from Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski: the reasons given to go to war

The Great Ruler, occupied with the conquest of the world, goes about it somewhat like an avid but still methodical collector. He says to himself: I already have the Ionians, I have the Carians and the Lydians. Who’s missing? I lack the Tracinians, I lack the Getae, I lack the Scythians. And instantly the desire to possess those still beyond his grasp begins to burn in his heart. Whereas they, still free and independent, do not yet comprehend that by attracting the attention of the Great Ruler, they have caused a sentence to be passed upon themselves. Nor that the rest is merely a matter of time. Because rarely is such a sentence carried out with reckless and irresponsible impetuosity. Usually in these situations, the King of Kings resembles a skulking predator, who already has his prey in his ken and waits patiently for the propitious moment.

In the realm of human affairs, admittedly, one also needs a pretext. It is important to give it the rank of a universal imperative or of a divine commandment. The range of choices is not great: either it is that we must defend ourselves, or that we have an obligation to help others, or that we are fulfilling heaven’s will. The optimal pretext would link all three of these motives. The attackers should appear in the glory of the anointed, in the role of those who have found favor in his chosen god’s eye.

translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska

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