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On War

06/08/2012

Here’s a non-rhetorical question for the week- Is war bad? Is it unambiguously wrong to take the life of another human? Many people would say yes. They would say that war is unnecessary, that there is a better way, that there must be. I would contest this. No person hates the war that gave them freedom, and for everyone who died for our rights, there were many more who killed for them.

There are so many things in the world I would die for, peace is one of them. But peace at any price? Is there anything war would be worth? Everyone loses in war but sometimes it’s more important that your enemy loses than you win. That is the immortal heartache, because yes, it does hurt a politician to send young men to die. Generals are not the heartless men that Siegfried Sassoon thought them, they were men who had the hardest job. They were always the last left to mourn, for the sons of those they never knew, and their ideals long dead.

I will not deny, Churchill was a war criminal; he bombed cities to pulp in ways that would horrify anyone. Churchill fought to win, not to remain moral. WW2 was the most horrible of any war, but it is the same in any. Civilians are among the dead in war, they always have been.

I was watching Black Hawk down earlier today, that’s what made me think of this. 19 American soldiers died there. So did 1000 Somalis. They killed so many for relatively few, it was a disaster. There has been no symmetric war since the great one. We abandoned the idea of a fair fight upon the altar of advancement the moment an atomic bomb tumbled out of that plane. It blew apart that world, leaving one where a war can be won without loss of the life of a single westerner like in Libya.

And yet let’s take a look at what Somalia is like now. Is it a paradigm of hope, a new country, rejuvenated by the sacrifice of those brave soldiers? No, it still doesn’t have any government of note. It is falling into a number of states, some stable, so still fighting and in the hands of warlords. Let’s not dwell on that though.

During the Cold War there was one thing stopping ultimate destruction. MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction,) the knowledge that if I fired my nuclear arsenal before they had even hit your soil you would have fired yours straight back at me, and both of us would die. Clearly I’m therefore not going to fire. This theory works, it worked against the USSR.

However, what happens when you have someone who, like a suicide bomber, doesn’t care about the MAD part, and just wants to eradicate his ideological enemy. That is the true fear for the Middle East. There are countries there, a large enough number of them, those who would be more than willing to destroy themselves to kill the others. Welcome to a post-nuclear WW3, each developed nation pulled into a world war over allegiances to an atomic crater. That war wouldn’t be worth anything, and would be the end of our comfort, our human advancements.

Is war bad? I have no idea. I can help, it can save, but it does kill, it does kill a lot.

~Sean

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