Utopians in War


“It is well that war is so terrible…. or we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee  For all the problems war has solved (slavery, oppression, Genocide, Communism, Fascism, and Nazism) it is still the terrible act of taking precious God given life.  Utopia is the “perfect world” but as its name shows it really is “nowhere.” It represents a land where humanity thrives on a strict moral code and can advance to where they are above what normal society exists at.  In the Utopian world, war still exists, it would be insane to assume we could ever be rid of war. However, there are good ways and bad ways to deal with war. The Utopians have their own way of dealing with war. Many aspects of the Utopian methodology of dealing with war can be extrapolated and examined.  As it is being examined we can learn from the methods of the Utopians to reduce number of wars, and multitudes of atrocities in wars. As we learn what the “perfect society” would do, we could take a step closer to becoming less flawed.

One aspect of Utopian society that I find fascinating is their methodology of dealing with war.  The Utopians have a truly distinctive approach to war. They avoid war altogether, avoiding alliances and treaties.  They use their influence in the area surrounding them to play others against themselves, turning the war not upon themselves, but on their enemies.  As brilliant as this is, it is a fictional concept, history has shown several examples of how methods the Utopians use play out in actuality.

Of the Utopian Art of War

“They detest war as a very brutal thing, and which, to the reproach of human nature, is more practiced by men than by any sort of beasts.” (More 87)  The Utopians despise war and all forms of bloody conflict, but they train not only their men, but their women as well in the arts of combat. They believe that however wrong war is, they should be able to defend themselves and defend others.  In war, they do not search for glory as many other cultures do, nor do they take pride in the slaughter of peoples. In fact, they reward those who are capable of stopping conflict before it turns to violence. “And in no victory do they glory so much as in that which is gained by dexterity and good conduct without bloodshed.  In such cases they appoint public triumphs, and erect trophies to the honor of those who have succeeded.” (More 90) The Utopians abhor war to the point that when they are involved in a war they try to limit the brutality to a minimum. Utopian warriors try to capture enemies rather than kill them, physically injuring their enemies, sometimes go as far as to maim, before they kill them, and they only kill as a last resort.  This does not show cowardice and cruelty, it shows mercy. Once war is over they return the prisoners of war happily as long as they are given restitution to make up for any damages they have sustained. If they do, their people are returned, and if they don’t they are kept as slaves. However, Utopia slaves are taken care of very well I daresay any would complain. “When a war is ended, they do not oblige their friends to reimburse their expenses; but they obtain from them of the conquered, either in money, which they keep for the next occasion, or in lands, out of which a constant revenue is to be paid them.”  (More 97) That being said, the Utopians are able to maintain their wealth and continue on with their lives as if war had never occurred.

At an initial preconception the Utopian methods of dealing with war seem cowardly, it could be ventured to say the Utopians are cowards and isolate themselves because they think themselves better than everyone else.  While it is true that the Utopians believe themselves superior to other culture or people, little else is true in the previous sentence. The Utopians are not cowardly, they are self-preserving. But another thing is that when one of their trading partners is at war they will aid them.  They will send supplies, mercenary soldiers, silver, and gold. They lend battlefield help, and countless other aids when helping a trading partner. However when an “ally” decides to go to war on a country the Utopians will not aid proposed conquerors, they withdraw aid from them, and in extreme circumstances will end trade with the nation as a last resort.  This is a very firm sound message; the Utopians are the most pleasant trading partners known, they give freely what they have in surplus and require small payment for the large amount they give. If the Utopians deny you trade you lose a valuable commodity, and you will probably lose more than you could gain from a conquest. However, the Utopians usually do not rashly take away trade, and in the case of a war between any nations Utopia is involved with, they send ambassadors to settle disputes.  Being from Utopia, these ambassadors are regarded as very adept decision makers. They use ambassadors to stop a war before it begins. If the Utopian ambassadors fail, then the Utopians must decide if they are to aid one of the proponents of war. If they do, their ambassadors oversee the aid in the nation they are supporting. Usually through the efforts of the Utopians, the side they support wins.

Of Their Use of Mercenaries

When the Utopians go to war they have three basic steps in which they win, or end a war.  First, they hire mercenaries. The Utopians hire their mercenaries from a land called Zapolet.  They live five-hundred miles east of Utopia. “The Zapolets are a rude, wild, fierce nation, who delight in the woods and the rocks, among which they were born and bred up.  They are hardened both against heat, cold, labor, and know nothing of the delicacies of life. ” (More 92) These hardened barbarians fight with great courage and skill to whoever pays for them to do so.  Usually the Utopians hire these Zapolets to fight for them. The Zapolets have never fought for others when the Utopians have need for them. They have no sense of loyalty to an employer as long as they are paid, and their allegiance goes to the highest bidder.  The Utopians always have the Zapolets at their disposal because even if they are hired out by a country they will turn against their former employer if they are given the right incentive. Because no country has wealth quite like the Utopians, no one could turn the Zapolets against the Utopians in a war.  These men are used by the Utopians as foot soldiers. “They serve those that employ them with much courage and great fidelity.” (More 92) The mercenary army of the Zapolets acts as the first line of attack or defense in a Utopian war.

