Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sometimes..wars are not absurd

The following is a response to this article.

Let me play devil's advocate.

Actually, some wars are necessary. I would deem Lincoln more courageous than Gandhi (and more true to the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita) for having had the will to fight the civil war for 4 long years at terrible cost. It ended up saving the country and actually helping the union survive. Not many confederates and unionists killed each other after 1865.

Compare that to our pig headed insistence on a fake peace in 1947 - when we were winning the war in Kashmir. We not only lost more than a million lives due to partition, but have lost thousands more in the next five decades.

Sometimes a quick full-scale war is preferable to prolonged agony caused by terrorism or a war of attrition. For the sake of the soldiers and the citizens!

Wars are not absurd. Just ask the survivors of Auschwitz or Birkenau.


Blogger Nitin said...

Good point.

That should answer those who advocate some form of surrender as an act of 'pragmatism'.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Gowri said...

Yes, what you say makes a lot of sense.
It's much like two individuals having differences with each other, isn't it? Instead of holding hard feelings against each other and waging a cold war forever, it's better to fight and get done with it.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Dhananjay Joshi said...

A very uncomfortable point of view. That the "peace" between India and Pakistan in 1947 turned out to be illusory cannot be held out as an example to justify wars. What, probably, went wrong after 1947 is due to the atttitude of appeasement and indecision that India adopted thereafter that enabled Pakistan to keep baiting India and develop the guts to question India's position over Pakistan. With hindsight, what the 1947 "peace accord" signfies is the futility of an ill-negotiated peace bargain rather than justify a full out war.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...

Nitin, Gowri, thanks.

Dhananjay - that was my point. It is the "peace at all costs" since "war is bad" attitude that I countered. The peace accord was not just ill-negotiated. It was incomplete, since it left half of Kashmir at the mercy of the illegal invaders. That should have been forcibly wrested back from the Pakistanis. Once that was done, peace negotiations could have begun. Such accords are always signed from a position of strength.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Quizman, this is essentially the response to your comment on my blog.

Some wars are certainly necessary. Nothing but a war would have stopped Hitler, for example. There is, however, a difference between the necessity of war and the absurdity of the actual fighting. Many soldiers' memoirs (notably the one I quote often, Eugene Sledge's "With The Old Breed") make this point.

As for the courage of Lincoln vs Gandhi, that's a specious comparison if you ask me. For one thing, the worth of that civil war is determined by the people who won it. Till today there are bitter arguments about that war; people in the South who don't see it as such a great thing that the North won it. (I found one such argument in the message boards for the film "Cold Mountain" on -- check it out).

I don't advocate "peace at all costs". And I think second-guessing political decisions half a century later is a futile game that nobody wins, but the men who took those decisions always lose. What India did in 1947-8 is a matter of historical record. But what can it do from here on out? That's the more interesting question.

But apart from that, if a man decides that the most effective way he has to fight an oppressive regime is not to take up arms, but to use nonviolence as a political weapon, is his decision necessarily less courageous than the man who decides to go to war for his cause? I can't see how.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...

One can call it second-guessing if one has data that was not available during the time period of discussion. We are aware of the fact that military and political advice from the likes of FM Cariappa and Mr. Patel were ignored. Cariappa, in fact, gave an interview in The Week in the 80s where he did mention these facts.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Quizman, after any great debacle, or setback, or even just an event of some magnitude, there are always soldiers/bureaucrats/politicians who will pop up and say "Look, I gave this advice and was ignored." Most recent example: ex-Prez KRN's statements about advising Vajpayee to send the Army into Gujarat in 2002, about a nexus between the state and central governments, about how his advice was ignored.

This is not to say that these guys are lying. But one aspect is that they may not have asserted themselves enough at the time. Another is that their views may have lost out to others' at the time. A third is that political compulsions (putting it kindly) may have been at work -- this was probably KRN's experience.

If people say they had some information and offered it at the time, and they tell us this much later, that by itself is not reason enough to damn the people who took decisions at the time. Second-guessing and hindsight are always easy.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Dhananjay Joshi said...

To suggest that the Bhagavad Gita advocated all out wars seems to me a very stretched understanding of the Lord's Song. I had always believed that the Gita, simply, advocated "karma yoga', i.e., to do one's job and not worry about the consequences. That, essentially, is what Krishna tells Arjuna - being a warrior, his 'karma' is to fight oppressive forces. Krishna nowhere suggests that all evil must be destroyed by all out wars.

What, for example, do you believe would Krishna have said if the 'evil forces' repented their actions and sought forgiveness? Would HE have, still, recomended a complete destruction of such forces?

To continue the same reference, did our politicians of the day not follow their 'karma' while opposing Pakistan's interference in Indian territory? That you and I do not agree with their handling of the situation, then or now, does not, to my mind, lend to a conclusion that full out wars are justified.

As regards the military advice given to the then political administration, which, according to a few sources, was ignored, I only have to say - thank God India is not run by the military. Cariappa followed his 'karma'.... so did Nehru.... and so did Gandhi. Whether, with the comfort of hindsight, we agree with their views or not has no relevance to the justification of wars to ensure lasting peace.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Rajagopal said...

I agree with your general point that some wars are necessary though it is hard to imagine having to fight in one. But I do not agree with your comparison of Lincoln and Gandhi. Lincoln was the president of the country and had the Union army at his diposal(it does not mean Lincoln wasn't courageous). Lincoln is to be greatly admired for a number of reasons, but Gandhi seems to be getting a bum rap.

1:06 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...


Where did I state that the Gita advocated all out war? I merely indicated that Lincoln did his dharma to prevent adharma far more strongly that Gandhi did. Ahimsa at all costs is not the true teaching of the Gita.

Well, in 1947, we did not have a choice. We were in an all out war! That is why there exists a POK today. My criticism is aimed at the leaders who preferred to buckle down for an uneasy peace.

Dilip - it is a matter of historical record that Gandhi always had his way, regardless of the strength of opinions expressed by others.

Rajagopal - as I've indicated in Dilip's blog, I'm not against Gandhi per se. I was citing a specific instance as part of the argument vis-a-vis Dilip's piece on peace in Tehelka.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...


it is a matter of historical record that Gandhi always had his way.

I'm not so sure. What about the mother of all issues: Partition itself?

But nevertheless, there's truth in what you say, but that still doesn't change the point: there are always people who will get up and say later that they had proposed this that or the other that was ignored.

I don't know, I find as the years go by the most useful way to look at Gandhi was as a consummate, skilful politician. He knew his strengths, he knew what he had to do, he knew how to get his way, he knew his weapons. Therefore he had his faults too. This is the way the man makes sense to me.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

I'd also like to take up Nitin on his pretty little assertion at the head of those comments: those who advocate some form of surrender as an act of 'pragmatism'.

Who are these advocates, Nitin, and what surrender did they advocate?

8:35 AM  

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