T H White writes in a style that reminds me of Pratchett. Funny, but everything jumps around a bit and it kind of tends to give me a headache. I spent the first half of the book (omnibus really) trying to work out whether he was trying to make serious points or just making fun of anything and everything.
I've decided he's trying to make some serious points, but is using humour as the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.
I found what he had to say on war pretty interesting. Since the Iraq war I haven't heard a lot of good arguments about why the war is wrong, just knee-jerk reactions about how it's really bad. Something like, 'People are dying, it's really bad, so America shouldn't be in Afghanistan.' etc.
White seems to have a more sensible attitude. He acknowledges that war is really bad, and that's why sometimes you have to fight to stop it.
He says through Merlin,
"When I was a young man," he said, " there was a general idea that it was wrong to fight in wars of any sort. Quite a lot of people in those days declared that they would never fight for anything whatever."Perhaps they were right," said the King.
No. There is one fairly good reason for fighting-and that is, if the other man starts it. You see, wars are a wickedness of a wicked species. They are so wicked that they must not be allowed. When you can be perfectly certain that the other man started them, then is the time when you might have a sort of duty to stop him."
It takes two to tango, but it only takes one to wage a war. Once someone starts a war, does the other have any choice. For example, the allied war with Nazi Germany is a war that I am glad the allies had the fortitude to finish. I suspect Japan fared better under America than Australia would have under Japan too.
But getting back to the Iraq war. I have always kind of defended Bush a bit. Partly because the criticism seems unfair and out of proportion. Sadam Hussein was interfering with weapons inspectors. We know he has used WMD in the past. He was making it look like he had some again. It turns out he didn't have any but Bush was not to know that. All we knew was that he was acting belligerent, he was breaking the restrictions put on him after the 90's gulf war, and that America had been attacked on their home soil by terrorists of a similar mindset.
What was Bush to do?
That used to be my argument.
White has made me rethink it a bit. Maybe Bush should have waited for the UN to act. Maybe it never would have. I've seen it argued that the Iraq war is unconstitutional, I don't know all that, but maybe there were other alternatives.
Saddam was definitely playing games, asking for trouble.
But now I wonder if Bush did the greater evil by starting the war. It's not quite that simple, but Bush did throw the first punch.