War is a disease to which humanity falls prey. By its very nature war is destructive, dehumanizing and an unmitigated evil, yet we succumb to it over and over again.
You say, "No one wants war, but sometimes it’s unavoidable." I don’t believe it. No war is truly unavoidable. At some point, with enough foresight, enough diplomatic training and talent, and enough courage, war can be avoided.
Could Hitler have been stopped without war? Yes. The seed for World War II was laid at the end of World War I. Germany was devastated. Unfortunately, the punitive measures inflicted on a defeated people set the stage for the rise of fascism and the next world war.
Once Hitler was on the march, he had to be stopped, but the war itself could have been prevented if the conditions that led to it were addressed early enough.
Unfortunately, people like war, at least in the beginning. It gives a nation direction and purpose. The army needs war. It justifies its existence. Generals who command the armies have warned that men can come to love war too much. (so said Robert E. Lee, on seeing the charge at Fredericksburg, Va.)
War is useful. There’s money to be made, political opportunities to be exploited. Once at war, national security takes precedence over civil liberties. Protest is easily silenced. So wars come and run their course until a nation’s resources are exhausted, its people are fed up and peace returns.
Mankind is a conflicted creature, praying to the Prince of Peace while singing of glory and heroism in battle. We like a good fight. We’re built that way, and probably for good reason. An aggressive nature is a positive force in human evolution. Or so it would seem.
The problem is, we can’t afford it anymore, and it’s time to stop and think what war really means and what it does to us. War depletes a nation’s resources. Our national debt now stands at $9 trillion. Much of it is held by foreign powers. We are no longer our own masters.
War dehumanizes people. Men condone acts they would never have committed under other circumstances. Germany is still stigmatized by the untamed excesses of the Nazi regime. The United States once was admired. It’s now known as a nation that tortures detainees. We have lost the moral high ground.
War betrays the very people it is supposed to serve and protect. War does not serve the citizen. It serves the government and the corporate structure. We support our troops on the battlefield but discard them when they come home. One in four U.S. veterans are destitute and living on the streets.
Unfortunately, all this is beside the point. The reason we can no longer afford this terrible indulgence is because of our own technical genus. We have created weapons and conditions with the potential to destroy us all: nuclear, chemical and biological weapons with the ability to poison the Earth for generations to come.
Is there an answer? I believe so, but it will take some deep soul searching. In our own heart, each of us believes that we are good and that we are justified in what we do, and there is truth in that. We love our families. We are loyal to our friends.
However, Christianity tells us that we are sinners. There is truth in that, too. We are capable of unspeakable horrors. We glorify war and make heroes out of our solders. Individually, there are many heroes among our troops, but as a body they feed the disease of war. Only by recognizing this sickness for the evil it is can we begin to heal. We are not justified, but we can claim forgiveness.
This war we are in now is wrong. It was wrong from the beginning, no matter what we believed about Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction. As long as we cling to the idea that war of any kind can be justified, we will continue to succumb to this disease; and war will grow more deadly, more damaging to the Earth and its people, until our weapons destroy us all.
It’s time to recognize this danger and seek leaders who understand what humanity is up against in a nuclear age. It is going to take more courage to avoid war, more talent and foresight to maintain peace, than our leaders have shown so far. We must not follow them or anyone else into yet another war, this time with Iran.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesville times.com.