Destruction. Death. Bad. Good. These are the things that come to mind when we think of the word “War”. In its most obvious sense war takes the form of an armed conflict between two or more countries. Much like love, war has adapted all kinds of different meanings and usages. The war on drugs. Cyber war. Civil war. Although we see war as one impenetrable bloc, the nuances are infinite in terms of destruction, impact and progress.

War: an armed conflict:

→ Is anyone really “pro-war”?

I’ve always considered myself anti war. That’s quite easy to say. But the truth is that is anyone truly “pro-war”? In reality, it is circumstances that drive us to wage wars against each other. No one simply enters armed conflict and suffers terrible losses on a whim, unless they are sadists. In fact, wars are more cold and calculated than one might perceive. There are contracts, policies, laws all put in place in what seems like utter chaos. Has anyone thought about declarations of war? Wouldn’t seem so absurd that something so civil like a declaration is required to launch savage attacks. Declarations of war are agreements. Both parties have to consent, and rarely is it by force.

→ Generals, lieutenants: the curators of war:

Generals are known as heroes. History glorifies them, books lionize them. To that end, history is written backwards and tailored to each country’s interest. But are generals anything more than simply curators of death? Wars are not some haphazard attacks on one another, strategies are involved. In this sense, John Lyly’s saying “All is fair in love and war” seems nonsensical. Did you know that the Allies took special precautions when bombing Hitler’s stronghold in Florence? Famous for its historically significant and masterfully crafted buildings, the Allies took aerial photographs in order to pinpoint where they could drop bombs and where they couldn’t. Other generals, instead, purposefully bombed the most populated areas to kill a maximum amount of people. In the notoriously damaging Vietnam War, Lieutenant William Calley ordered to evacuate civilians “with hand grenade” (Gilbert, 2001). Doubtless, countless others have gotten away with saying such things, and yet we still shower them with accolades.  

→ Dehumanization of people in numbers:

World war 1? 37 million lives lost. World war 2? 85 million people. What we tend to forget when looking at these figures is the magnitude of the destruction. By using a number to represent the millions of lives lost, we are dehumanizing each one of these individuals. Each and everyone one of those 122 million lives were a loss for a mother, a brother, a child, a father, and a friend. The notion that each one of those people had a life just as complex and colorful as our own seems to vanish. And yes, we have remembrance days and minutes of silence for the fallen, but seldom do we actually recognize the domino effect that occurred as a result of this loss. Some people like to gage the significance of  a given countries’ participation by looking at statistics. And, yes, perhaps one country had more deaths than another. Yet, each one of those people was an individual with a life and a story, hopes and dreams, squandered by arbitrary murder (that is legitimized by calling it “war”). If we look at it in that way, it doesn’t mean that because a country lost 10,000 more people that it takes priority over another.

War: a necessity:

→ Are wars a necessity or do they simply delay a talk between diplomatic leaders?

Then we also have the question of whether war is ever necessary or if it does nothing than to delay a discussion between two political leaders. This can be exemplified by the Cuban Missile Crisis. In essence, it happened during the span of 13-days which brought us to the cusp of mutually assured destruction between Russia and the USA which held the destiny of the world in their hands. Ultimately the entirety of the Cuban Missile Crisis, if not, dare-I-say, the Cold War, was an issue in communication. In fact, if we look at what happened afterward, a Moscow-Washington hotline was created in order to eradicate the possibility of another ‘quiproquo’ of the sort which led to a detente between the two nations.

→ Ideological wars:

Then we also have wars that people believe could not be solved with a simple conversation. It is often the case of ideological wars. The most obvious example is the Second World War and the fight against nazism. Clearly the only way to stop the propagation of Hitler’s senseless killing of thousands was war. Perhaps the only way to have avoided WW2 altogether was a fundamental modification of the Treaty of Versailles, but by the time Hitler rose to power, this was too late. Furthermore, it only became clear the Allies would win the war at the very end, so in a sense it was a “necessary” carnage.

→ War for independence:

Wars for independence are also considered necessary. This is usually the case when there is an unfair or oppressive government put in place. In the case of many colonies annexed by French or British superpowers, laws were usually swayed in favor of the invaders and discriminatory toward the native populations. Such injustice can be seen in Algeria under the French, Namibia under South Africa or even in the USA, where these prejudicial policies persist (despite gaining independence from the British). In Namibia war and insurrection against South Africa was necessary namely because it extended its horrifying apartheid laws to Namibia.

