It’s time to debunk some myths
An end to all wars - who wouldn’t want that? Pretty well everyone I’d say. Imagine it - to declare War on War itself - to end the violence, the stop the bombs. It’s a worthy goal - an altruistic and worthy desire. But is it achievable? Can we declare war on War - and win? It has to be one of the most important questions of the twenty-first century.
In order to find an answer to this question, we must first clear away the debris of humanity’s failed experience. In other words, we need to realize that there are a number of myths, which are used - intentionally or otherwise - to perpetuate war. Call it propaganda if you like, but there are basic beliefs or assumptions that are the justification for ordinary people to give their support, and sometimes their lives, for war.
Might is Right
Possibly the most subtle myth is not even realized by many people to be an influencer in war. The old belief that ‘Might is Right’. Known in medieval times as ‘Trial or combat’ or ‘Trial by Battle’. It is subtle because few people consciously fight a war on the basis that they will win ‘because they are right’. However, not many countries will actually go into battle unless they see some hope of success. Fundamentally, the expectation is that superior strength, superior morals, and/or superior technology will win the day. This aligns also with ‘God is on our side’, which although dealt with separately, is fundamentally part of the same problem.
Historically, of course, the ‘victor’ in a conflict will always be able to claim that they were the ‘correct’ or ‘justifiable’ side. Had Nazi Germany won the Second World War, no doubt this would have been very clearly explained to us all.
In actual fact, ‘Might’ and ‘Right’ are unrelated. Sometimes the stronger or the better (fighter) may be right - and sometimes not.
The biggest problem with this is that every time a war is fought, for whatever reason, it reinforces this belief and strengthens the justification for another conflict. Further, it reinforces the belief that force is a justified means for attaining some outcome that a country or nation desires.
God is on our side
As far back as any can remember, all God-fearing nations prayed for success in their battles against their opponents. Today, suicide bombers pray to God as they go about their terrible acts of violence, just as nations pray to God as their fighter planes and rockets cut across the sky on their way to ‘deploy’ their ‘payloads’.
In fact, of course, God may have sympathy for either or both sides, and loves every single soldier, pilot, general or child on the earth. We are all God’s children. It is laughable to imagine for one minute that God will appreciate us killing another of God’s children - especially when they are children.
What heaven really sanctions the killing of adults or children who are innocent bystanders in someone else’s war? What God do you really imagine sanctions us playing God with others’ lives?
In a sense, the greatest abuse here is not even the innocent child victim of an adult’s war, but the use and abuse of God for the selfish benefit of Man.
War Solves Problems
This is probably the craziest belief, though one of the most popular and visible. The facts completely discredit this view, yet the view doggedly remains with us.
Considering all of the nations and countries on this small planet of ours, there has never been a time in recorded history when there have been no wars - taking into account civil, revolutionary, and ‘internal’ wars. Big ones get media coverage - if they sell enough papers - small ones mostly are ignored unless you happen to be unfortunate enough to be involved.
They called the First World War the ‘War to end all wars’. Wrong. America has just declared ‘War on Terror’ - yet nothing has really changed. Other wars are still raging elsewhere, and others are set to blow up. It may be argued that many of the problems in the Middle East are due to the World War Two victors’ activities and involvements in the area afterwards. Regardless of this, that war did no more than the ‘first’ one to create an environment of perpetual peace. The war in Iraq can hardly be classified as the first step in global peace.
If any war truly solved our problems then we’d have no need for further wars. And, we’d have no poverty - which is a classic cause and effect of war, but we’ll leave that argument alone in this particular article. Probably.
The End Justifies The Means
This might be titled, ‘Collateral Damage is OK’. People are hurt in war. Innocent people as well as ‘guilty’ ones. While governments sanitize situations with reports such as ‘hardware deployment generated some collateral damage’, the reality is that non-military people got killed or had their homes destroyed, or their arms blown off.
It is a fact of war that people will be hurt and that a proportion of them will be unrelated to the ‘issue’ being fought over. These are the unfortunates who are in the line of fire, or who must pay the price for the greater good and so forth. Of course we feel most for the innocent babe in arms without parents, or the young girl who has been killed by a shell, but the ‘collateral damage’ is much greater than that. Most obvious are the ten thousand children killed by landmines in areas where the war has long finished - countless more are maimed. Collateral Damage. Or the terror suspects who are detained ‘for the good of the country’ and tortured (physically or mentally) because of what they know or despite what they don’t. Collateral Damage. Or the military themselves. Good men and women who come back from action to live the rest of their lives being tortured by flash backs, or personality disorders - driven to harm themselves or others. Collateral Damage. Or the families and friends of servicemen who are killed or injured who must carry on with their lives as best they can. Collateral Damage.