Of Their Use of Money and Power

While the Utopians hire out battlefield warriors, they use their stockpiles of gold and silver that they collect to bribe officers in the enemies’ armies, government, and monarchy.  In public places they offer money for the assassination of high ranking military officials, or the king/prince of the land. Also, money is used to pay off military commanders to command for the benefit of the Utopians and their allies; as well as to gather information on the strategies and inner workings of the country they are fighting.  Finally, they use espionage to incite rebellion, and turn the masses away from the government of their enemies. They do this because if the people are rioting, a country cannot fight a war away from shores when a second war is going on, on their shores. These cloak and dagger tactics are arguably the most effective in ending a war.

Of Their Own Mettle

The last resort the Utopians use in war is only reserved for those enemies who are directly at war with Utopia.  That resort is actually fighting themselves. Many times they send their own men to command the armies of others.  Their allies, knowing that the Utopians are the smartest and most skilled at war freely give them command. “They join a few of their own people, and send some man of eminent and approved virtue to command in chief.” (More 93)  The Utopians also send warriors who volunteer to fight for their allies, but this seldom occurs. The Utopians are all trained in the art combat, learning how to shoot arrows with much precision, as well as becoming proficient in using a poleaxe, the primary utopian weapon.   Their cities are well fortified against attack. Each contains a two year supply of food and materials to live off of. This being said, for at least two years the Utopians will not need to change their lifestyle under siege. I daresay a conquering army could conquer an entire island of cities each build to withstand a two year long siege.  Even the Utopian water supply is guarded, and the cities have wells. Inside the city limits the people could want for nothing while they fought off invaders. In addition, the Utopians could only be reached by a nation with a navy, and a navy that knows the only way to get into the Utopian bay that is guarded by a circle of very sharp, ship-destroying rocks.   Only a country who has traded with Utopia, and has had close relations with Utopia could hope to conquer them, but a city that trades closely with Utopia is unlikely to attempt to conquer them. With these three fail-safes the Utopians had been able to repel any enemy they had faced up to the time Raphael Hythloday visited them.

Evidenced by the fact that the Utopians defended their land for hundreds of years gave testimony to their system.  However, their system only is theoretical. Each of their three steps has flaws, and there are several opportunities to stop the Utopians and decimate them.  While the Utopians seem to have the perfect approach to war, there is a flaw in every system.

Of Their Flaws and Fail-Safes

The Utopians use mercenaries as their most effective weapon.  Mercenaries are professional soldiers hired to fight in a foreign army.  (Dictionary.com) As long as they are paid or supplied properly, they will fight.  The problem with mercenaries is that their loyalty only lasts as long as your pockets remain deep.  If the Utopians could no longer pay for the services of their mercenary Zapolets, they would not fight for them and then the Utopians would not have a standing army.  Also, if enemies the Utopians are at war with pay the mercenaries more than the Utopians do, it will sway the loyalty of the mercenaries and leave the Utopians to fight more enemies and none left to buy.   Lastly, history has evidenced that mercenaries are only as good as their lust for gold is. A mercenary neither thinks of glory for god nor country, nor do they fight to protect their lands, they fight solely for money.  That being so, a mercenary would run rather than die, unless they are gun-ho about battlefield glory. During the United States Revolutionary War the British Army hired German soldiers to help quell “the rebellion.” The Hessian Soldiers hired by the British Crown were faulty, they were undisciplined and inexperienced, they sold the British government a lie, a lie that cost dearly to them.  The Hessian soldiers did not live up to expectations. Because they were flawed, they failed to stop the Revolution. Many deserted the British army, wasting King George’s Money. Because of that, and other more important contributing factors, the British lost the war. (lookandlearn.com) Again, mercenaries failed in the First Punic war. The Punic Wars were a series of wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C. to 146 B.C., during these wars Carthage, a city who dominated trade in their region, paid for mercenary armies to fight for them.  Rome was a powerhouse at the time, and used their influence to cut trade off from Carthage, because of that, money vanished quickly from the Carthage treasury. They failed repeatedly to pay their mercenary armies and in 241 B.C., the mercenary armies laid siege to Carthage. Ironically, the siege was lifted by a different army of mercenaries, who eventually lifted the siege, and were paid. (ancient.eu.com) These two examples show the fault in the use of hired soldiers, they solely fight for money and will turn on their employers if they are not paid, they desert if the conditions are too extreme for them, and can be bought upon false pretense, leading to disastrous results.  

As flawed as Mercenaries are, there are many benefits to them.  They are in fact a bought and paid for commodity that can be used up and bought again if need be.  And being the one controlling the money that the mercenaries will be paid, you have the opportunity to make terms, such as when they will be paid, or how much they will be paid.  If you promise pay upon results, you only pay the soldiers who survive, significantly reducing the money it takes to purchase an army. That is only one of many terms and conditions you can impress upon your mercenary army.  Lastly, a mercenary is a professional soldier. Key word professional. Most professionals are good at their jobs, having more skill and fighting experience than a country’s militia or army. Because you have professionals backing you, you have an extra advantage against your enemy.  Mercenaries are both good and bad, but they altogether are not as good as your own trained men who will fight with cause.

