The phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum is adapted from a statement found in Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus‘s tract De Re Militari (4th or 5th century AD), in which the actual phrasing is Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum (“Therefore let him who desires peace get ready for war.”). The idea which it conveys also appears in earlier works such as Plato‘s Nomoi (Laws) and the Chinese Shi Ji. The phrase presents the counter-intuitive insight that the conditions of peace are often preserved by a readiness to make war when necessitated.
Whatever the source, the adage has become a living vocabulary item itself, used in the production of different ideas in a number of languages.
- Everyone knows the adage… Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, Si vis bellum para pacem.
In other words, a leader who is planning a war should put other nations off guard by cultivating peace. Conversely, another interpretation could be that preparing for peace may lead another party to wage war.
Si vis pacem para pactum
The idea of ensuring peace by deterring warlike powers through armaments took an ominous turn in the 20th century with the increased militarism of Nazi Germany and other Axis Powers, suggesting that perhaps merely being prepared for war is not enough and that it is necessary to wage war in order to deter war. In the United States, the National Arbitration and Peace Congress of 1907, presided over by Andrew Carnegie, had addressed this issue years earlier:
- These vast armaments on land and water are being defended as a means, not to wage war, but to prevent war…. there is a safer way … it requires only the consent and the good-will of the governments. Today they say …. If you want peace, prepare for war. This Congress says in behalf of the people: Si vis pacem, para pactum, if you want peace, agree to keep the peace.
Si vis pacem fac bellum
“If you want peace, make war”. The solution does not cover the case of the nation that does not desire peace. Imperial Germany went to war in 1914 and was castigated by Richard Grelling, a German-Jewish pacifist, in J’Accuse (1915). In 1918 Grelling wrote again, this time as an expatriate in Switzerland. Citing Woodrow Wilson‘s “The world must be safe for democracy” speech before Congress on April 2, 1917, Grelling says:
- When all other means fail, … the liberation of the world from military domination can in the extreme case only take place by battle. … in place of si vis pacem para bellum a similarly sounding principle … may become a necessity: Si vis pacem, fac bellum.
Si vis pacem para pacem
“If you want peace, prepare for peace.” The great wars of the 19th and 20th centuries were opposed by the philosophy of pacifism, which in the 19th century was associated with early socialism, even though the socialism of the 20th century often lacked pacifistic tendencies, preaching violent revolution instead. The pacifism that opposed the world wars traced its lineage to Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin, an early French socialist and one of the founders of Saint-Simonianism. As early as April 2, 1841, he had said in a letter to General Saint-Cyr Nugues:
- Le fameux dicton … me semble beaucoup moins vrai, pour le XIXe siècle, que Si vis pacem, para pacem.
- The famous dictum … seems to me much less true, for the 19th century, than Si vis pacem, para pacem.
with reference to Algeria. By way of elucidation Enfantin goes on to say that war could have been avoided if a proper study of Algeria had been made.
Read the rest here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si_vis_pacem,_para_bellum