Anatole France: War, burlesque masquerade in which fatuous patriots sing stupid dithyrambs
From Revolt of the Angels (1914)
Translated by Wilfrid Jackson
Cries of “War!” rose to the silent heavens; “Give us war!”
In the midst of these transports Prince Istar hoisted himself on to the platform, and the floor creaked under his weight.
“Comrades,” said he, “you wish for victory, and it is a very natural desire, but you must be mouldy with literature and poetry if you expect to obtain it from war. The idea of making war can nowadays only enter the brain of a sottish bourgeois or a belated romantic. What is war? A burlesque masquerade in the midst of which fatuous patriots sing their stupid dithyrambs. Had Napoleon possessed a practical mind he would not have made war; but he was a dreamer, intoxicated with Ossian. You cry, ‘Give us war!’ You are visionaries. When will you become thinkers? The thinkers do not look for power and strength from any of the dreams which constitute military art: tactics, strategy, fortifications, artillery, and all that rubbish. They do not believe in war, which is a phantasy; they believe in chemistry, which is a science. They know the way to put victory into an algebraic formula.”