Thursday, 4 August 2011

Distance always lends enlightenment

…if enough of the brutes had escaped the whole beastly business would have been to do again, with consequent loss of British and Sepoy lives. That’s something the moralists overlook (or more likely don’t give a dam about) when they cry: “Pity the beaten foe!” What they’re saying, in effect, is: “Kill our fellows tomorrow rather than the enemy today.” But they don’t care to have it put to them like that; they want their wars won clean and comfortable, with a clear conscience. (Their conscience being much more precious than their soldiers’ lives, you understand.) Well, that’s fine, if you’re sitting in the Liberal Club with a bellyful of port on top of your dinner, but if you rang the bell and it was answered not by a steward with a napkin but an Akali with a tulwar, you might change your mind. Distance always lends enlightenment to the view, I’ve noticed.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light, pp.344-5, Fontana Paperback edition, 1991.

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