I think my favorite quotation about war is one attributed to Trotsky: You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. It sums up the idea that you can run, but you can't hide--sooner or later, you must confront the fact that war keeps coming round again, and that, eventually, it will affect every one of us, one way or another.
Pacifism is an emotionally attractive ideology, and condemnation of war is very easy. Temperamentally, I much prefer this stance. I have always had a deep wish that war could be abolished somehow--that it would go away, that the lion would lie down with the lamb in the Peaceable Kingdom. Anyone who does not see war as horrific is simply not confronting reality.
But I have come to see that sometimes war is a grim and terrible necessity and the lesser of two evils. It is a profound challenge to decide when this is the case, and when it is not.
Here are some quotes on the subject of war which I have selected as particularly interesting. Some are quite well-known; others were new to me. There are certain themes that keep repeating, although the speakers are from different eras. I find that interesting, too. Perhaps you will, also.
Right is more precious than peace. -- Woodrow Wilson
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. -- John Stuart Mill
All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. -- Edmund Burke
If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. -- Winston Churchill
You can have peace, or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once. -- Robert A. Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
If we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. -- George Washington
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. -- Winston Churchill
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget ye were our countrymen. -- Samuel Adams
God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it. -- Daniel Webster
History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid. -- President Dwight Eisenhower
Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others. -- Alexander Hamilton
Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war!) -- Flavius Vegetius Renatus (ca 390 AD)
Superior firepower is an invaluable tool when entering negotiations. -- General George S. Patton
No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence. -- Woodrow Wilson
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. -- Dwight David Eisenhower
Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die. -- Herbert Hoover
You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. -- Margaret Thatcher
We know we can't beat you on the battlefield, but we can beat you on the streets of New York Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. -- North Vietnamese camp commander, Son Tay POW camp to Commander Paul Galanti, U.S. Navy, American POW.