Unit 5:
War & Peace

Guide for Teachers and Students

The perennial problems of war and the challenge of establishing and maintaining a just peace have occupied the greatest thinkers. Can war be eliminated? If it must be fought, when and to what ends should we fight? How must we fight? Are there limits in war, or is war necessarily "total" and "hell"? Do nuclear weapons change our answers to these questions? This unit seeks to demonstrate the relevance of classical treatments of war and peace for present day debate on these questions. It includes selections from Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, and Carl von Clausewitz -- each of them theorizing about war, human nature, and the world.

Augustine and Thomas, both understanding man as sinner, suggest that there is a certain order in nature. They seek to place limits of justice in war and peace in light of man's ultimate salvation and his responsibilities to God and neighbor. Kant and Clausewitz, leaving God out of the analysis, seek to rationalize history and the experience of war such that war is either overcome altogether for Kant or made theoretically decisive and total for Clausewitz.

The films chosen to accompany these selections dramatize the complexities of war and peace in situations in which war and peace actually occur -- at particular times and places and to particular people. Three of the films in this unit dramatize these questions in the light of the American character and the virtues and problems incident to American liberal democracy. The nuclear age of Fail-Safe presents the extraordinary problem of seeking to avoid war through a policy of mutually assured destruction, and suggests that such a policy is ultimately amoral and irrational. The Americanization of Emily presents a liberal ethics of self-preservation that denies the virtue of war and suggests just how devastating the pursuit of honor or recognition in war can be. Saving Private Ryan indicates the dignity and even salvation to be found in soldering well. Finally, the film Michael Collins is included here for its compelling and complex picture of heroism and statesmanship interlinked with political terrorism.

Augustine's Of Just War

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430) writes when most of the known world, Europe and Asia, is subject to the rule of the Roman Empire, and thus pacified. Yet he laments the price that went into achieving this fragile peace: "[T]he imperial city has endeavored to impose on subject nations...her yoke... but how many great wars, how much slaughter and bloodshed, have provided this unity!" Moreover, the vast expanse of imperial city presents the potential for civil and social wars.

Rome and all the earthly cities are, for Augustine, all Babylon. He juxtaposes the earthly city, Babylon, to the City of God, the city of the righteous on earth and the holy city of the saved in the life to come. Every city on earth is Babylon for Augustine, because life and the body, when compared with the soul and salvation, are "this weakness, this plague, this disease" in which we are never safe. The question philosophers ask, "what is the good life?" is asked in vain if it isn't asked with reference of the life to come or to salvation.

Justice therefore is also necessarily limited in the earthly city, because the earthly judge, unlike God, the supreme judge, can never know a man's conscience, his true guilt or innocence. The guilty will at times go unpunished and the innocent will suffer in this life. Yet, all the ills of this life do not lead Augustine to believe that the soldier, the judge and the statesman, those leading an active or political life, should lament and withdraw from office for their part in the many possible miscarriages of justice. On the contrary, he argues that these agents of worldly justice must do their duty to human society; it would be thought of as "wickedness" to abandon that duty. He concludes, "though we... acquit the [man of action] of malice [when justice is miscarried], we must none the less condemn human life as miserable." Nevertheless, there is hope for earthly peace. Augustine maintains that all natures seek peace; even the fierce who wage war do so for the sake of peace.

The peace of the temporal world is to be prayed for and sought by the Christian, insofar as it is possible. Christians may fight as soldiers, in just wars, when necessary, and for the sake of peace. In so doing, they secure the peace of Babylon, where they live in exile, for in the temporal world, the two cities -- Babylon and the City of God -- are commingled.

Thomas Aquinas's Christians and War

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 or 1227 - 1274) considers the fundamental questions about war in the context of Christian revelation, continuing Augustine's investigation into justice, war and peace. Thomas takes for his authority not only scripture and over a thousand years of Church tradition, including the writings of Augustine, but also, the arguments of philosophic investigators, in particular, the pagan Aristotle, whom he calls "the philosopher."

Thomas considers first, whether there is a just war. Determining there is, he lays down criteria for justice in war (that is, in the fighting of war) and justice to war (that is, in the determination to fight or go to war). Just wars require a sovereign wage them, they can not be waged by a private individual or group. They must be waged for a just cause. And, they must be waged with just or right intention.

