chapter  12
9 Pages

Afterword: war is failure

It is sometimes surprising to fi nd war read by elites as an option, one more card to play; it is marginally less surprising to fi nd generals and the like offering the same ideas. Both are quite wrong. War is radical disorder.1 It is not possible to rationally choose disorder.2 The record of the general crisis of the twentieth century in Europe and East Asia reveals the utter contingency of war; it has a pattern only in retrospect; it has putative meaning bestowed only in hindsight. The record also shows the extraordinary fl exibility of offi cial memory: elites are concerned with effective practice, reason of state fl ags unconcern for truth, a matter for others.3 So the record of the crisis offers one crucial lesson: war is failure, it is a consequence of economic, social and political failure. 4 The last noted is crucial and it encompasses intellectual, imaginative and moral failure: stupid and dishonest elites choose war.