One of the most important reasons for reading CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letters (and its 'follow-up', Screwtape Proposes a Toast) is to understand the difference between senior demons whose behaviour is strategic and oriented towards maximising the harvest of damned souls; and the low level minion types of demon - who are short-termist, impulsive, destructive theiving, lustful, sadistic etc. The value is that most people assume that demons work in the latter way - and thereby fundamental misunderstand and misinterpret the past six or so decades in The West.
A particular key moment in the Letters comes when the apprentice Wormwood gets excited at the prospect of war; but his 'uncle' Screwtape - the senior tempter and strategist - points out that while war is delightful in terms of human suffering, from a strategic demonic perspective war is often counter-productive, and 'peace' (comfort, convenience, idleness, affluence etc) is preferable.
When I told you not to fill your letters with rubbish about the war, I
meant, of course, that I did not want to have your rather infantile
rhapsodies about the death of men and the destruction of cities. In so
far as the war really concerns the spiritual state of the patient, I
naturally want full reports. And on this aspect you seem singularly
obtuse. Thus you tell me with glee that there is reason to expect heavy
air raids on the town where the creature lives.
This is a crying
example of something I have complained about already - your readiness to
forget the main point in your immediate enjoyment of human suffering.
Do you not know that bombs kill men? Or do you not realise that the
patient's death, at this moment, is precisely what we want to avoid?
[Note ' the patient' is what Screwtape calls the human that Wormwoord is trying to corrupt.]
has escaped the worldly friends with whom you tried to entangle him; he
has "fallen in love" with a very Christian woman and is temporarily
immune from your attacks on his chastity; and the various methods of
corrupting his spiritual life which we have been trying are so far
unsuccessful. At the present moment, as the full impact of the war draws
nearer and his worldly hopes take a proportionately lower place in his
mind, full of his defence work, full of the girl, forced to attend to
his neighbours more than he has ever done before and liking it more than
he expected, "taken out of himself" as the humans say, and daily
increasing in conscious dependence on the Enemy, he will almost
certainly be lost to us if he is killed tonight.
[Note: The Enemy is what Screwtape calls God - since the perspective of the book is the inverted one of demons.]
This is so obvious that
I am ashamed to write it. I sometimes wonder if you young fiends are
not kept out on temptation-duty too long at a time - if you are not in
some danger of becoming infected by the sentiments and values of the
humans among whom you work. They, of course, do tend to regard death as
the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we
have taught them to do so.
Do not let us be infected by our own
propaganda. I know it seems strange that your chief aim at the moment
should be the very same thing for which the patient's lover and his
mother are praying - namely his bodily safety. But so it is; you should
be guarding him like the apple of your eye. If he dies now, you lose
him. If he survives the war, there is always hope.
This is vital to understand in our materialist Western world - although the junior apprentice demons may get 'carried away' with delight in human suffering; the demonic strategists have recognised that war, socio-economic collapse, epidemics, starvation and the like are counter-productive.
The infliction of mass extreme human suffering was thoroughly tried out in the early twentieth century with the Russian Revolution, Communism generally and the 1914-18 and 39-45 wars, and one major result was to trigger a massive spiritual-Christian revival - just as Screwtape warned.
Since 1945, a new demonic strategy has been in place (described in detail in '...Proposes a Toast'), Christianity has been in continual decline down to its current level of near-extinction; and the other remaining spiritual perspectives in modernity are either ineffectual, or else thoroughly assimilated to the demonic agenda - of lulling and gradualism: SDI = Subversion, Destruction and - ultimately - Inversion of The Good (Truth, Beauty, Virtue) and all positive values.