Next, Thomas considers two questions of justice in war. First, whether it is lawful for clerics to fight. (He argues it is not, for the duties of their office require they do not.) Second, he considers whether it is lawful for belligerents to lay ambushes. (It is not lawful to lie or break promises and disregard the laws of war; however, combatants are under no obligation to declare their every intention to the enemy. In fact to soldier well a "soldier has to learn...the art of concealing his purpose lest it come to the enemy's knowledge"). Finally, Thomas considers, whether it is lawful for a Christian to fight on holy days, when he has a special duty to honor God (It is, Thomas concludes, provided it is necessary to safeguarding the commonweal.) Thus Thomas, while accepting Augustine's Christian distinction between the city of God and Babylon, follows Aristotle in bringing reason or philosophy to bear on political life and war. Although Thomas agrees with Augustine about the impossibility of perfect justice on earth, he attempts to formulate principles based on justice to guide political life, the life of the soldier, and the life of the citizen.

Like Augustine, Thomas neither denies the courage of the soldier, nor that the peace of the temporal world is a good for which just wars must be fought. But unlike Augustine, who considers the human virtues such as courage to indicate our need to endure the ills of life, Thomas, again following Aristotle, tends to present the virtues as positive expressions of our capacity for good, as our sacrifices in war are for the sake of peace.

Kant's Perpetual Peace

Immanuel Kant begins his Perpetual Peace by noting the satirical inscription on a Dutch innkeeper's sign upon which a burial ground was painted. Kant notes that the inscription reads 'Pax Perpetua' or perpetual peace, and asks "is it only in death that this sweet dream, the dream of perpetual peace, is realized?" The inscription reminds us of Augustine's conviction that true felicity comes only in the next life.

Kant says, "Whether the inscription had for its object mankind in general, the rulers of states, who are insatiable of war, or merely the philosophers who dream [of perpetual peace], we do not know." In any case, Kant firmly puts philosophers on the side of peace and practical politicians on the side of war. Yet Kant, the political theorist or philosopher, calls not for improved morality from these war-making politicians, but rather for greater consistency. The practical politician, according to Kant, ignores the philosopher or theorist as a know-it-all whose ideas are irrelevant and insignificant; but, on the other hand, the practical politician also criticizes the ideas of the theorist as a danger to the state. If philosophy is dismissed as irrelevant, Kant says, it cannot be condemned as dangerous. If it is dangerous, it cannot be irrelevant.

Kant's defense for philosophy is found in his turning to conditions for the 'Pax Perpetua,' the sweet dream of philosophers. Kant regards himself as unique among the philosophers or theorists in that he is the first to consider a state of perpetual peace practically possible. His theory, far from being a danger to the state, will assist in the attainment of a perpetual peace. In introducing 'preliminary' and 'definite' articles required for a perpetual peace among states, Kant describes the natural state of humanity, which must be overcome:

The state of peace among men living side by side is not the natural state; the natural state is one of war. This does not always mean open hostilities, but at least an unceasing threat of war.

Kant's hope for the coming into being of a permanent or perpetual peace rests on his assumption that human society is endowed with a potential for reasoning and moral development. He denies that we are naturally good and peaceful and have become corrupted by society. Rather society and its development are necessary for our moral progress. Kant is an Enlightenment thinker for whom progress is possible both theoretically and practically. To achieve such progress requires the submission of political decisions of states and statesmen to moral evaluation of theorists.

The period in which Kant is writing, the Age of Enlightenment, delivered an enormous increase in material prosperity. Yet, Kant noticed that states were using their prosperity to support ever more powerful militaries and to carry out conquests abhorrent to civilized ideals. The potential for a worldwide enlightened political life based on the model of civil law, moreover, is limited by the absence of lawful, peaceful relations among states. Kant nevertheless finds positive signs for the future in the sovereignty of states which, rather than tribes, families or kings, had been a characteristic of the world after the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. That treaty spoke of a "Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere Amity". Kant sees the possibilities for governance of sovereign states under a the rule of law.

Given certain achievable conditions -- certain preliminary and definite articles -- Kant argues that some future age could see the emergence of a permanent or perpetual peace in the world. The realization of that peace, however, does not require the moral improvement of mankind. Rather, it requires "only that we should know the mechanism of nature in order to use it on men, organizing the conflict of the hostile intentions present in a people in such a way that they must compel themselves to submit to coercive laws." He argues that even "a race of devils" can be made to assist in the creation of a perpetual peace.

