War is war. The only good human being is a dead one.
The Good Wars:
We hear that there are ‘good’ wars. There are two perspectives on wars. For good to win over evil, sometimes, violence is necessary, sometimes. Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Gita. On the other, a war is wrong, because it leaves dead, orphans, and homeless behind, says, Gandhi.
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So what is a good war? A good war is when the oppressed are liberated; here peace is the price one pays for freedom. Armed struggles against a state, or against the invasion, invasion to ‘liberate’ an oppressed country are examples of ‘good’ wars.
India’s invasion of East Pakistan liberating Bangladesh is considered as one of those ‘good’ wars. Yet the big powers took sides. Luckily the war was won in two weeks, resulting in the formation of Bangladesh. But if we listen to history lessons in classes about India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, the way the event is described differently – there are heroes and villains in this narrative.
The Vietnam War fought by the US has a similar story – there are heroes and villains. If we watch Hollywood movies or read American novels, the US had an unlimited supply of heroes; the unknown Vietnamese and the looming communist Soviet Union were the villains. Read Vietnamese writings or watch their movies, they tell an opposite story.
The good wars have a ‘holy’ or ‘good’ cause, but there are always two sides to a coin.
Who decides the ‘Good’ Wars?
It is difficult to give a unified or stereotypical answer to this question. World War II ended upon the liberation of some oppressed peoples, yet it created new fault lines. A victory that was seen as heroic in Europe, turned out to be a spoilsport in Japan. The Nazi regime was tried in Nuremberg, but the US act of nuclear bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki went unchecked.
One can safely conclude that history is a victor’s narrative. It is hard to get a balanced view ever. Holocaust was horrific, what about the atomic bombs? History is skewed and does not answer these questions, rather it tiptoes around. For once I know that the history books I read in my classes were all curated narratives, telling what the powers that be wanted us to read.
We all thought World War II would teach us enough lessons to last for generations that oppressing people by force and fighting wars can be deadly, costly, and catastrophic; but alas, it was not to be. There have been many wars across the world since then, including ‘liberations’ and ‘invasions’.
Countries spend a large portion of their budgets on arming themselves, claiming defense preparedness and deterrence – including nuclear warheads and delivery systems. The ones who acquired nuclear stockpiles have held on to them, despite knowing that an accident can cause havoc. But the concept of ‘mutually assured destruction’ is an assumed deterrent, for those who are already against those who are trying to acquire nuclear arms.
With advanced delivery systems like missiles and long-range bombers, aircraft carriers, and submarines, war can be fought away from land and sea borders, giving war a global dimension. Alliances are formed to ensure deterrent safety nets.
Aided by technology, wars go beyond weapons today. Social and economic spaces of countries can be crippled through cyber interventions. The more globalized systems of banking, supply chain, and trade can be fractured in a moment’s decision, resulting in devastating effects. War is not the armed conflict that we know, but it just grew in gargantuan proportions and multiple spheres.
Who fired the bullet?
Let us point and shoot – for every bullet fired, there is an intended victim on one side and a killer on the other.
Who fired the bullet? It is the person, and not the weapon is the standard refrain.
The nature of the evolution of the 2nd Amendment and gun violence in the United States is the core of the pandemic of wars.
The ones in favor of guns argue that it is their right to own a gun for their safety. Because there is easy access to guns, there is gun violence. There are always temperamental and imbalanced people around, who in a moment of madness or anger wreak havoc fire the bullet.
Dangerous people with easy access to weapons are the reason for gun violence. The same applies to nations too. Nations stockpile weapons as deterrents, and it is their inalienable right.
The permanent five of the UN Security Council have not reneged their nuclear stockpile, but instead, look to stop ‘errant states’ from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Consider this, there will be those ‘errant’ states around always; but with the availability of a nuclear weapon, the threat escalates manifold.
If everybody reneges nuclear weapons, then the errant actor (who can change from time to time) is forever denied the chance of acquiring that weapon. It is hard to determine who is errant. Don’t we need to remind ourselves that the only actual event of usage of the atomic bomb was done by the most mature democracy in the world?
The UN is set up on the US model – which was architected towards the end of World War II. The fact that there are nuclear-armed permanent members, who take the responsibility of policing the world – that includes both sides of the divide (the US, Britain, and France on one, and Russia and China on the other), is an unpalatable imbalance.
These nations sell weapons to others, because of their own compulsions propelled by their military-industrial complex. The wars of scale will be perpetrated by the participation of these five, mark my word. The smaller, lesser capable nations will be advised, preached upon, and also supplied with weapons.
In short, this imbalanced and hypocritical architecture of the United Nations, and therefore, the geopolitical landscape will always feed into and fuel wars. When wars happen, this hypocrisy will manifest as an inability to stop wars.
Where does this leave us?
All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.
It depends on which side of the table we sit. We all fall for the good war narrative.
It is clear that no people ever want wars; they want to go about their normal lives – feeding the cat, mowing the lawn, going to the office, or searching for a job. A peaceful, undisturbed society is everybody’s dream. This society means that there would be unemployment, arguments with neighbors, and talking about politics. There will be the imbalanced and temperamental too.
But it is the common people who bear the brunt of wars. They are punished for no fault of theirs.
If we just take weapons off the table (which is my utopian dream), and that includes those on the high table (the big five), then there is an opportunity for a better and balanced world.
The science and tech focus can go on betterment, rather than creating weapons. This will reduce the means of the wars.
We need to keep an eye on the imbalanced and the temperamental ones, both people and states, and let them be heard and helped. This will reduce the people side of the conflict – take away the motives and opportunities of the wars.
It is hard to decide what is right, but it is within our right to fight for the oppressed. We don’t need weapons for that. It might take a little longer for the good to be vindicated, but in the end the good and the free will prevail.
If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.
―Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Fighting for convictions need not be violent. Thoughtful, open-minded, empathetic leadership should substitute saber-rattling and war-mongering. There is still hope for that in this world. As long as there is hope, there is a chance that we can avoid wars.