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Utopia

Sir Thomas More

War

Slaves, Euthanasia, Marriage, Treaties

Religion

Summary

Utopians hate war and try to avoid it at all costs. They find no glory in the practice of killing, though they do constantly train and if pressed prove a mighty enemy. They engage in warfare only to protect themselves, their friends, or to free oppressed peoples.

Utopians would rather use cunning to win wars than brute strength. They consider strength to be a trait belonging to all animals, while only humans are intelligent. Thus, manly victories come through intelligent maneuverings rather than direct attacks. When a declaration of war is made, the Utopians first rely on propaganda; they secretly put up posters in enemy territory offering huge rewards for the assassination of the enemy leaders. They offer similar rewards to any of those leaders who betray their fellows. Other nations condemn this behavior as dishonorable; the Utopians defend it with the argument that they are in fact humane, ending massive wars with very little bloodshed. Other tactics include causing dissension by, for example, promising the throne to an enemy ruler's brother if that brother will support the Utopian cause. In helping their friends, Utopians do not like to risk their own citizens, but they are unstinting in providing money and material.

When it is necessary for the Utopians to fight, they hire mercenaries, the Zapoletes, at unbeatable prices, and send their own generals to lead them. As a last resort, the Utopians themselves will fight. No Utopian is ever forcefully conscripted except in the case that Utopia itself should be invaded. Wives are allowed to accompany their husbands to war, fighting side by side. In battle, Utopians are dogged and tireless, buoyed as they are by the Utopian values instilled in them from childhood. In the event of victory, the Utopians never let things degenerate into a massacre. While fighting, they act to the best of their ability not to destroy the enemy's land or soil.

Commentary

The Utopian methods of war seem insane and dishonorable to More, Giles, and virtually everyone who comes in contact with them. Yet the Utopian hatred of war and unorthodox tactics have an origin in Erasmus's treatise condemning the legitimacy of warfare, Sweet is War. In the Utopian view, only reason separates man from animals, so cunning tricks that save lives are in fact more "manly" than a love of the glory of battle. It is interesting to note, however, that the Utopian means of winning war is entirely dependent on their ideal situation, situation meaning their isolation and ability to generate a great surplus in trade. The Utopians can thus follow their inclinations in warfare to perfection, using their money to hire mercenaries, distribute propaganda, and sow dissension in the enemy. But without this trade imbalance, which was created by Thomas More with a stroke of his pen, it is hard to see how the Utopians' war making methods could be successful. Still, perhaps it is not the success of the Utopian methods that is ultimately important. It is, rather, that in Utopia an alternative to standard European war practices is offered. These practices seem like folly, but it is the argument of Erasmus and Thomas More that the more closely something accords with Christianity, the more like folly it will seem, even though it is in fact quite wise.

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