Ian Morris’s contention that war has made the world richer and safer [“War, a necessary good,” Outlook, April 27] was abhorrent and patently ridiculous. His argument that “war made states, and states made peace” was exactly backward: States made war, while peace allowed states to become richer and healthier. That humans have become less likely to die violently is because of the creation of larger, more organized societies and states that rule by the consent of the governed, not because of the ability or propensity of those states to make war or to rule by violence and intimidation.
Most repugnant, Mr. Morris used his argument to excuse the extermination of Native Americans and the brutality of Hitler and Stalin as “pretty much the only way” to create more peaceful societies. Perhaps the only useful point of his commentary was that bigger governments have created higher living standards and help to sustain economic growth — a point that has been largely missing from the economic conversation in Washington.
Diana Ohlbaum, Washington
The premise that war has made the world richer and safer is offensive and irrelevant unless we ignore the value of human lives. The 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam did not become richer or safer. War casualties extend beyond those killed and maimed on the battlefield. They include widows, fatherless children, destroyed marriages, veteran suicides and lives haunted by extreme trauma.
Ian Morris wrote: “Yes, war is hell — but have you considered the alternatives?” I cannot bring myself to agree that war is the only way to save us from ourselves. The message I took from Mr. Morris’s piece is that war must be the very last resort, one that would only follow a failure of diplomacy.
David Hollar, White Plains, Md.
Ideas ultimately will triumph over violence. The “depressing fact” is that war, based on short-term goals and shortsightedness, has proved to be a hurdle to peace. If, as Ian Morris argued, we have moved out of our Stone Age caves, we should start acting like it.
Tom Passafiume, Silver Spring