War is a peculiarly popular activity among us humans, and this is especially true for military men and arms merchants. It has a following of sorts among politicians over the age of conscription. In an age when death by military hardware is sanitised by mechanisms and technology, one hears these ancient armchair warriors exhort the generals to "turn up the heat" and "increase the pressure." They are being patriotic, cheering for the home team. There seems to be a disquieting absence of reflection. The smart bombs are not very smart. Some cannot find a targeted building, and when one is found, it cannot tell if it contains ammunition, patients, children, Red Crescent supplies, or civilian food for the winter.
There is a fiction that once war was honourable. We are told there was a time when noble warriors met on open fields to bravely settle their differences, sparing the women, children and settlements from the mayhem committed by brave men upon one another in fair but dignified mortal combat.
The truth is, mostly men in uniforms lined up in rows, to die by the hundreds and thousands, as they stupidly hurled lethal weapons at each other until the insanity of the carnage produced a victor. The lives of women and children of the losing side were not spared, nor were the buildings. Just as in today's wars, the homes were burned and the towns leveled.
In the guise of patriotism, religion and redress, war is often romanticised with a plausible patina, praising bravery, honour, and marksmanship. Those lucky warriors who survive battle are the lucky ones, to be promoted, with pretty medals pinned publicly on their tunics. The unlucky are buried, many under unmarked stones.
Soldiers who return from war are not much enthused of it. The horrid deaths of their brothers in battle breaks many a brave heart, and the loss of innocence leaves lifelong scars. They too-late remember the teaching of childhood, "Thou shall not kill". For the rest of their lives they daily deal with the anomalies of war.
It is a simple matter to define war as uncivilised behaviour. If erection of buildings is the essence of civilization, to purposefully destroy those buildings is its antithesis. If constructing roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals to improve man's lot in life is acting in a civilized manner, then to destroy those roads, bridges, schools and hospitals is uncivilized behaviour. Because war is destructive an every instance, war is an uncivilized activity.
In a similarly simple manner it is possible to define those who engage in war as involving themselves in uncivilised behaviour. It is possible to include those who support such activities, as they also should know the objects of their applause and aid. Yet to the present day those societies taking most pride in the achievements of their civilisation engage in war, and may be said to be the foremost proponents of it, proudly producing (and selling) lethal weapons in areas where they may be expected to do harm.
The Seeds of War
There is a basic law in science that each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The same relationship between action and reaction is often seen in human affairs, though the reaction may not appear equal to the triggering action. It may be more restrained, or it may be explosive, far exceeding the initial provocation. The desire for equality is expressed in the phrase, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".
History does not tell us if great conflicts began with the loss of a tooth or an eye, but such a possibility is not to be doubted. Even an insult, real or imagined will easily suffice to enter into decades of slaughter, killing young men not yet born at the time of outrage.
Looking casually about, it is not difficult to find the causes of war that confront and confound the world today. It is the ethnic differences among the various groups which is the cause, each group holding tenaciously, jealously to its language, traditions, territory and religious heritage. Such institutions are the core of life, and are sufficiently important to be defended to the death against any outside threat. (And often are, as powerful colonisers often find to their chagrin ... and shame).
The group may not necessarily consider its culture superior. That is an aggravating side issue. The fact that the culture is central is sufficient to establish it as the essential essence of life. The group declares to the world that its cultural values have a right to exist, and exist in an original form.
The declaration implies this right to exist makes a lethal defence necessary. Innocent though the declaration of cultural identity may seem, in it one sees the insidious seeds of war. The threat takes the name of globalisation, which translates into a universal blandness. While the multi-national corporations (MNC) enjoy the legal fiction of having human features and rights in the West, this sanction (and protection) is not extended by all other countries, and it is objected to in various degrees by most. If the West continues to use its economic might to foster worldwide acceptance of the MNC, with its legal status (equal to a human) intact, the resistance will continue, even mount, taking yet more diverse forms.
If the Christian feels that the "Truth of God" is known to him, and that he is enjoined to spread this truth over the world, this acts as a threat to every differing culture desiring to perpetuate itself in its pure form.
If the Israeli feels that God has singled out the followers of the Torah as "The Chosen People of the Earth", and acts arrogantly toward others in this belief, a natural resentment is certain to be generated.
If the Muslim refuses tolerance toward others, demanding conversion or death, deeming all non-Muslims infidels and enemies, a fear of Islam is certain to arise. If the Arab speaker says that Islam is Allah's perfect answer for man, yet refuses to share the beauty of Islam with others who may desire its spiritual peace, or to live peacefully alongside them, then certainly doubts of Islam's universality will arise.
Wars are not clashes of civilisations, they are confrontations of cultures. They modern world has entered the semi-finals, where survivors contest for the winner's cup. The losers have been lost, perhaps irretrievably, and are nowhere if not among the dust. Some yet survive, consigned to reservations as spectators.
In peacetime, competitive jostling is generally gentle and gentlemanly. War occurs when sportsmanship and fair play turn nasty, requiring the intercession of strong and capable referees. In the present melee, one waits for the whistle to stop the action, which escalates with each day of delay. The parties must be separated, sent to neutral corners for pause. These are parlous times. If prudence does not prevail, there will be no winner, no cup.
- Harun Rashid
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