Sunday, November 12, 2023

Reflections on war and peace

Yesterday was Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day in the United States).  That day was chosen to mark the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, at the 11th hour on the 11'th day of the 11th month.  World War I was originally called the Great War.  It was the war that was supposed to end all wars - until World War II came along.  With all that's going on in the world right now, I have given the concepts of war and peace a great deal of thought.

At the moment, there are two dominant wars raging in the world - the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the Middle East war between Hamas and Israel.  People are suffering enormously.  It is truly sickening and heartbreaking.  Innocent children are being slaughtered.  Atrocities are being committed daily.  With regard to the Middle East conflict, so many people are pointing fingers and taking sides, but everything is not black and white.  It's far more complex and far more profound.  

Extremists and terrorists do not want peace.  They are unwilling and unable to concede anything or compromise on anything.  They do not have a balanced view of the world.  They are "true believers" and those who don't believe what they believe are enemies or heretics.  Brutal dictators such as Vladimir Putin lust for more and more power.  They will gladly send soldiers to die in an attempt to fulfill their delusions of grandeur.  Putin, for example, sees himself as Russia's modern-day Peter the Great.

Greedy arms dealers make more and more more money by selling there weapons of war.  They profit financially while children and the poor pay the price.  Peace is not in their interest.  They don't care about those who suffer from war.       

This is not to demean the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives to rid the world of the scourge of Nazism.  However, maybe World War II wouldn't have happened if the settlement of World War I hadn't caused some much economic hardship for the German people.  Perhaps Hitler wouldn't have attained power if conditions in Germany had been different.

There is no Utopia, no heaven on earth.  This is an imperfect world and people are imperfect.  There will always be war and conflict.  However, we can choose to work toward a more peaceful world, especially by preventing wars from happening in the first place.  When a society is more equitable, when there is hope, then there is more chance for peace.  The proliferation of weapons, especially nuclear weapons, does not help, nor does ideological, political or religious extremism.  

The most dangerous individuals are those who see the world in black and white, with no shades of gray. The far left and the far right are both threatening.  Democracy is not perfect, but it is the best system of government possible.  Communism, fascism and theocracies result in authoritarianism and dictatorships.  There can be too much government or not enough government.  In communist countries, the inner circle of the Communist Party live a much more lavish lifestyle than others.  The extreme right wing. including Donald Trump and his most ardent supporter, is hateful and violent toward immigrants, no-whites and non-Christians. 

Beware of movements using the word "freedom" in their names, such as the "Freedom Convoy" that shutdown the city of Ottawa and the "Freedom Caucus" of the Republican Party in the United States.  They don't seem to understand the true definition of the word.  They don't seem to understand that there is no absolute freedom and that their "freedom" ends when it interferes with the freedom of others.

We have to be proactive.  We have to try harder to prevent war.  If Egypt and Israel were able to make peace with the 1979 Camp David Accord, why can't the Israelis and the Palestinians do the same?  Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter showed remarkable courage.  We need leaders with the courage to make peace, not war.  It requires more courage to work for peace than to promote war.  

Unfortunately, sometimes war is necessary, but only as a last resort, when every last attempt at peace has been exhausted.  It should never be provoked.  It must be kept in mind that the stakes are higher than ever before.  Modern warfare does not just consist of soldiers on a battle field.  There are drones and all sorts of bombs.  Innocent civilians are often the victims.

There is no glory in war, only horror, death and destruction.

Here are some thoughtful reflections on war and peace from a variety of sources.

We have men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.

- Omar Bradley (1893-1981), senior officer of the United States Army during and after World War II, rising to the rank of General of the Army, first chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Armistice Day speech (November 11, 1948), published in Omar Bradley's Collected Writings, Volume 1 (1967)


Wars have never made peace or preserved it or fostered its ideals
. To have peace you must make peace with your enemies. To make peace only with your friends is to avoid the issue, and to permit a great principle to become absurd. Far from making peace, wars invariably serve as classrooms and laboratories where men and techniques and states of mind are prepared for the next war.

- Wendell Berry (1934- ) , American poet, philosopher, novelist, farmer and social and environmental activist, "A Statement against the War in Vietnam," The Long-Legged House (1969)


What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian statesman, Non-violence in Peace and War (1942)   


have never met anyone who wasn't against war.  Even Hitler and Mussolini were, according to themselves.

- David Low (1891-1963), British political cartoonist in New York Times Magazine, February 10, 1946  


Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.

 - Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian diplomat, author, philosopher, historian, History of Florence

The grim fact is that we prepare for war like precocious giants and for peace like retarded pygmies.

- Lester B. Pearson (1897-1972), Canadian diplomat, politician, statesman, 14th Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968, winner of 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, Speech in Toronto, March 14, 1955

- Joanne