In Kant's view, politics, and the practical politician, is generally driven by amoral self-interest. However, enlightened states cannot and do not simply focus on efficient uses of power. Statesmen cannot rely on prudence alone. They must consult moral principle. Reason teaches universal moral duty. And thus, for Kant, reason promises something no other philosopher had contemplated -- a permanent peace among nations. Nature, in history, is seeking the conditions and guarantee of a perpetual peace.

Clausewitz's On War

Carl von Clausewitz, unlike the other authors in this unit, considers war solely for the sake of understanding from its infinite variety its essential aspects. He believes that, if war can be better understood, it can be better mastered.

Clausewitz is known for his argument that wars are best fought by effectively compressing all effort against the center of gravity of an opposing military force in the fewest possible actions, moving swiftly, and seeking out the major battle -- with superior numbers and conditions -- that will promise a decisive victory. As such, he is described as "evil genius of military thought," the "apostle of total war," and as relentless advocate of the offensive.

Clausewitz's axioms include:

. There is only one single means, it is the Fight.
. The combat is the single activity in war.
. We may reduce every military activity in the province of strategy to the unit of single combats.
. The bloody solution of the crisis, the effort for the destruction of the enemy's forces, is the first-born son of war.
. Only great and general battles can produce great results.
. Let us not hear of generals who conquer without bloodshed.

The British historian B.H. Liddell Hart and others have blamed the popularity of Clausewitz's ideas with Europe's generals for the readiness for war of all of Europe's armies just prior to the First World War and for the ensuing bloodbath.

As a theorist of war, however, Clauseswitz insists that theory be firmly rooted in the actual experience of war. And, in actual war psychological, moral and political forces continually impede or rouse action. Thus he leaves open the possibility that generalship and statesmanship can coincide or harmonize in war. "To conduct a whole war or its great... campaigns, to a successful termination, there must be an intimate knowledge of state [political] policy in its higher relations."

War, for Clausewitz, is always the interaction of violence, chance and politics. In practice, war is an extension of politics; and politics, especially war, is always a matter of circumstance. Politics is forever part of war because war itself is an act of political policy. To make war is to employ violence with the ultimate goal of imposing one's will upon another. The aim of war in theory is to exhaust the enemy by rendering his armed forces powerless. Yet, war in practice always has a political object which qualifies the amount of effort, the means, one is willing to expend. Violence is limited, not by independent moral concerns, as for Thomas, but by interest and the political end the violence serves. Violence for its own sake is irrational and inefficient.

Yet, the genius for command remains distinct from political skill, for its object remains the exhausting of an enemy's will through the application of violence. That genius is the balance of intellect and temperament in a commander that permits him to overcome the danger and chance of war and to excel at the complex activity of war-making.


Fail-safe reveals various problems with the position of some contemporary theorists that the nuclear bomb is the ultimate tool of peace. [Consider for example Kenneth Waltz's "More May Be Better" in his The Spread of Nuclear Weapons.] The proliferation of the ultimate weapon to competing states makes for peace among them. Perhaps it is therefore the ultimate expression of Kant's account of "[Nature's] mechanical course ... [where Nature's] aim is to produce a harmony among men, "against their will and indeed through their discord." Reason gives us the bomb for the sake of peace. We will not use it, so the argument goes, because we wouldn't want it used against us. Nuclear weapons deter the use of nuclear weapons.

In Fail-safe the Soviets and the Americans are in such a nuclear balance: each possesses an uncertain capability to defend against nuclear attack, but a certain capability to punish and thus deter the other. After a series of unforeseen events, nuclear-armed American bombers fly to Russia with orders to drop their payload on Moscow. The well-trained pilots cannot be recalled once they have passed their "fail-safe" points. When communication with planes is interrupted, the bombers follow through on their predetermined attack orders.

Although the Soviet Premier, the U.S. President and their deputies ultimately overcome mutual suspicion and work together to avoid a nuclear incident, they fail to stop the US airmen from dropping their bombs. After Moscow is destroyed, the President of the United States determines he must bomb New York. He reasons that America's will is equivalent to Russia's and that he must demonstrate his good will by sacrificing one of his own cities too. The film thus indicates that we cannot rely on a state of mutually assured destruction to keep the peace. Thinking about how, and when, and with what means we are willing to fight wars -- rather than seeking to simply deter the enemy -- is vital to achieving a just peace.

