Quarterly - FOCUS IN/ON

Perhaps war will always be as ugly as Eby portrayed it. Eby wrote in his introduction to War that he had been accused of being a pacifist. He didn’t really think he was one, but said he believed that “. . . lawful, not to say sanctified, wholesale slaughter is simply slobbering imbecility.” Eby saw the folly of war and wondered, with some idealism, why everyone couldn’t just get along and solve their differences peacefully.

Some choose pacifism as a response to the inhumanity of war, and some seek to use citizen movements to hold governments accountable. Eby cried out to the women of the world as the citizens who, as mothers and potential brides of the men who die in war, have the “guts” to stop war and speak against it. Indeed many influential citizen peace movements have been founded by women, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), whose members met in The Hague in 1915 while their husbands clashed in opposing armies in the war. In the 1960s women were “striking” from their domestic duties in order to protest nuclear testing and war in a movement called Women Strike for Peace. Women’s peace movements have often made connections between the “private” realm of household life with the violence of war, suggesting that “security” is not gained by spending billions on high-tech weapons and war, but rather by investing in education, healthcare, and projects that provide “security” in daily life.

Today it is probably more true than ever that citizen movements and public support can make or break a war. Wilsonian idealism is based to some degree on faith in “world public opinion” and its moral force as a check to the rule of weapons of force. Wilson dreamed of a world where each nation served not only its own interests, but also the interests of humankind. The problem may be that citizens of the world’s nations are not so oriented; the true battle may be in the minds of the people as media, propaganda, education, and—yes—art, sway them to war and self-interest or to cooperation and world-interest.

Eby certainly did his part to enter into the fray. Ultimately, he concluded that war is not a permanent fixture of our world, stating that if “everyone who has any feeling in the matter at all said what he felt in no uncertain terms—and kept saying it—the sheer power of public opinion would go far to make war impossible.”

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