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What Makes People Eager for War?
Nourishing Ideas > Philia in the Community > Peace and Reconciliation

By Ted Kuntz

The greatest threat to our world and its peace comes from those who want war, who prepare for it, and who, by holding out vague promises of future peace or by instilling fear of foreign aggression, try to make us accomplices to their plans.
     - Hermann Hesse

Now is a very curious time on our planet. We are witnessing a unique experience in which billions of people observe as one country openly wages a premeditated war against another. There is no pretense this war is in self-defense or in retaliation for a perceived attack. This war is being planned openly, thoughtfully, and with clear intention. What is it that allows those individuals planning and advocating for war to do so with a clear conscience?

From my perspective it appears a number of factors are at play. One is the perceived separation between those individuals who are on the initiating end and those who are on the receiving end of the military strikes. This illusion of separation allows the initiators of war to feel secure in believing the war will not cause harm to them.

A second factor that seems prevalent is the perception of righteousness or justice - the belief that the act of war is right and just. This perception is possible when one sees oneself on the side of "good" and the other on the side of "evil". This simplistic dichotomy allows for the conscious destruction of another and their way of life because one way is "right" and the other way is "wrong".

A third factor is the belief that there is no choice. Somehow all other choices are considered irrelevant or irresponsible and thus, the only choice is military intervention.

A final factor is economic or political justification: the act of war is necessary to preserve or extend our economic or political paradigms. This rationale is rooted in the belief that economic and political paradigms are more important than moral or social well-being.

Now the question is, "Are any of these factors true? Will they stand the test of time? Will they be perceived as reasonable beyond the emotional fever that exists in this moment? How will future generations judge the actions of today?"

Would the actions of war be as acceptable if we challenged the notion of separation? What if we called those individuals who are to be on the receiving end of our weapons of mass destruction names like brother, sister, mother, father and cousin rather than names like "evil" or "terrorist" or "insurgents"? What if we recognized that all boundaries and borders are man-made creations and that the elements of wind, water, and air do not honour such arbitrary boundaries? That the effects of weapons using depleted uranium do not stop at the border? Or the fear and hatred and desire for revenge will not suddenly subside once the last bomb is dropped or the last bullet fired?

What would be our willingness for war if we agreed to the exchange of one human life for one human life? Would we be so eager for war if we had to sacrifice one of "our" lives for every one of "their" lives? If the exchange of lives was of equal proportion rather than the anticipated 1:1,000 or greater, would we still want war?

Would the waging of war be so welcome were the initiators of the war from another country? If China, or Japan, Germany, or Russia had invaded Iraq to secure regime change would we still see it as right and justified?

It seems to me that those most eager for war do not have their own sons and daughters on the front lines. They themselves are not in battle gear, but rather are nestled in the comfort of their own homes far away from the conflict and destruction.

War is a terrible insult to life on this planet. It is not a video game. It is not the half-time entertainment between competing teams. It is the intentional ending of life on this planet.

I struggle with the stories that make war into something glorious or righteous. War is nothing to be proud of. War is nothing to be wished for. It diminishes and wounds all of us. Victory attained by violence is tantamount to defeat.

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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