Espionage is a shady topic, riddled with moral and real world pros and cons.  Morally speaking, espionage is using lies and deceit to find information out about an enemy.  Once that information is found it can be used as leverage, to cause strife, incite rebellion, or as catalyst to broker a deal.  The only problem outside of morality is if you get caught in the act. Usually spies do not survive if they are caught spying. “They hurt no man whom they find disarmed, unless he is a spy.” (More 97)  However, if your moral code allows for spying on your enemies there are barely any problems. Another aspect of the Utopians behind the scenes method of winning wars is inciting rebellion. When you incite rebellion you create cause for the people of a nation to question their government and wish for change.  Sometimes the change you cause creates a revolution. The Utopians do this to turn the attention of their enemies away from the war and towards a rebellion at home, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Again the question of morals transpires in the pros and cons of this method. But the only real flaw comes if your people are caught, and if the opposing nation attempts to do the same to you.  A third method the Utopians use is to offer bounty for the murder of high ranking officials in the government and the military of the opposing nation. For the third time, morals must be examined whether or not you can do this. However a pro is that if it works, a rebellion may occur and the war may stop altogether or become much easier to fight. A con is once again, if you are caught. The behind the scene methods used by the Utopians seem to be extremely effective, the only disadvantage to these methods, are as stated before: morality; the methods being used against you; and if you are caught.  The last concluding example is the most fighting, if an enemy discovers you are trying to assassinate their officials, they can use that as an example for other nations to rally to their cause against those who would incite rebellion, in this case the Utopians. If several countries rally together to attack the Utopians, things could quickly go south for them.

The last resort of the Utopians against a powerful enough enemy that can overpower their mercenaries and invade their island is to fight by themselves.  If a nation attacks the Utopians directly they neither ask nor require aid from any other nation, they simply rely on the volunteers of their own nation.  “They force no man to go into any foreign war against his will, so they do not hinder them at all.” (More 94) The Utopians are trained and all capable of fighting.  They all have adequate levels of skill both in archery and in the art of fighting using poleaxes. “Both horse and foot make great use of arrows, and are very expert.  They have no swords , but fight with a pole-axe that is both sharp and heavy, by which they thrust or strike down an enemy” (More 96) They have well-fortified cities, and enough food supplies to last two years of siege, they also have private water sources that cannot be contaminated.  Even though the men and women of Utopia are trained to fight, they are not soldiers, and pale in comparison to a standing army. A standing army is trained and professionalized, they know how to attack, lay siege and professionally fight. The Utopians do not force any man to fight but take those who volunteer to fight for them.  Only using volunteers is advantage in peace time, but a disadvantage in war time. Cultures who have standing armies and no wars to fight eventually die, the army grows tired of doing nothing, and are eventually turn on the government for jobs in the industry that they are employed in, when that happens, rebellions occur, and with no army to defend the government from the rebellion of the army, the government is in poor shape, leading to problems.  While a standing army is a benefit, is can also be a detriment. But when war comes to the shores of a nation that relies on volunteers, they will be much easier to conquer because they are not professionalized.

Of Their Proposed Pacification

As “perfect” as Utopia is in the mind of Raphael Hythloday, it would be easy to pacify the Utopians, you simply need to outlive them in a siege.  To conquer the Utopians you must first seal them away from the world, that would mean controlling the entrance to their bay and destroying all ships attempting to aid, or acquire aid on behalf of the Utopians.  Subsequently, you surprise the Utopians, sealing off communications with a blockade so they cannot send word and hire mercenaries. Next, you take control of the farmlands and lay siege to the cities. You make sure that using your own farmers, or the Utopian farmers, that your men can survive on the resources of the land of the Utopians and eventually starve them out.  Another very violent, but effective way to destroy the Utopians would be to burn the entire island, leaving no farmable land left. Any cities that are not consumed will eventually starve, due to lack of food. You simply create a blockade to allow no aid in. Once the Utopians are dead, dying, or starving you can simply march your army into the cities and plunder what gold, silver, and goods survive the fires.  Once that is done, the surviving Utopians are now at your mercy. They could become slaves, or you could kill them. I am sure there are other ways to go about destroying the Utopians, but I cannot think of any other ways, so that is how I would slay the Utopians.

Of the Closing

The Utopians loathe war, but it is an undeniable occurrence, when it comes to them, they excel at it, using their money and their influence to bring it to an end as soon as possible.  While the Utopian’s methodology of dealing with war is only possible under a certain set of conditions, conditions that are in a book, we can learn from it. We can take our knowledge and apply it.   Instead of waiting for a war to happen and relying solely on an army for protection we can adopt methods like training the general population in self-defense. That would both decrease crime and make it easier and grow people more accustomed to a draft in times of war.  Also we could use behind the scene tactics to stop wars before they begin. I am not saying that we should one hundred percent be like the Utopians in war, they have a very tragic fault, hubris, but we could be more like them. It would help us to grow.