→ Technological advancements during the war:

Like many others, I am vehemently opposed to war, recognizing the advancements that were brought about as a result of conflict can perhaps be harder. But undeniably so, many new technologies and improvements to humanity. In fact, historian and archeologist Ian Morris stays faithful to the idea that war is essential to human progression and that without it, we would be at an impasse. For instance, the Radar was invented in 1935 to detect ships (Skolnik, 2018). Now radars are used in cars, planes, guided missiles… But there are countless other examples and some experts believe that these technological innovations would have never been created. In many cases, because war is the catalyst to creating such technologies because of necessity and the extraordinary conditions it presents.

Wars also boost the economies of certain countries. For example, the USA benefited immensely from WW2 reaping the benefits of supplying arms and other technologies the Allies lacked. 17 million new jobs were created, productivity in industry shot up by a staggering 96%. Moreover, African Americans and women penetrated a previously white-male dominated workforce (Goodwin, 1992). Although wars can be a calamity for certain economies, especially in the payment of post-war reparations, they can also lead to exponential improvements for others.

The legacy of wars in the wake of technology:

With the emergence and democratization of technology, war comes in yet another form: cyber war. The Oxford Dictionary defines Cyber Warfare as “The use of computer technology to disrupt the activities of a state or organization, especially the deliberate attacking of information systems for strategic or military purposes”. The future that it inspires is grim, using both technological as well as conventional warfare for an even bigger path of destruction. Because of the novel nature of this type of confrontation, the international rules and regulation that surround them are nebulous. Also, due to our increasing reliance on technology and digital files, this type of warfare if enough to disrupt the functioning of an entire society in a matter of hours and affect millions of people (Ranger, 2018). This is why more and more governments are gravitating toward this type of offensive tactic.

People are often divided about whether war is a good or bad thing for humanity. And as history is quite prone to “repeating itself” as so many people like to say, we know that the likelihood of another massive conflict will occur is quite high. This is especially due to globalization and that the web of the world is growing ever thicker ever more complicated. The next war could be now, the next war could be soon, and the next war could be more destructive than ever before. Will your perspective on the matter determine what the next war will be?

Bibliography:

“Cyberwar | Definition of Cyberwar in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cyberwar

 Goodwin, Doris. “The Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War II.” The American Prospect, 1992, Fall, prospect.org/article/way-we-won-americas-economic-breakthrough-during-world-war-ii.

 Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century. W. Morrow, 2001.

“How Many People Died in WW1?” History, 15 Nov. 2018, www.historyonthenet.com/how-many-people-died-in-ww1.

 “Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monuments,_Fine_Arts,_and_Archives_program

Ranger, Steve. “What Is Cyberwar? Everything You Need to Know about the Frightening Future of Digital Conflict.” ZDNet, ZDNet, 4 Dec. 2018, www.zdnet.com/article/cyberwar-a-guide-to-the-frightening-future-of-online-conflict/

 Sahoboss. “The Algerian War of Independence Begins.” South African History Online, 30 Oct. 2015, www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/algerian-war-independence-begins

 Skolnik, Merrill I. “Radar.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Dec. 2018, www.britannica.com/technology/radar/History-of-radar

 Stratfor. “Why War Is Good.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 6 Oct. 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/stratfor/2014/10/06/why-war-is-good/#2c0fb6d65b96

 White, Matthew. “Losses in the Second World War.” Map of Communist History, 1999, users.erols.com/mwhite28/ww2-loss.htm

 Willings, Adrian. “27 Military Technologies That Changed Civilian Life.” Pocket-Lint, 2 Feb. 2018, www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/143526-27-military-technologies-that-changed-civilian-life

Images links:

“Is Cyberwar Really War? – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 15 Sept. 2013, www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/09/15/cyberwar-really-war/4lffEBgkf50GjqvmV1HlsO/story.html

“Vietnam War Protests.” Civil Disobedience, 28 Jan. 2011, parkersjanterm.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/vietnam-war-protests/

“We Can Do It.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 May 2012, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Can_Do_It

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