Waugh’s Advice Quoted in Middle East Conflict

Conservative internet news site Newsmax carries an article (“Russia’s Presence a Bad Sign for Israel”) in which it considers the impact on Israel of Russia’s active entry into the civil war in Syria. Their correspondent, Herbert London, cites Evelyn Waugh in this vexing context:

Israelis, realize what Evelyn Waugh once noted, that “barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity.” Israel has experienced those atrocities with knifings on the street, often from unexpected quarters.

The quote comes from the concluding paragraph of Waugh’s Robbery Under Law (1939; p. 279; in U.S. entitled Mexico: An Object Lesson). Waugh was concerned that the political system in Mexico (in which leftist elements had excluded other parties such as more conservative groups) had lead to actions such as expropriation of private property–e.g., the oil industry–and suppression of the Roman Catholic church. His conclusion continued with some more advice which might be also helpful to the Israelis in their present situation:

Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together in peace; there is only a margin of effort left over for experiment however beneficent.

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