingrad,
made by order of King George VI as a gift to "the steel-hearted
people of Stalingrad." As Waugh was to put it in one of his
short stories, the war "cast off its heroic and chivalrous
disguise and became a sweaty tug-of-war between teams of indistinguishable
returned to this theme in his essays:
war, it is notorious, opponents soon forget the cause of their
quarrel, continue the fight for the sake of fighting and in the
process assume a resemblance to what they abhorred."
the last volume of the Sword of Honour Trilogy Guy Crouchback volunteers
for service in Italy with the military government and eventually
goes to Yugoslavia as a liaison officer with the partisans. Tito´s
communist fighters turn out to be crooks and murderers, of course.
his stay with the partisans Guy Crouchback manages to make a difference
on a very small scale: he rescues a group of Jewish refugees. The
words of one woman among them bring him, finally, to a devastating
realization about the nature of war and honor:
is too simple to say that only the Nazis wanted war. These Communists
wanted it too. It was the only way in which they could come to
power. Many of my people wanted it, to be revenged on the Germans,
to hasten the creation of the national state... Even good men
thought their private honour would be satisfied by war. They could
assert their manhood by killing and being killed. They would accept
hardships in recompense for having been selfish and lazy. Danger
justified privilege. I knew Italians not very many perhaps
who felt this. Were there none in England?"
Guy Crouchback answers: "God
forgive me, I was one of them."
Batiste (send him mail)
is a libertarian writer in Uppsala, Sweden.
© 2001 LewRockwell.com
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