On Revolution / Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt writes in her book On Revolution:

Quite apart from the threat of total annihilation, which conceivably could be eliminated by new technical discoveries such as a ‘clean’ bomb or an antimissile missile, there are a few signs pointing in this direction. There is first the fact that the seeds of total war developed as early as the First World War, when the distinction between soldiers and civilians was no longer respected because it was inconsistent with the new weapons then used. 

Closely connected with this perversion in the relationship between state and army is second the little-noticed but quite noteworthy fact that since the end of the First World War we almost automatically expect that no government, and no state or form of government, will be strong enough to survive a defeat in war.

The third fact seems to indicate a radical change in the very nature of war through the introduction of the deterrent as the guiding principle in the armament race. For it is indeed true that the strategy of deterrence ‘aims in effect at avoiding rather than winning the war it pretends to be preparing. It tends to achieve its goal by a menace which is never put into execution, rather than by the act itself.” To be sure, the insight that peace is the end of war, and that therefore a war is the preparation for peace, is at least as old as Aristotle, and the pretence that the aim of an armament race is to safeguard the peace is even older, namely as old as the discovery of propaganda lies. But the point of the matter is that today the avoidance of war is not only the true or pretended goal of an over-all policy but has become the guiding principle of the military preparations themselves. In Other words, the military are no longer preparing for a war which the statesmen hope will never break out; their own goal has become to develop weapons that will make war impossible. 

3 thoughts on “On Revolution / Hannah Arendt

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  1. When I read that they are trying to develop weapons that make war impossible, I can’t help but think of the old maxim that anything is possible. I worry that one day the tried and true deterrence factor will suddenly fail.

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