The basis of our legal system (in Australia as it is in the U.K. and the U.S.) is that it is better to let a guilty person go than to punish an innocent one. This is not the case in war.
One day the use of Nuclear or Biological weapons is bound to occur simply because of the ‘end justifies the means’ philosophy.
Make Good Afterwards
This occurred in Japan after the Second World War. It happens often - even within the country who ‘wins’ the war. Bring the boys home and try to repair the damage. Plenty of Vietnam War veterans have very specific views on the success of the ‘make-good’ policy. I am sad to say that even as I write this, a veteran in our general area recently took his own life - attributable to the failure of us all to help ‘make-good’ his life. As mentioned above when dealing with collateral damage, many servicemen return with emotional problems that cause violence in the home and the community. There could be many reasons for this, but the sad fact is that in many cases you cannot ‘make it up to people’ afterwards. Veterans of all wars are scarred. Victims of all wars are scarred.
When a nuclear device is used in anger (as was the case in Japan by the U.S.) the pieces take a long time to pick up. They are still scattered across the landscape - and the gene pool. Next time something like this happens there may be no pieces big enough to pick up. When the next war torn country uses a biological weapon there may be no turning back.
Smartbombs Avoid Innocent Victims
The only thing that avoids innocent victims are Smart Politicians. The technology of killing has not yet fulfilled the promise of targeted destruction. The situation may have improved - it may have not. This is hard to measure given that the first casualty of war is, as they say, truth and that all information in or about war is necessarily coloured by the provider.
But even if bombs - having GPS navigation and so forth - are smart enough to always hit the specific target required, still innocent (or at least non-targeted) lives are affected or lost. If the baddies position their own people around missile silos, then the goodies are going to kill or at least injure them. It’s not even about fault here; it’s just a fact that must be faced. No matter how good the technology, it will never avoid the suffering of the innocent. But we are back to collateral damage again.
This is another common justification for war. It is regrettable, but we have to go to war. This is a war we have to fight. It’s a job that must be done.There is no choice.
This is a good motivator. Provide the general public with only one real choice, and they will choose it. It’s also called the Bishop’s Gambit. Either we fight this war or the terrorists (read baddie of the year) will destroy our lives/livelihood.
Lets get this straight. There are no necessary evils. There are failures - failure to resolve issues, failures to prevent problems, failures to communicate, and failures to foster and support. But even these are not necessary failures or even unavoidable ones. They are a product of an egocentric world that puts the self on the pedestal and God in a box.
What actually causes war? Apart from a twenty-eight-page analysis, which I do not intend to do, there are some very simple reasons. When the ‘have-nots’ try to get what the ‘haves’ have - you get war. When ordinary people are misguided by a clever but power-hungry leader - you get war. When countries feed a tyrant with resources and weaponry - you get war. Happy people do not start wars. It is very important to understand, especially in this day and age that people do not follow terrorist leaders because the world is fair and a communal village working for the wellbeing of each member.
There will always be bad people, but they are not really the problem. The problem is that good people, given the conditions in the world, see some justification in following them. This is the difference between isolated violence and full-scale war.
So war is the result of a failure to address the world’s big problems. It is not a necessary evil.
The Axe Murderer In Your Home
This is a common argument thrown against anyone who advocates an end to war. The argument runs along the line that if an axe murderer entered your home and was going to kill your kids, you would be justified in killing them, and on that basis it is similarly justifiable to go to war against someone.
On the face of it, I’d agree. But looking deeper, it makes little sense. If I were in that position, I would much prefer to avoid the confrontation. The axe murderer would have some reason for picking out my house - so if I were a better person than I am, I might be able to argue that he would never have held such a grudge. But lets assume he’s there for money - say for drugs, and he doesn’t even know me.
In this case I’d do whatever I had to. Talk him out of it, frighten him out of it, wound him, disable him, try to get the family away - as a last resort I’d kill him. As a last resort.
