On Keith’s post below: Note that something can be a monument to “man’s” (collective) stupidity without reflecting stupidity on the part of any actual individual or group. As Robert Frank says, lots of behaviors are smart for (every) one, even if they’re dumb for all.
War (in this respect like incarceration) always reflects the failure of deterrence. Surely there was a better outcome available to both sides. But that doesn’t mean that a better outcome was available to either side through its own action. If the war ends in more or less a draw, it’s possible that each side does better by fighting than it could have done by surrendering. If the war ends in total defeat for one side, then in retrospect that side would have been better off not fighting. But hindsight is better than foresight. And the winner sometimes – though not always – gets a prize worth fighting for, or at least avoids an outcome worth fighting to prevent.
Of course, this wouldn’t be true if people on both sides treated losses on the other side as bad and important.
Footnote Note to EU-haters: How many people died in European wars in the sixty-three years before the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950? And how many have died in the sixty-three years since? I rest my case.