Why to play fair in war, especially cold wars

So, recently on facebook on the Heinlein discussion group I had discussed the fundamental hypocrisy of the USA threatening the USSR over the missiles they placed in cuba when we had missiles placed in europe equally close to the USSR and ready to threaten their homes.

Someone in the group had said essentially that one should not try to play fair in war, that you should do whatever you can do to win.

Now, shortly after this I decided to take a facebreak, so I never posted my rebuttal there. However, I”m going to post it here, because I think it’s a important idea to think about.

No, you should not take unfair advantage, *especially* in a cold war. Even Heinlein recognized this – in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress he did not have the colonists drop their kinetic energy weapons on every city in the world even though they clearly could have wiped out 90% of humanity with the first drop. Prof’s reason was sanity itself “Whenever possible, always leave room for your enemy to become your friend.”. The same sanity appears in Crimson Tide “The enemy is war itself”.

This is *especially* important in the nuclear age, but it was important even before then. A endless serious of escalations will eventually leave everybody blind and will lead to a never-ending war. The USA unfortunately has a thuggish attitude when it comes to the rest of the world and has no problem with using force when it’s not appropriate. For this, we leave our children with a unpayable debt- eventually our country will be forced to default or disband, or we will need to change the way we think about money. For this, we have the ability to wipe all humanity off earth just by launching a third of the fusion weapons we have mounted on ICBMs. (One might say one proof there is a God is that WWIII hasn’t happened – although this may just prove that quantum immortality is a fact)

You cannot do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes you have to accept that losing now is better than losing later in a much larger way. The Geneva Conventions, which the USA has violated over and over, recognize this fact, as well as the fact that civilians should not be forced to suffer because of the awfulness of leaders. Unfortunately because we have the biggest gun, our government can not be put in the slammer, but that is undoubtedly where it belongs for repeated crimes against humanity.

I will also mention that in a cold war, it’s *especially* important to play fair. The best outcome of a cold war is massive technological innovation and no actual hostilities. The USA and the USSR didn’t manage this – we had a series of proxy wars that killed millions and did untold damage to ecosystems. Hopefully a future performance test between collectivism and individualism will be less damaging to the world and the people in it.

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