Yet, in the person of a professor who proferrs advice to the President, the film presents the limits of reason construed narrowly, and in deed, the limits of the Kantian argument that even "a race of devils" can be made to assist in the creation of a perpetual peace through the enlightenment of states.

The professor is a proponent of limiting nuclear war by agreeing with the Soviets to target only military apparatus rather than population centers. Nevertheless, having accidentally stumbled into a first strike on the Soviet population center and political capital, Moscow, the professor argues that the United States should follow with a full scale nuclear attack on the USSR. He reasons that, as rational calculators, the Soviets will perceive that they cannot win a nuclear conflict. And, given the choice between survival and extinction, the Soviets will surrender. According to the professor, the Soviets will thus choose rationally as "calculating machines" devoid of "human emotions".

Not surprisingly, the professor believes that his counterpart in the Soviet Union will think as a good Soviet theorist should, choosing the conditions (survival) necessary for the ultimate triumph of Marxism. Because the professor does not subscribe to Marxist theory, he concludes triumphantly, "the threat of communism will be over, forever."

It is rather an American General who gets it right. The Soviets are like the Americans in a more commonsensical way: They too will fight with a natural, spirited defense of their own cities and their own way of life. To the professor the General replies, "that's hogwash, There will be Russian generals who will react just as I would. The best defense is a good offense. They see trouble coming, take my word for it, they'll attack and they won't give a damn what Marx said."

Fail-Safe ultimately suggests, contrary to Kant, that winning the peace requires a kind of goodness of men -- a willingness to accept responsibility for our actions. As the President says to the Soviet Premier: "All I know is that men are responsible. We're responsible for what happens to us."

The Americanization of Emily

Like Fail-Safe, the Americanization of Emily is a criticism of war. The film presents the "Americanized" as those who possess a self-interested desire to avoid danger and enjoy the material and physical pleasures of life. The title character, a British war-widow, accuses her American lover, Charlie, of a preoccupation with material good and profit and a lack of nobility and civic-mindedness. To Emily, Charlie is, in short, American. And Emily, while she loves Charlie, does not want to be Americanized.

Charlie is, truly, a self-professed coward who says he has made "self-preservation" his religion. He is intent on puncturing the pretensions of heroism, virtue, and sacrifice in war. Even his job in the Navy, as a dog-robber, flies in the face of nobility and sacrifice: A dog-robber is responsible for gratifying the whims of his Admiral and the Navy brass; Charlie procures food, booze, and women for his superiors. And, he brings others the small pleasures of American peace-time life, such as Hershey bars.

Charlie is suspicious of the "nobility of war". In one of the most entertaining and telling scenes of the film, we see Charlie suggest that it is the war widows and those who exalt the sacrifice of war -- those who build monuments -- not the statesman or practical politicians, who perpetuate war. Charlie's criticism reminds us of the proverbial Spartan woman burying her son: An old woman came up to her and said, You poor woman, what a misfortune! The mother replied, No, by the goddess, what a good fortune... because I bore him so that he might die for Sparta, and that is what has happened for me.

According to Charlie war is natural to us, but virtue is not. It is not natural for mothers and wives to rejoice in the deaths of their loved ones. What will save man from himself is not goodness, but something traditionally ignoble: cowardice. Charlie, like Thomas Hobbes, would rather have less virtue and more self-interest. If we each pursue our own pleasure, and above all else fear the violent death of battle rather than seek the recognition of success in battle, then we will have peace.

While not an atheist, Charlie disdains taking his bearings from otherworldly concerns. As he says to Emily, "You have to commit yourself to life now, Emily. I don't want to know what's good or bad or true. I let God worry about the truth. I just want to know the momentary facts of things. Life isn't good or bad or true. It's merely factual. It's sensual. It's alive... I want to know what I am, not what I should be".

When Charlie is sent by his Admiral to the shores of Normandy on D-day to make a film documenting the heroic contribution of Navy men, he behaves true to form, seeking to flee the beach back to the relative safety of the boats. Charlie's comrade Bus, drunk on the pursuit of honor, fires on Charlie to turn him around. Charlie is hit, and presumed dead. As "the first dead man on Omaha Beach," Charlie is pronounced a hero and his picture adorns every periodical in the free world. Yet, Charlie lives and returns to England with the wounded, his cowardice having saved his life.

