“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Si vis pacem, para bellum

For the past few months I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of Dr. Craig Wright, the creator of BitCoin under the moniker Satoshi Nakamoto. He shared the Latin quote above in a slack group and I’m reflecting on it today.

It’s counter intuitive, but it makes sense. A similar thing is shared in martial arts – one trains not to harm others, but for self-defense (peace). If others can see you are a trained fighter it reduces the likelihood of them initiating violence.

And so it is between nations. I read the biography of Terton Sogyal a few months ago which included some history of Tibet in the early 1900s. There were plans to modernise their army to improve national defense at that time, but they were never enacted. Not long after that they were invaded by the Chinese.

I also wanted to highlight Switzerland, where until 2010 all capable males were required to keep a Sig SG 550 and a Sig Sauer p229 at home or the local armory to provide for national defense. I do wonder how much of a role that played in Switzerland being able to remain neutral during both WW1 and WW2.

I’ve often questioned naively why countries needed to spend so much money on the military. This Latin quote gave me the answer.

Not too long ago I met someone from Cambodia who was sent to France alone by his parents when he was thirteen. This was in 1973. In 1976, because of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, he never saw his family again.


As I reflected more on the Latin phrase I realised how easy the phrase could be misconstrued to mean something else. I.e. “If you want to peace, have war.” I think there are a lot of examples of things that are counter intuitive, but are definitely not doublespeak. Preparing for war is very different from having war. Just as training to be a martial artist is very different from engaging in violence.

I used to think the idea of ‘patriotism’, especially when it came to pride for the military, was a horrific ideal. Where nations would have military parades to show off their latest weapons, fighter jets and bombs. I would think, “Does nobody realise what these weapons are designed to do? How can you celebrate the creation of such destruction? How can you glorify these weapons?” There’s no doubt that some have a more macho egotistical attitude to these weapons. But if the underlying motivation is actually peace, then I can start to understand a nation’s pride for their military.

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