If war were inevitable, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued. And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side.
Developing ways to avoid generating conflicts is part of the answer, but some occurrence of conflict (or major disagreement) is inevitable, which is why we must use more effective and less destructive tools to resolve conflicts and to achieve security. But there is nothing inevitable about war. It is not made necessary by our genes, by other inevitable forces in our culture, or by crises beyond our control.
War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. During this most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it. Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill. It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown?
Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA. According to myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.
In some societies women have been virtually excluded from war making for centuries and then included. Clearly, this is a question of culture, not of genetic makeup. War is optional, not inevitable, for women and men alike.
Some nations invest much more heavily in militarism than most and take part in many more wars. Some nations, under coercion, play minor parts in the wars of others. Some nations have completely abandoned war. Some have not attacked another country for centuries. Some have put their military in a museum.
War long predates capitalism, and surely Switzerland is a type of capitalist nation just as the United States is. But there is a widespread belief that a culture of capitalism — or of a particular type and degree of greed and destruction and short-sightedness — necessitates war. One answer to this concern is the following: any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.
There is a sense in which this is unimportant; namely, we need to halt environmental destruction and reform corrupt government just as we need to end war, regardless of whether any of these changes depends on the others to succeed. Moreover, by uniting such campaigns into a comprehensive movement for change, strength in numbers will make each more likely to succeed.
But there is another sense in which this is important; namely, we need to understand war as the cultural creation that it is and stop imagining it as something imposed on us by forces beyond our control. In that sense it is important to recognize that no law of physics or sociology requires us to have war because we have some other institution. In fact, war is not required by a particular lifestyle or standard of living because any lifestyle can be changed, because unsustainable practices must end by definition with or without war, and because war actually impoverishes societies that use it.
War in human history up to this point has not correlated with population density or resource scarcity. The idea that climate change and the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction based on facts.
The growing and looming climate crisis is a good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money and energy that go into war and war preparation to the urgent work of protecting the climate could make a significant difference, both by ending one of our most environmentally destructive activities and by funding a transition to sustainable practices.
In contrast, the mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will encourage investment in military preparedness, thus exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.
Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there exists a popular movement working to do just that.
Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, for example, in the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, the notion has been propagated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, and without basis in fact.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against top Obama administration officials that was filed by the parents of three United States citizens whom the government killed without trial in drone strikes, including Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric.
In a 41-page opinion, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that courts should hesitate before deciding to hold a government official personally responsible for violating a citizen’s constitutional rights in the context of a wartime action.
“The persons holding the jobs of the named defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” Judge Collyer wrote. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages against several top national security officials for the deaths caused by two American drone strikes in Yemen.
BELBEK AIR BASE, Crimea — Pro-Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian air force base in Crimea, firing shots and smashing through concrete walls with armored personnel carriers, according to an Associated Press journalist. At least one person was wounded, the base commander said. Ukrainian commander 'abducted' by pro-Russia forces
An APC also smashed open the front gate of the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol, according to footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense ministry. Two ambulances arrived and then departed shortly after. At least one of them was carrying what appeared to be a wounded person. Ukrainian forces make 'final stand' in Crimea
The Ukrainian commander of the base, Yuliy Mamchur, said there was at least one injury. He called his men together, they sang the Ukrainian national anthem and then stood at ease. He said they are going to turn over their weapons. The pathetic ‘wrong side of history’ plea
This NY Post Article about "Cold War" confrontations between the Western Banks and the Russian people is... interesting.
"War damages everything associated with it, not only the sailors and soldiers but the civilians including the children, not only the body but the mind and the spirit. Glorification of war becomes support for more war, for accepting the easy violence of war instead of the difficult peaceful resolution of human problems."
By Andrew Larkin
I am a veteran – of the Vietnam era, as are my friends and my brothers. My father, uncles, and an aunt were veterans of World War II. A great uncle was stationed on a battleship during World War I. A great-grandfather fought in the Civil War, an immigrant in an Illinois regiment who suffered the rest of his life from his bullet wound.
Veterans Day on November 11 was formerly Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the Great War. But it has turned from a celebration of peace to a celebration of the false glory of war.
War damages everything associated with it, not only the sailors and soldiers but the civilians including the children, not only the body but the mind and the spirit. Glorification of war becomes support for more war, for accepting the easy violence of war instead of the difficult peaceful resolution of human problems.
Veterans Day ceremonies teach the young and the naive that war is glorious and can bring glory to its fighters and to its nation. Such glory is a fantasy, but the damage of war is real.
Veterans Day ceremonies are part of a false promise of victory against those who would no more be defeated and mastered than would we. Victory and vanquish no longer exist – only destruction – and the option of peace.
