Mark Twain’s Advice On War Is Surprisingly Relevant Today

With all the unrest happening in the middle east and the counterinsurgency resulting from the ISIS’s reign of terror, the world can use all the advice it can get. Some of the best advice may actually come from beyond the grave — from the wise mind of Mark Twain.

Fabius Maximus compiled two sections of Mark Twain’s articles on war and counterinsurgency with the hope to advise modern civilians and political leaders alike on how to approach tyranny and international violence. Mark Twain’s advice is most firmly grounded in anti-imperialism, the opposition of colonialism, Hegemony and governments who control their citizens through threats and force. That means Twain also encourages America to stay out of the affairs of governments like China, which could be extended to the tyranny of North Korea or even the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State.

The following Mark Twain excerpt comes from Mark Twain on Counterinsurgency:

“You ask me about what is called imperialism,” Mark Twain wrote. “Well, I have formed views about that question. I am at the disadvantage of not knowing whether our people are for or against spreading themselves over the face of the globe. I should be sorry if they are, for I don’t think that it is wise or a necessary development.

As to China, I quite approve of our Government’s action in getting free of that complication. They are withdrawing, I understand, having done what they wanted. That is quite right. We have no more business in China than in any other country that is not ours.”

While Mark Twain is certainly revered as a genius of his time, his opinions on war may not be extremely popular among modern Americans–especially those who believe the United States’ involvement with the ISIS and the intervention against terrorist regimes is justified.

Mark Twain’s descriptions of situations in the Philippines and Spain can be directly paralleled to U.S. government interference with tyrannical systems of government happening in the world today. Twain’s advice seems to be to stay out of it, no matter what the situation, and preserve America’s safety. Twain’s words in the following passage have a surprisingly familiar ring to what political pundits were saying in protest to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

“We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial,” wrote Twain. “It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now — why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I’m sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”

Mark Twain also wrote a chilling piece called The War Prayer, illustrating how people who oppose foreign wars and government intervention are shamed into silence:

“It was indeed a glad and gracious time,” Twain wrote, “and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.”

For more on Mark Twain’s biography and Twain’s thoughts on counterinsurgency, visit NPR.

What do you think of Mark Twain’s cautionary advice?

For more on Mark Twain, check out the Inquisitr‘s recent report on the anniversary of the Mark Twain home.