But if, in order to stop him, I had to kill my next door neighbours daughter - would that be justifiable? To save two children, would it be justifiable to kill a different one - one who had nothing to do with the situation? Being a hypothetical example, I see nothing wrong with bringing in this complication because this complication is the one that exists every day, every hour, and every second in every war.
Suddenly the argument begins to experience some problems. To kill someone else’s innocent child to save your own child - I think most people who find this a much more difficult problem to face, especially if faced with it in reality rather than in theory.
This axe murderer argument, when put into this realistic context, becomes far less useful as a justification for war.
Peace can come from Violence.
The first thing that comes to mind here is that you reap what you sow. Plant daffodils and that is what will grow - not watermelons. Violence is not a good way to demonstrate your ethical or moral superiority over others. Bullets bring the peace of death - but they do not quell rebellion. The only peace that could come from war is the silent nuclear peace of a dead planet.
Shoot a father and the son has a grudge. Destroy a village and the villagers become even more your enemy than before. This is one of the main reasons that Wars never really solve problems. You cannot destroy one negative emotion with another. Hate breeds hate. Intolerance breeds intolerance. Prejudice breeds prejudice. If you want to antidote the evil in the world then you must use a different medicine - love. It might sound sixties-ish, or like flower power, but it still true. Violence is the opposite of peace - you cannot dispense it with a bullet.
War is a Nation event - not a personal one.
When you kill your neighbour it is murder. How is it not murder because your two countries are ‘at war’? Government sanctioned murder, torture, vandalism are war. War is legitimised violence. All this is true. But don’t ever think that it is not personal. Because every single mother of a dead soldier know just how personal it is. Every single child who has just lost its mother knows how personal it is.
I have read media articles that criticize the display of death and destruction because it can be used as ‘propaganda’. But the truth is that everyone is someone’s son or daughter. The ‘foreigner’ whose arm is blown off suffers as much as your own kith and kin. Even the terrorist bomber does his job in the (mistaken) belief that it is of some good, and even that terrorist bomber’s family suffer the loss.
When Turkish and Australian troops met in services around the Anzac Day remembrances, there was respect and compassion on both sides. Though most would have killed the other all those years ago, today they can meet as human beings united by a common horror. Each side was touched by a common humanity that had to be suppressed at the time, but which over the years has been allowed to surface. Don’t ever think that war is impersonal. It might be the act of nations but every act is very, very personal.
There have always been wars so ...
Wars are unavoidable - there have always been wars and there always will. You just have to fight them and get on with it - a terrible admission of failure, of evolutionary death. To believe this is to believe that we have reached the pinnacle of human achievement. Oh sorrow!
It’s true that there have always been wars, and poverty, and violence. What better motivation to improve the world. What higher or more nobler cause is there, then, than to abandon this fruitless savagery for the alternative - peace.
The argument that because we have engaged in destructive, selfish, egocentric, ungodly behaviour in the past then this must continue in the future is completely contrary to the belief in either evolution or the Divine.
From an evolutionary point of view, destructive behaviour can only lead to destruction, and a failure to change to our extinction as a species. But human beings are excellent adaptors and have become the dominant species for this reason. The concept that wars will continue merely because we have perpetuated them up to this time is ludicrous.
From the religious or spiritual point of view, the evil that is self-over-God is one that will ultimately be challenged. Different religious approaches have different views here, but universally all followers of God recognise the unbounded capabilities of the Divine, and the infinite power of prayer. To assume that we cannot rise from evil is to deny the power of God and to succumb to the will of Satan. God does not change - only our relationship with God changes dependent on our ability to accept Him. (or Her!) To accept War as a permanent part of our future is to deny the Divine that reaches out to us.
So all of these myths are debunked. At least, that is my belief. Which leaves us with the question of whether or not the War on War can be won. Can there be global peace?
The first step to global peace is to accept that it is possible, and this can only happen once we reject the justifications for war.
The next step is to implement it. Implement Global Peace. But how do we do that? How do you or I begin the process of Global Peace?
Global Peace starts, like the giant Mustard plant, with a small seed. We need to start with peace in our own heart. That is our small, yet major, contribution. But that better be the subject of a different rant!
For this particular rant, I must offer an apology - the title is misleading. I believe that the war on war CAN be won - if that’s what we want.