Courtesy Reuters

The Transformation of the German Idea

I. WAR AS IDEAL

IT can be said that a first although unexpressed assertion of anti-militaristic thought took place in the history of historiography when, in the nineteenth century, boredom and irritation developed towards books entirely made up of accounts of wars and of negotiations preparing or concluding them; and there arose the insistent demand for another form of history which would give what truly corresponded to the major interests of the human mind and soul: the history of religion, of philosophy, of science, of the arts, of customs and moral life -- in a word, the history of civilization. Along this line modern historiography moved, always going forward, not only restricting the too-large field which formerly had been given to matters of war, but infusing even into its accounts of these a spirit of which they had formerly been deprived, referring them to the development of the spiritual life in all its forms. Even the history of warfare as a technique, as one of the various techniques of human endeavor, is an aspect of this spiritual history, and more directly of the history of applied science. But war, considered as war in itself, does not lend itself to any historical intelligence, since it cannot be referred to a proper category or ideal of its own.

In fact, this is a fever which periodically fires up in the veins of men and in the course of which individuals and peoples, whatever may be their qualities or rank, fight to overcome and destroy one another. The vicissitudes of the struggle can be followed, by anyone that looks upon them detached and from afar or reads of them in books, with a lively participation of the imagination and as strong a fellow feeling as those with which one watches the spectacles of the circus, the wrestling ring or the cinema. But substantially those vicissitudes are nothing more than a monotonous beating and being beaten, in which luck plays a great part and which

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