Blogs > Liberty and Power > Hemingway on War

May 17, 2004 8:39 am

Hemingway on War

Great care must be taken when drawing inferences about reality from works of fiction. But Ernest Hemingway offered a few lines near the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls that, when I read them, brought to mind the events in Iraq. He mentions"the despair from the sorrow that soldiers turn to hatred in order that they may continue to be soldiers." And then, even more powerfully, Hemingway insists that a soldier in battle must"get rid" of himself:"the always ridding of self that you had to do in war. Where there could be no self. Where yourself is only to be lost." .... Hawks can interpret Hemingway's insight as supplying an excuse for behavior such as that in the Abu Ghraib prison. Soldiers, after all, are human and such loss of self -- such loss of a self's humanity -- is one of the regrettable costs of war. In stark contrast, doves might respond that any experience that so surely and so severely sucks humanity out of individuals is one that should be embarked upon only as an utterly final resort. I’m with the doves.

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