I believe I first heard the quote “to the victor belongs the spoils” as something said in a Latin class. It always intrigued me because of the word “spoils.” I associated the word spoils with things that were spoiled like spoiled milk or bratty spoiled children. I wondered why someone who won the battle would want those types of things.
Lots of things like that bothered me as I grew up but not to the extent they intruded on my life. Instead of inquiring more about them I just let them wander about my mind. Eventually I discovered the true meaning of that expression which is that the winner takes whatever he wants. I associated it with Julius Caesar although others suggest it came from an American politician in the early 1800s.
We see it at play in China today where it is working on destroying the Muslim culture and beliefs off the many million Uighurs living within its borders or as it did in the mid-twentieth century when it conquered Tibet.
I suggest another way to understand the concept is the saying: “might makes right.” According to the magic of the internet that expression comes from Thucydides. “The idea of “might makes right” may be attributed to Greek historian Thucydides, who wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War. In the work, you will find these words: [R]ight, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
Those not up to date with the Greek philosophers may be more familiar with an American one named Gene Autry who suggested the same thing in a more folksy manner:
“Ridin’ the range once more, Totin’ my old .44. Where you sleep out every night, And the only law is right, Back in the saddle again.”
Might gives the victory and the victor decides what is right – that is the victor makes the law and the law tells us what is right. Obviously it is all removed from the idea of moral right. During the Ukrainian famine forced on it by Russia, thugs went from house to house stripping from each every bit of food. My wife’s mother hid the little food she had under a rock in a river.
A book just read tells of how one Ukrainian mother of ten children had six die of starvation. The Bolsheviks might gave it the right to do this but ethically and morally it was wrong.
Hitler used the same approach to the Jews taking it one step further. Where Stalin hoped his cruelty would eradicate Ukrainians, Hitler ensured that his would. He would not wait until Jews starved to death, as many did, he decide to speed things up by killing them with gas and other hideous ways.
Throughout history the winner decided the fate of the losers. Like in the Katyn Forest many times the losers were executed. On other occasions the losers were driven from the land. It is with this in mind that the Israeli and Palestinian situation should be examined. Had Israel followed the traditional course it would have pushed all the opposition from its newly grasped land. This it did not do, perhaps at the time it may have not had the ability to do so.
It is now stuck with the enemy within. It has slowly entrapped itself into a conundrum. It can no longer do what it could have done and now despite all its wealth and power it is caught in an endless cycle of violence. It finds itself with a strong hand of cards when it comes to war; but a weak hand when it comes to peace. For it, no longer are the spoils available.