Give Peace a Chance
The armchair general and war mongers often share a similar view when it comes to analysing historical and contemporary events, that if the military was not constrained, then victory is assured. It is the language of mass murderers disguised beneath the need for strategic necessity. The ruthless execution uninhibited by morality or law. It’s the collectivists sword wielded often with savage disregard for innocent individuals. As the war drums beat we hear the same voices now calling for death and destruction. The solution, more military power, operations, kill them, conquer, bomb, destroy!
On the cusp of another world war the world watches on as experts and war hawks squander the world away certain they sound rationale, even righteous. In some minds it is reasonable to wage a multi-front war against numerous nations, the American or even Western empire is in its death throes, and war may is redemption. Maybe the thinking is not so clear cut, though the dangers to the world would suggest that it is so simplistic and ludicrous.
A call to arms has been simmering for some time, it has been the cruise missile diplomacy that emerged at the end of the Cold War which has matured into further embargoes and drone strikes. Operating from numerous military bases, allied with coalitions of friendly nations and with trillions of dollars in debt and a culture for war the US again points its weapons in the directions with the intention for war. War, is inevitable. It is reasonable and to many it is accepted, all of it, the bloodshed and destruction. The hatred and sorrow.
To be anti-war can at times be as contrarian to the point of extremes, though many on the surface claim to oppose war it is mainstream to accept it. To go along with the energies for war or to merely be apathetic is a tradition that many have come to understand as being normal. A powerful government that employs, protects and provides monopoly services at times makes demands on its populace, it’s the patriotic thing to serve. It’s the right thing to support the war, otherwise one is criticising the courage of the troops, betraying them.
The mentality is guided by variations of conditioning but it is also self inflicted. In the march to war the cowardly shy away from controversial opinions, being anti-war tending to err on the side of radical. Or if they disagree with war it’s barely with a whisper in the safety of ones own company, some professions tend to favour the war state and to bring up ‘ugly’ topics can be impolite. Uncomfortable. In the past anti-war voices have been feathered and tarred, arrested and ridiculed by both the state and their own peers.
Even the bad wars have some benefits to them, we are told. A nation earns reputation, defines itself, jobs are ‘created’, technology invented, knowledge gained, a generation tested and so on. The lie goes that wars ended the depression or that it was fought for freedom, liberation. The American myth is that it fought a war of separation from the crown to end taxation, now the biggest government and empire in history. For Australians’ the mythology is that the defeat at Gallipoli helped to forge a national identity. While some may find glory in it, see it as a sense of adventure. It is gory, miserable. Napoleon and the Kaiser had to be stopped to prevent single power control over Europe, now the EU rules.
Those on the outside, that have vested interests, war is profitable. And builds careers. From the most obvious weapons manufacturers, it is a guarantee of income. Then other industries benefit from contracts that come with a wasteful government seeking all the help it can get. Politicians generally benefit from inventing threats and calling for war against external, or internal enemies. It’s ancient to do so. The media and academics benefit from the coverage of war and the expertise needed to sell war. The speculation and research that goes into propping up threats and intellectualising imperialism and mass murder is how the civilised kill babies. It’s even advertisement friendly for networks and online platforms.
On the cusp of war and certainly well into it, clarity is lost. Dignity and respect for the individual goes away. Suddenly everyone from the pariah region, under an enemy government, or a race or faith deserve death. They need to be punished, killed, humiliated and even if they seek surrender, if it’s at all possible in the modern age of war, they should suffer. Any injustices from the home team are omitted or explained as pragmatic exertions. A school bus full of children obliterated, a cheerleader will brush it off, “things happen in war.” A massacre of the unarmed, will be twisted into a, “they do it as well.” Both sides we are told commit atrocities, the innocent are neither side.
War is both the most human of all actions and it’s where sociopath tendencies prevail. Every action leads to outcomes that have consequences to individual human beings. An important hand swipe across a map or a low rank finger pulling a trigger all lead to outcomes that ruin lives. The futility is that in the before when everything is so certain, depicted in need of immediate action and the energy to conquer and kill is unstoppable. In the after, once the smoke clears such energy and desire is lost to time, seemingly forgotten by many old enough to know better.
The American war on Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq, twenty years of occupying Afghanistan are all now mostly accepted as being regretful wars. Mistakes. In the before, they were mechanically pursued. Despite anti-war protests and arguments in opposition, the wars happened. The opposition to war is often marginalised as being riddled with pacifists, ideological radicals or hippies. Or anyone who is wary of war must be on the side of the enemy or even a deluded isolationist. Kooks essentially. Though when the body bags fill up, the Black Tulip flights, as the Russians call them, return home full of coffins and attrition on the other side of political acceptance, war wariness becomes mainstream. It’s mature and reasonable to question, to end it. Though such collective reason always comes too late.
If it was not for the first world war, The Great War, much of the horrible history that followed would not be possible. It ensured the second world war, the rise of totalitarianism and a post-colonial world marred by conflicts and genocide. If anything was going to lead to unintended and wider consequences it would have to be war. It does not bring peace and over time it seems to create the new ‘Hitlers’ that must be stopped, by war.
There is a helpless wariness of war, especially among those in the lower tiers of society. They are struggling as it is, many are empathetic to the common person the world over, the solidarity is universal. The status quo of government usually does not favour them, does not influence their obedience or ability to profit from war. In times of conscription it’s usually their sons and soon daughters that will fill the uniforms and body bags. Despite the claims that liberal democracy grants a voice to the public, such nations tend to march to war regardless of consensus. Referendums are seldom, if at all had to determine war. Ironically the nations often doing the invading are those where a system of government which apparently allows such democratic processes, a representation by the people to occur.
War is so sacred that all law previously established, which ensures a governments right to rule tends to go out the window or becomes modified according the needs of the present war party in control of the nation. Romantic collectivist convictions disappear, and it is individuals who stand up and say ‘no’, coming together or defying the inertia to shed blood. The masters and their mercenaries in uniform who kill and enforce for them, truly do fear the people. They fear them in large numbers, individuals barking into the wind tend to become an example of tolerant rule. When legions of individuals bark, disobey and call for peace then the dogs of war go running. Or at the very least, listen and respond.
I was recently asked why it’s called anti-war and not pro-peace, perhaps the answer is that peace tends to be reactionary. But it’s for the most part the normal state of humanity. To be at peace, to trade and interact without violence or coercion. Moments of violence become memorable, defining. Savage violence is life changing, we become wary and wise to it. War on the other hand is a collective monstrosity, the coercion and recruitment of individuals to harm and fight others, even if for some it is in defence against others. The claim of defence, real and imagined which gives war its great energy. Pre-emptive war, defensive aggression and so on, all of which usually profits some.
Recently a friend who works in the defence industry told me that the war in Ukraine bought him his Audi. There is bonuses and great benefits to working in the arms sector. Many claim to hate or dread the military industrial complex, yet will eagerly work inside of it. That seems to be the defining feature of most Western societies, income above all else. The blood of foreigners may as well be an abstract compared to the dollars flooding the bank account. Mass murder and the promise of it, is good for the economy. The economy of the immoral and unprincipled. It’s a nightmare for many more.
If war is meant to unite, to fix an economy or to spread peace then perhaps we have failed. It’s been demonstrated to be ineffective at all of the above, it always leads to more war. The momentum for war is so certain that it at times feels as though any sense of morality or principle will continue to be crushed, to be flattened beneath the behemoth or the passionate jingoists, cynical mercenaries and the apathetic. The anti-war, pro-peace, we say no. Just stop. To quote John Lennon, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”