My recent posting, “Study War No More” (1), produced a number of comments that I feel require a response.
First, John said…
Except for slavery, Nazism, fascism, and communism, war has never solved anything (2).
I responded with
You are possibly correct but why did we allow such “-isms” to even develop? Should we not have done things which prevent war, not simply wait until they occur and then fight them? (3)
Then, John said…
You are possibly correct but why did we allow such “-isms” to even develop? Should we not have done things which prevent war, not simply wait until they occur and then fight them?
Sure, that would be great, Tony. But if it’s 1939 and the Nazis are rolling across your border, what do you do? Just keep saying that you should have done something sooner? That’ll be a big help. (4)
Going back to John’s original comment, which of those blights on human society did we actually defeat on the battlefield? Maybe it was slavery. Assuming that John is referring to the Civil War, perhaps war did solve slavery, at least in this country as an agricultural and societal issue. But we never got rid of slavery. Slavery as the enslavement of human by another still exists today, even in the United States (see http://www.alternet.org/story/38684/).
All that the Civil War did was change the nature of slavery. The vindictive nature of the Republican power structure after the Civil War and the punitive punishment inflicted on the South during that “wonderful” period of time known as Reconstruction led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and did nothing to change the attitudes of many Southerners. It enabled them to pass Jim Crow laws and perpetuate segregation up until the 1960’s. It was a mentality that transcended national boundaries.
Apartheid was present in South Africa until the last part of the 20th century. It was defeated not by war but rather by moral outrage and mostly peaceful political action. The same, I would hope, can be said about the defeat of segregation in this country. It was not always peaceful but the Civil Rights movement was based on the moral power of the Gospel, not on the power of a gun.
Even the end of British colonialism ended without too much violence or bloodshed. Gandhi’s advocacy for non-violence ultimately led to Britain ending is colonial occupation of India. It was the British and their violent response to Gandhi’s non-violent approaches that ultimately turned the world against the British.
And for the most part, the chains of slavery have simply been replaced by another form of chains, the chains of poverty. The attitudes that enabled people to enslave other people did not change and agricultural slavery simply became sharecropper and tenant farming. We still have a plantation mentality where CEO’s of major corporations earned salaries and bonuses way out of line with what their employees earn. And the employees at the bottom of the wage scale, those who earn only the minimum wage, do not earn enough to pay for basic living requirements. War may have ended slavery but the consequences are still with us.
It may be that war conquered Nazism and fascism but these two ideologies are still present today. The hatred spewed forth is even more virulent than any of the hatred spouted in the 1920’s and 1930’s. And remember that Timothy McVeigh was more of a neo-Nazi than anything else. Lest we forget, just as the Ku Klux Klan developed out of the vindictiveness of the post Civil War Reconstruction period, National Socialism rose out of the hatred that was generated by the vindictiveness of the victors in World War I. Maybe war defeated Nazism but what we have today says otherwise.
And what war defeated communism? This country has fought two wars against communism. In one war, we came away with an armistice but no peace treaty. Both North Korea and South Korea occupy essentially the same territory today that they occupied before the war started. 36, 576 American military personnel died during the three years, one month, and two days of the Korean War and all we can say is that our first military encounter with communist forces ended in a tie. Our second encounter, in Viet Nam, was a defeat by anyone’s measure.
We did not defeat it in war (unless you want to classify the “cold war” as war). Communism, as an economic system, was flawed from its inception so it was always doomed to fail. But it was not defeated on the battlefield as much as it was defeated in the marketplace. And, while the Soviet Union is no more, the threat of nationalism inside Russia still exists and there are several former Soviet republics that still followed the communist party-line.
So, I stand by the statement I made in the blog last week, “War gives us nothing but takes away everything.” And what war has done has created even more problems that it solved.
And in response to his recent comment, where was everyone in 1938 when the Nazi party was persecuting the Jews of Germany. The signs were there that the Nazis were going to be more than just loud and obnoxious but people choose to stand aside and let them move forward with their objectives. The problem with John’s argument is that he would use war to solve our problems. Why shouldn’t we first put the Gospel into action and work to prevent hunger, sickness, and oppression? Why should we wait for armies to be rolling across the border before we decide to fight? Shouldn’t we keep the armies from ever starting to roll across the border?
In one respect, John is correct (though he probably doesn’t realize it). If we choose to not study war anymore, then we will forget that it is ugly, abusive, messy, painful, and long lasting. So we should study war if only so that there will be no war.
(2) http://heartontheleft.blogspot.com/2006/07/study-war-no-more.html comments – 3:22 PM, July 02, 2006
(3) http://heartontheleft.blogspot.com/2006/07/study-war-no-more.html comments – 11:45 PM, July 02, 2006
(4) http://heartontheleft.blogspot.com/2006/07/study-war-no-more.html comments – 5:59 PM, July 09, 2006