Charlie may be a self-interested coward and deficient in the habits of a disciplined soldier, but he has -- as we see throughout the film -- other virtues such as honesty with himself and others, and truthfulness. Wounded, both physically and emotionally by Bus, he now intends to courageously reveal the truth -- to act on principle and against his own interest -- to expose his comrade's wickedness, his Admiral's derangement, and his own cowardice to the world.

The issue of right and wrong action becomes even more complex when Emily, now "Americanized" by learning that the life of the man she loves is more valuable to her than his honor, insists to Charlie that she'll not have principled action from him. Rather, she'll "settle for [one of his] Hershey bars" and their life together. She convinces him to abandon his intention of revealing the truth and thereby avoid disciplinary action and embarrassing himself, his Admiral, and his service. Charlie's choice of this self-interested deception requires him to sacrifice his principle for the sake of his country and its effort to win the war. Emily has been "Americanized," but Charlie has become more prudent, and even in a way more moral.

Charlie's hope for salvation in cowardice might remind us of Kant's hope for perpetual peace achieved through enlightened, self-interested action on the part of states. Yet, Charlie's actions suggest there is more hope for peace in another part of his nature. When Emily asks him early in the film if there is anything he'd die for, he replies, "There are lots of things I'd die for, Emily: [you], my home, my family, my country. But that's love, not principle."
For Charlie, love animates virtue, but making a principle of extreme fortitude is folly: he continues, "now, if I were to bring a raging lion into the house and wrestle it, just to prove that I'd die for you, [Emily] that would be highly principled of me. But, what's a lion doing in a man's house anyway?" This sentiment echoes Thomas's treatment of courage and of our duties to others. Charlie is not rash in the pursuit of glory, but when love and interest are at stake he will venture his life.

Our ultimate judgment of Charlie has to be informed not only by his shortcomings, but also by the ultimate goodness of his actions. Charlie isn't inspired to a great act of heroism in the service of his fellow soldiers, and he does, at Emily's urging, engage in a deception of the peoples of the Allied powers by allowing himself to be presented as a common soldier, heroic in his leading the charge on Omaha beach. Yet, he is a faithful man. And, he loves and would die for Emily, his home, his family, and his country.

Michael Collins

Michael Collins is a complex, but ultimately favorable picture of a modern political terrorist who turns statesman and becomes the legitimate commander of regular, uniformed troops. In the first part of the film, the title character learns how ineffective it is for his Irish rebels to fight in the open against the vastly superior British forces. The leaders of Ireland's Easter rebellion of 1916, the battle with which the film opens, are executed and Collins, together with the other rebels, is imprisoned. Collins sees the futility of fighting in a large-scale battle against an army his militiamen will surely never defeat in open combat. He calls the Easter uprising the "great heroic ethic of failure, all marching in step towards slaughter." In Collins we see therefore another kind of criticism of war, war fought for the sake of virtue.

The lesson Collins draws from the rebellion of 1916 is that he must fight differently, more economically, more effectively and less openly or honorably. For the remainder of the film we see Collins's vision compete with that of Eamon DeValera, who seeks first and foremost the righteousness of a perfect moral victory, not the limited yet tangible political victory which Collins ultimately achieves.

An amiable and even charming insurgent, Collins employs the means of political terrorism -- intelligence gathering and the assassination of officials and collaborators -- successfully, but not without inspiring vicious reprisals from the uniformed British army sent to keep order. We wonder if Collins thinks that the ends justify the means, the inevitable loss of innocent lives in the crossfire, and the chaos or "general mayhem" created in the community.

Augustine and Thomas argue that there are intrinsic limitations on just means appropriate in war. Certainly, Collins transgresses them, but he claims to do so because he is seeking a peace worth fighting for -- the political freedom necessary to guarantee an independent Irish republic -- and, given the asymmetrical nature of his conflict, only terrorist means can accomplish a just peace.

Clausewitz, in his On War, suggests that war is an extension of politics, and that the political implies limits to what can be achieved by force. Michael Collins illustrates this point. Collins has to choose between continued fighting or accepting a less than ideal political solution to the dispute in Ireland. While Collins had earlier argued that "the moral force of international opinion" is irrelevant and that "there's only one kind of force [the British] understand," ultimately he determines that "surely, it's time for peace." Collins and his "invisible army" of insurgents bring the British to the bargaining table where he is able to negotiate a peace with the leaders of the Empire.

