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Engineers, war and civilisation


Mark Whitby's 'War and Peace' (NCE 29 April) and the subsequent letters from Sir Alan Harris and Lieutenant Colonel Ogden reminded me of the celebrated words of Thucydides (c.471-c.400 BC). He wrote in his History of the Peloponnesian War: 'That war is an evil is something that we all know, and it would be pointless to go on cataloguing all the disadvantages involved in it.'

All three of your contributors argue, with evident humanitarian concern, the question of the difference between the military and civil engineer in the context of the present situation in Kosovo and of war in general.

However, a far more important question arises when considering war and its consequences. It is that of an engineer's personal responsibility when he participates in the design or construction of a military project.

When those who are asked to work on military projects reflect seriously and as a matter of course on the true worth to mankind of the finished product, then humanity will have taken an important step towards the creation of a truly civilised world.

John B Slater (M), 12 rue Jean Maridor, 76800 St Etienne-du-Rouvray, France

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