Violence Begets Violence

The Roman historian Appian had a nice sense of the dynamics by which a cycle of intensifying violence can lead to the destruction of social order. Perhaps our modern advocates of bombing the enemy into submission should take a look at the old histories…

In this way the episodes of civil strife escalated from rivalry and contentiousness to murder, and from murder to full-scale war; and this was the first army composed of Roman citizens to attack their own country as though it were a hostile power. From this point onwards their conflcits continued to be settled by military means and there were frequent attacks on Rome, and sieges, and every sort of incident of war, because nothing remained, neither law, nor political institutions, nor patriotism, that could induce any sense of shame in the men of violence. — Appian, The Civil Wars (Penguin Classics, 33-34)

Those who believe short-term accomplishments justify the establishment of dangerous precedents, take heed.


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