A negotiated settlement, he believes, will provide the degree of political freedom necessary to achieve the final goal of Irish independence. The movie shows that Collins' choice is not only a practical one, but a moral one. It takes the virtues of both courage and prudence to achieve the settlement with Britain, and to persuade the Irish people to support it. To DeValera and some of his former fellow terrorists this appears as a betrayal. Collins, not surprisingly, discovers that peace requires more fighting. It is necessary to fight against the men he trained and against DeValera. Collins's days as a statesman are ended by the means he employed: he is assassinated. Yet he is not defeated. His legacy is ambiguous, it is found both in the peace of the republic he helped found, and in the continued terrorist threats to the peace of the Irish and British peoples. The film shows the necessary limits to the goals achievable with force, and that the genius of command and strategy is as often found off the battlefield as on it. War-making accomplishes things that only force can accomplish. Yet, war is limited in what it can accomplish. The generalship of Collins -- his courage and his great skill in strategy and as a leader of men -- ultimately serves the statesmanship of Collins.

Saving Private Ryan

Like Michael Collins, Saving Private Ryan dramatizes Clausewitz's wisdom about war as the intersection between violence, chance and politics. In focusing not on the commanders and statesman and their decisions, but upon the common soldiers and their responsibilities and trials, Saving Private Ryan shows that the moral and psychological factors that impact war are significant at all levels. So too, the film demonstrates how the genius of command, in the person of Captain Miller, deals with the uncertainties of war.

Saving Private Ryan opens with news reaching the highest command in the American Army that three of the four Ryan boys -- all of whom are serving with the US Army -- have been killed in action. General Marshall, in spite of the realistic advice of his subordinates, determines he must give orders to find the last of the Ryan boys and bring him home so his mother will not lose her last son to war. To explain his decision, Marshall reads a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Bixby, the mother of five sons, who, Lincoln says, "have died gloriously on the field of battle." Lincoln's letter, like the Americanization of Emily, suggests a subtle but important difference between the mothers of American sons, and the war widows Charlie criticizes as perpetuating war by building monuments and "exalting in sacrifice." Lincoln expects that Mrs. Bixby will feel anguish at the loss of her sons, and only later, with the assistance of a higher power -- and presumably reflection on salvation -- will her grief give way to pride.

The next scene introduces us to Captain Miller, a man who has been stripped of his company, in order to take one platoon to comb the countryside of France in search of Private Ryan. Miller's platoon questions the wisdom of the command's decision to risk their eight lives to save one private from the chances of war. Miller carefully upholds his mission, without endorsing or criticizing the wisdom behind it. Yet, we suspect he shares his troop's judgment that the mission is "FUBAR" (*** up beyond all recognition). We see Miller, having lost one of his soldiers, consider the nature of command in war. He rationalizes sending men to their death by making the decision a game of numbers: The sacrifice of one man saves the lives of "two, or three or ten others. Maybe a hundred others." The mission saves a greater number of men at the cost of a few.

But, this particular mission presents a moral difficulty for Miller. He has lost one man already, and will lose more, in the effort to find and save one soldier, Private Ryan. He reasons that, for the mission to be worthwhile, Ryan must "go home and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting light bulb or something."

In the selected scenes we also meet Corporal Upham, a young soldier under Miller's command. Upham is intrigued by war and its virtue, especially the virtue of soldiers. When the other soldiers bellyache about their mission, Upham quotes Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade", a poem about extreme duty and discipline. He is also writing a book about the "bonds of brotherhood that develop between soldiers during war." Moreover, Upham, a German and French-speaking linguist and the intellectual of the group, acts as the voice of right and justice in the conduct of the war. He speaks out against the desire of his fellow soldiers to kill a captured German, a gunner who has just killed one of their platoon. Although there are also prudential reasons for executing the German, since the platoon can hardly take the German along on their mission through dangerous territory, Miller frees the German when Upham reminds him of the rules of war.

