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War is Hell

Article by - Father Atchley, from War Is Hell (

There is an article currently circulating, at least by email, which contends that because war is hell, it ought to be fought hellishly. And with the question on the mind of many, "when will the war in Ukraine end," the author (unknown to me) argues that just as the general William Tecumesh Sherman fought hellishly to save the United States during our great Civil War, so too the current, if not future wars, ought to be fought that way.

I quote from this article:

Sherman recognized that the only way to force the South to surrender was to cause great pain, great loss; pain and loss so great that they would not keep fighting. And so his plan - brilliantly executed - to take his army, disconnect from any supply train, and drive into the South and cut a giant swath through the heart of the South and destroy it. It was, in a word, hellish. And by the time he was finished he had marched through Georgia, burned huge areas of that state, reached the sea, and then turned north and tore through the Carolinas headed for Virginia and Richmond, to meet up with General Grant. As Sherman noted: “We can make war so terrible and make them so sick of war that generations pass away before they again appeal to it."

And the argument is then made, following a quote from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, that this current war needs to be fought without regard for human loss or destruction:

"This is a question that worries absolutely everyone: when will the war end? Someone says – months, someone – a year, someone – even more. But the question of time actually directly depends on the question of the losses that Russia will suffer. The more losses the occupiers suffer, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and guarantee Ukraine’s security. This is what everyone who defends our state and helps Ukraine should think about: how to inflict the greatest possible losses on the occupiers so that the time of the war gets shorter."

I disagree, with Tecumesh, with the author, with Zelenskyy and anyone else who holds this opinion. The Church--speaking on behalf of God that we seek His justice above our own--teaches that war must be proportional, as well as just and so on. People don't choose wars; their leaders do, and it is in the interest of the Church to hold in check man's barbarity to man which seems to be endless as leaders are often maniacal, aberrant beasts (Putin, Xi, and Biden/Obama to mention a few). Wars will likely continue as long as there are a few people on earth, but they must be moderated by reason and higher values like vigilance, protecting the weak, restoring the fallen and striving always for peace. We are, above all, rational creatures, and should always act in a rational manner. All-out aggression, as a "theory" of war is merely that, an opinion, a strategy, that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. The kind of energy suggested here that we "ought" to invest, could easily wipe out life on our planet, what with the atomic or nuclear forces at the behest of many of the world's superpowers. Thank goodness we have moral ethicists (who address the applications of a just war) and ethical moralists (who discern the principles) to combat warriors who know no limits.

What are your thoughts?


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