Veterans Day ceremonies perpetuate a myth of fear that we have created for ourselves and that we have allowed our false leaders to impose upon us. We invent myths of defense against those we fear instead of living truly free.
We perpetuate fear to maintain fantasies of victory and glory and nostalgia for the oxymoronic “good war.” We spend $trillions and kill and injure millions of people; we even sacrifice our own people and our people’s needs to fantasies of glory and to perpetuation of fear.
War, if it continues, will bring down a nation built by generations of hard-working, dedicated people – a long collapse to be caused by economic and moral bankruptcy, and by the anger, envy and spite of people around the world.
Please don’t tell me “thank you for your service” because that is revolting to me. Instead, thank others for their services to your true freedom: the creators, growers, healers, preservers.
As a veteran I might participate in the ceremonies if I could display my opposition to war at those ceremonies, but I cannot because many would be angered, not enlightened, not persuaded. I would be told, without embarrassment, that “freedom isn’t free.” Even the words written here will permit many to indulge their anger.
Instead of ceremonies, take care of the veterans who have suffered so much in past and current wars, and take care of others who have also suffered from our wars on the poor both at home and abroad. Study the real effects of our nation’s actions instead of waving a flag in false honor and glory.
Andrew Larkin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Emeritus Professor of Economics, St Cloud State University and writes for PeaceVoice.
Lessons 10 years later: Iraq
by Robert F. Dodge
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. As one of the longest and one of the most costly wars in U.S. history, the true costs in dollars, lives, environmental contamination and opportunity costs may never be fully appreciated. This “preventive war” waged on our behalf has forever tainted the world view and standing of the U.S. Disregarding international and domestic public opinion and international law before the war, this illegal war was destined to happen regardless of that opinion. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the war is the identification and clarification, a “How To” of what doesn’t work in resolving international conflict. Namely war itself.
Dollar estimates of the combined war costs range from $1.4 trillion to $4 trillion dollars spent and obligated or a bill of between $4,500 and $12,742 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The human costs and death toll are immense. It is estimated that between 225,000 to more than 1,000,000 have been killed when taking into account all the lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To this tragedy are added the tens of thousands injured here at home with similar numbers in war zone countries. Significant brain and spinal injuries to coalition forces approach 20 percent and PTSD 30 percent of soldiers. The costs of treating these problems will continue for decades to come.
In a part of the world where poverty and oppression are the norm, identifying and addressing the root cause of conflict is far better than bombs at preventing terrorism and is far less costly. The respected international mediator John Paul Lederach suggests that going to war to defeat terrorism is like hitting a mature dandelion with a golf club—it only creates another generation of terrorists. That graphic image is very telling in a part of the world where the mean age ranges from17.9 in Afghanistan to 21.1 in Iraq. How will these future generations who lack the meeting of basic human needs respond to our war?
We have fallen victim to the idea that the “ends justify the means” when in reality the means are the ends in the making. Today’s means and realities will determine tomorrow’s reaction and outcome. The continuation of suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are the desperate response of an occupied people. In his book, Dying to Win, Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago examines in depth the phenomenon of suicide bombing. His research reveals that though religious conviction or revenge may play a role, the vast majority (>95 percent) of suicide bombings always include the primary motivation of trying to push out foreign occupiers.
In a way to somehow sanitize or numb ourselves to the horrific effects of this war we have seen an entirely new lexicon added to our language. From drones (remote spying / assassination unmanned aerial vehicles) to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury - the signature injury to U.S. forces) to collateral damage (killing innocent civilians) to enhanced interrogation (torture) to rendition (torturing prisoners in outsourced countries like Egypt on behalf of the US) to Suicide Bombers.
We are now even marketing drones as a jobs program at home.
We have written whole gymnastic legal treatises to sooth ourselves, and to justify our use of terrorism and assassination of even our own citizens. In the use of these methods, machines and practices have we not become the embodiment of “the enemy”? What happens when the entire world has the same capabilities and beliefs? What have we created?
These are some of the realities 10 years after launching an entirely preventable war. During this same period we have fallen into financial disarray at home with a significant contribution from these wars. The robbing of our own social fabric to cover these costs will play out for years to come. And yet there are those who would continue to dismantle our social infrastructure to continue this war effort and that of future wars at any cost. These are the facts after 10 years of “preventative war”. How we address the facts at hand will determine our future and that of the world. Indeed conflict is inevitable. War is optional—and a poor one. We have the necessary means to address conflict without war. The means are the ends in the making.
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes
War is not healthy for children and other life forms. Germ Warfare in Vietnam
Alex Milan Tracy Photojournalist & Documentary Photographer
Please view my finished research project via the following link.
Alex Milan Tracy
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