Johnson on War and Patriotism

From Dr. Johnson’s essay “The Patriot”:

As war is one of the heaviest of national evils, a calamity, in which every species of misery is inolved; as it sets the general safety to hazard, suspends commerce, and desolates the country; as it exposes great numbers to hardships, dangers, captivity and death; no man, who desires the public prosperity, will inflame general resentment by aggravating minute injuries, or enforcing disputable rights of little importance.

Consider that in the context of neoconservative argument that we had to go to war in Iraq to vindicate various UN resolutions.

It may therefore be safely pronounced, that those men are no Patriots,who … would still have instigated us to a war for a bleak and barren spot in the Magellanic ocean [i.e, the Falkland Islands]. …let it not be forgotten, that by the howling violence of patriotic rage, the nation was for a time exapsperated to such madness, that for a barren rock under a stormy sky, we might have now been fighting and dying, had not our competitors been wiser than oursevles; and those who are now courting the favour of the people by noisy professions of public spirit, would, while they were counting the profits of their artifice, have enjoyed the patriotic pleasure of hearing sometimes, that thousands had been slaughtered in a battle, and sometimes that thousands had been dispeopled by poisoned air and corrupted food.

That reminds me of Max Boot’s infamous Wall Street Journal editorial lamenting how few American casualties the Afghan War had produced. “Patriotic pleasure” indeed.


One thought on “Johnson on War and Patriotism

  1. Matthew July 7, 2006 / 8:48 am

    Speaking of Patriotism, Bill Bonner wrote an intriguing article on describing life if there were no Revolutionary War. His strongest point is that a British Empire including North America would have been an effective deterrent to German aggression and there would be no Great War. No Great War, no war debt, no Hitler. Those on the Right would not enjoy an America – Hitler connection, but certainly it makes it more difficult to argue that our war was justifiable.

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