Monsters of Depravity

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


[A] political chain reaction was set in motion by the French Revolution. Deprived of the services of the professional army officered by aristocrats of the Monarchy, the revolutionary government had recourse to a levée en masse of the population. The people of the countries overrun by the French armies, after their own professional armies had been shattered, achieved liberation by means of similar armies of conscripted civilians. The European wars waged between 1792 and 1815 were the first of the Peoples’ Wars, so called because they were fought between peoples in arms and not as hitherto by professional armies maintained in peacetime by the rulers to enforce their wishes.

At first appeals to simple patriotism proved sufficient to inspire conscripted civilians with military ardour. Later the discovery was made that conscripted civilians fought better if they had been induced to hate the enemy against whom they were fighting. So gradually was evolved and perfected the modern science of emotional engineering, the purpose of which is to convince the average citizen that the citizens of the state against which it has been decided to wage war were monsters of depravity, barbarous, perfidious and cruel, with whom any thought of peace was impossible, to overcome whom no personal sacrifice would be too great.

Inevitably warfare conducted in an artificially inspired frenzy of fear and hatred changed its character. Thus began the period of so-called Total War to use the term adopted to describe hostilities waged regardless of the Rules of Civilized Warfare. Naturally the average civilian serving as a soldier, knowing nothing and caring less of military traditions, and having been taught that it was his patriotic duty to believe that the enemy was committing atrocities of every description, felt himself free to act as he had been assured the enemy was acting. Hate propaganda always lays the greatest stress on the contention that the enemy is solely responsible for the outbreak of hostilities in order to generate in the mind of every individual soldier a personal grievance against the enemy for having wantonly forced him to leave home and endure the hardships and dangers of a campaign.

The act which may be cited as marking the end of the age of civilized warfare and the beginning of the age of Total War was the acceptance of the Lindemann Plan on the 30th March 1942.

The last stage of the chain reaction was the adoption of war-crimes trials as a method of disposing of captured leaders of the vanquished side which inevitably must make the future conduct of warfare more ruthless than ever. Now that every general knows that in the event of defeat he will assuredly be done to death by the victors if he falls into their hands, he can hardly be expected to hesitate to order the commission of any enormity which seems to him to offer some hope of staving off defeat.

— F.J.P. Veale

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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