Aldous Huxley: The first of the political causes of war is war itself
From Ends and Means (1937)
The first of the political causes of war is war itself. Many wars have been fought, among other reasons, for the sake of seizing some strategically valuable piece of territory, or in order to secure a ‘natural’ frontier – that is to say, a frontier which is easy to defend and from which it is easy to launch attacks upon one’s neighbors. Purely military advantages are almost as highly prized by the rulers of nations as economic advantages. The possession of an army, navy and air force is in itself a reason for going to war. ‘We must use our forces now,’ so runs the militarist’s argument, ‘in order that we may be in a position to use them to better effect next time.’
The part played by armaments in causing war may properly be considered under this heading. All statesmen insist that the armaments of their own country are solely for purposes of defence. At the same time, all statesmen insist that the existence of armaments in a foreign country constitutes a reason for the creation of new armaments at home. Every nation is perpetually taking more and more elaborate defensive measures against the more and more elaborate defensive measures of other nations. The armament race would go on ad infinitum if it did not inevitably and invariably lead to war. Armaments lead to war for two reasons. The first is psychological. The existence of armaments in one country creates fear, suspicion, resentment and hatred in neighboring countries. In such an atmosphere any dispute easily becomes envenomed to the point of being made a casus belli. The second is technical in character. Armaments become obsolete, and to-day the rate of obsolescence is rapid and accelerating. At the present rate of technological progress an aeroplane is likely to be out of date within a couple of years, or less. This means that, for any given country, there is likely to be an optimum moment of preparedness, a moment when its equipment is definitely superior to that of other nations. Within a very short period of time this superiority will disappear and the nation will be faced with the task of scrapping its now obsolescent equipment and building new equipment equal to, or if possible better than, the new equipment of its neighbours. The financial strain of such a process is one which only the richest countries can stand for long…
The fact that armaments are to a great extent manufactured by private firms and that these private firms have a financial interest in selling weapons of war to their own and foreign governments is also a contributory cause of war.