Sunday, September 11, 2011

Realism, War and Justice

There is an unforgettable scene in Lincoln Steffens' Autobiography which tells of a proposal made by Clemenceau at the Versailles Peace Conference.  The astute Frenchman, having listened to much talk that this was a war to end war forever, asked Wilson, Lloyd George, and Orlando whether they were taking the idea seriously.  After obtaining assent from each of the somewhat nonplussed heads of state, Clemenceau proceeded to add up before them the cost.  The British would have to give up their colonial system; the Americans would have to get out of the Philippines, to keep their hands off Mexico; and on and on it went.  Clemenceau's colleagues soon made it plain that this was not at all what they had in mind, whereupon the French realist bluntly told them that they wanted not peace but war.  Such is the position of all who urge justice but really want, and actually choose, other things.
Source: Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences 1948

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