Aldous Huxley: War is mass murder organized in cold blood
From Ends and Means (1937)
Every road toward a better state of society is blocked, sooner or later, by war, by threats of war, by preparations for war. That is the truth, the odious and inescapable truth, that emerges, plain for all to see…
Let us briefly consider the nature of war, the causes of war and the possible alternatives to war, the methods of curing the mania of militarism afflicting the world at the present time.
(i) War is a purely human phenomenon. The lower animals fight duels in the heat of sexual excitement and kill for food and occasionally for sport. But the activities of a wolf eating a sheep or a cat playing with a mouse are no more war-like than the activities of butchers or fox-hunters. Similarly, fights between hungry dogs and rutting stags are like pot-house quarrels, and have nothing in common with war, which is mass murder organized in cold blood. Some social insects, it is true, go out to fight in armies; but their attacks are always directed against members of another species. Man is unique in organizing the mass murder of his own species.
(ii) Certain biologists, of whom Sir Arthur Keith is the most eminent, consider that war acts as ‘nature’s pruning hook,’ ensuring the survival of the fittest among individuals and nations. This is obviously nonsensical. War tends to eliminate the young and strong and to spare the unhealthy. Nor is there any reason for supposing that a people with traditions of violence and a good technique of war-making is superior to other peoples. The most valuable human beings are not necessarily the most war-like. Nor as a matter of historical fact is it always the most war-like who survive. We can sum up by saying that, as far as individuals are concerned, war selects dysgenically; so far as nations and peoples are concerned it selects purely at random, sometimes ensuring the domination and survival of the more war-like peoples, sometimes, on the contrary, ensuring their destruction and the survival of the unwarlike.
The rise of war appears to be connected with the rise of self-conscious leaders, preoccupied with the ideas of personal domination and personal survival after death. Even to-day, when economic considerations are supposed to be supreme, ideas of ‘glory’ and ‘immortal fame’ still ferment in the minds of the dictators and generals, and play an important part in the causation of war.