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April 12, 2006

The Once and Future War

Have you ever wished you could visit the Past, armed with knowledge (and maybe a .44 Magnum), determined to prevent *insert catastrophe of your choice* at all costs? To be the Ultimate Knight Errant?

Now suppose the Knight Errant decided to visit you...

“Which combination of those three traits -- phobos, kerdos, doxa -- will save or doom your world?” asked the Time Traveler. “Which might bring you back from this vacation from history -- from history’s responsibilities and history’s burdens -- that you have all so generously gifted yourselves with? You peaceloving Europeans. You civil-liberties loving Americans? You Athenian invertebrates with your love of your own exalted sensibilities and your willingness to enter into a global war for civilizational survival even while you are too timid, too fearful . . . too decent . . . to match the ruthlessness of your enemies.”

I closed my eyes but that did not stop his voice.

“At least understand that such decency goes away quickly when you are burying your children and your grandchildren,” rasped the Time Traveler. “Or watching them suffer in slavery. Ruthlessness deferred against totalitarian aggression only makes the later need for ruthlessness more terrible. Thousands of years of history and war should have taught you that. Did you fools learning nothing from living through the charnel house that was the 20th Century?”

Dan Simmons (Hyperion, Worlds Enough & Time, among others) makes the point that one needn't play host to a Time Traveller in order to see what just might be climbing over the fence in the the future.

It's worth the couple of minutes it takes to read. It will either broaden your perspective or send you cringing into the corner with your blankie...

The Century War.

H/t to Captain JMH.