In this paper, originally presented as a talk to “The Barbarisation of Warfare” conference, held at the University of Wolverhampton on 27–28 June 2005, I indicate that if warfare is perceived as barbaric today – possibly more so than in the past – then this has more to do with our subjective confusion as to the purpose and direction of contemporary society, as well as the conflicts produced by it, than by any objective index of barbarism. While all sides in recent conflicts appear to have behaved in a degenerate or degrading manner to one another, it is worth noting that much of this perception stems from a Western inability to comprehend suicide as sacrifice, due to the demise of purpose and commitment, as well as a refusal to confront the corrosion and corruption of Western culture, and in particular the confusion and conflation of the public–private divide, driven from the top of society down. Unfortunately, a well-meaning but moralistic focus on acts of barbarism has encouraged a less than critical mindset to develop, which seeks affirmation in particular events, irrespective of evidence. This approach also fails to build a robust and effective political challenge to those who have argued for Western intervention in the affairs of other states. Indeed, these two outlooks can often exist side-by-side, thereby revealing their inner bankruptcy.of depravity or western fixations?