MILITARY THINK-TANK TALK
ECHOING SILENCE. A friend gave me a book last week that I cracked open this morning. Echoing Silence, edited by Robert Inchausti, is a collection of reflections by Thomas Merton on the vocation of writing. I happened onto a comment the astute Trappist monk--one of the leading intellectual, ethical, an Christian voices of the 20th-century--had to say in 1971 about persons who turn their creative and intellectual capacities into serving militarism:
PLAYING WITH DEATH. "Here we have a whole community of intellectuals, scholars who spend their time playing out 'scenarios' and considering 'acceptable levels' in megadeaths... One proves one's realism along with one's virility by toughness in playing with global death. It is in this playing with death, however, that brings into the players' language itself the corruption of death: not physical but mental and moral extinction. And the corruption spreads from their talk, their thinking, to the words and minds of everybody."
BREEDING CONTEMPT. "What happens then is that the political and moral values they claim to be defending are destroyed by the contempt that is more and more evident in the language in which they talk about such things. Technological strategy becomes an end in itself and leads the fascinated players into a maze where finally the very purpose strategy was supposed to serve is itself destroyed."
SO THE WAR GAME CAN GO ON. "The ambiguity of official war talk has one purpose above all: to mask this ultimate unreason and permit the game to go on."