Upham exemplifies the kind of love of honor and distinction -- and righteousness about war -- that so upset Charlie in the Americanization of Emily. Through its presentation of Upham, however, Saving Private Ryan also suggests reservations about war. Upham's high sentiments are in every case belied by his conduct. He is an outcast among the soldiers, whom he does not understand and whose respect he cannot earn. His concern with justice in war is diminished when he naively is taken in by the German's claim that he "like[s] American," by his hollow citation of stylish pieces of American popular culture ["Fancy smancy, What a cinch! ... Betty Boop, what a dish..."], and by his disingenuous performance of the National Anthem. Most important, Upham is a coward who later stands paralyzed with fear when the same German he persuaded Miller to free brutally murders yet another of the platoon. We see not the futility of justice in the conduct of war, but its costs.

In an ironic twist, Upham later kills the same German gunner. He shoots him while he is again surrendering. It might seem from this reversal that Upham has learned that he ought not to have interceded with Captain Miller on behalf of the German earlier. However, the film suggests that Upham's certainty and courage in defending the rules of justice in war must be balanced by the courage to defend the lives of his fellow soldiers. This same lesson is demonstrated earlier in the film by the choices Miller makes. When the platoon comes upon the bodies of ambushed Allied soldiers, Miller determines to take out the gunner waiting to ambush the next company. Miller does this despite its being unnecessary to the mission of saving Private Ryan. Miller doesn't relent though his soldiers complain, but considers the next company who might also be ambushed.

In determining to follow the rules of justice in war and set the German prisoner free, Miller inspires the insubordination of his best soldiers. He is able to diffuse the situation that develops only by appealing to the soldiers' common experience of peacetime life. He reflects on his own life as a school teacher and as a husband and how the experience of war has changed him. He demonstrates both what the German missed in his account of things American, and what he himself had earlier missed in his effort to justify the mission by making it a numerical calculation. Miller suggests that the soldiers whom he commands fight for each other; they fight to save the next company who might be ambushed by the German gun they have stopped to disable; and they fight for Ryan. They fight for one anoher other because in so doing they get one another other home and for themselves they "earn... the right to get back to [their] wi[ves]" and to their unexceptional, but good, American lives as school teachers and ordinary citizens.

In the final scenes of Saving Private Ryan, Miller and his platoon complete their mission. Not only do they find and 'save' Private Ryan, but they assist again in the larger requirements of an Allied victory. Using a bit of American native ingenuity, Miller invents the "sticky bomb" and helps hold a strategically important bridge. The platoon protects Ryan and assists in the Allied victory, but does so at the cost of Miller's life as well as that of four more of Miller's soldiers -- only two of the original eight sent to bring Private Ryan home survive, including Upham. The film thus presents war realistically in its terrible cost in human lives.

Yet Saving Private Ryan reminds us of Thomas's account of the requirements of charity or love. Thomas argues that one is no worse a citizen or a son for being a soldier, and no worse a soldier for being a citizen and a son -- that there is a duty proper to each role. The story of Saving Private Ryan suggests that being a good soldier, part of a brotherhood, reinforces the goodness of citizenship and familial kinship. When Private James Ryan, as an old man, stands at the grave of Captain Miller, he wonders whether he is a good man -- which can only mean the sum of son, citizen, husband, father, and soldier. We do not know if Ryan has found the cure for a disease or led an otherwise remarkable life. We do know that he has with him his family and in particular a wife who does not hesitate to assure him that he is a good man. In bringing his wife and family to Miller's grave he honors Miller and Miller's sacrifice more than he might have had he built a longer lasting light bulb or even a monument. Ryan has sought to live his life as a good man. Ryan has led the very life Miller hoped that he would live himself. In doing so, Ryan earns the freedom for which Miller and his men sacrificed. The presentation of Americans in Saving Private Ryan is what we might want to be, at our most commonplace best.

These films bring the recurrent debates of war and peace home to us in their complex particulars. Taken together with the selections from our classical authors they help us to understand better the questions of why we fight and whether there can be justice in war -- in the decision to make war and in the execution of war. They reveal certain perennial difficulties about the human experience of war and its relation -- both morally and pragmatically -- to peace. These selections reveal the complexity of seeking to win the peace and fighting war for the sake of peace. They treat honor and magnanimity, generalship and statesmanship, and love and charity. The storytelling of these films suggests that the recurrent difficulties our classical authors identify can, in our modern age, still be instructive to us in our accounts of when, how, and for what we fight.

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