War is Never Good
History of War
In his book, A History of Warfare, John Keegan follows the evolution of war from primitive man through Greek phalanx warfare, where men armed with shields and spears form tight lines and come together the way cars do in a demolition derby, through the rise of the state as it is known today. Keegan states that today's great nations are where they are today because of governmental monopolization of gunpowder production beginning in the 18th century: that it is through force of arms that our modern society was born and is maintained.
Keegan writes that the definition of war is a settling of affairs through violence. Carl von Clausewitz, author of perhaps the first great treatise on the subject, entitled, On War, wrote that war is the continuation of politics by other means. By 'other means', Clausewitz meant other than peaceful means. Keegan refutes this premise, saying that the western philosophy of war, victorious in World War II, embracing the principles of face to face combat to the death, ethics and restraint in battle, and victory through technological advance, has resulted in the development of nuclear weapons and the "ultimate denial" of Clausewitz's premise. War is the continuation of nothing, but has become the potential ending of civilization.
Whereas World War II has the reputation in some circles as being a 'good war,' the very fact that it was the engine that produced nuclear weapons must bring that into question.
A soldier in battle fatigues armed with an automatic weapon at the airport. Is it a peaceful sight?See results without voting
Occupation and Peace
As illustrated by the recent conquest of Iraq by the United States, occupation is not the same thing as peace. Under three years of U.S. occupation, the Iraqi death toll estimated by the World Health Organization is 151,000. If you take the Bush White House figures between 1988 and 2003, 380,000 people died in Iraq as a direct result of actions by Saddam Hussein. That would be an average of 19,000 per year under Saddam, or 50,033 per year under U.S. occupation. These are statistics, and one can make them say one thing or another. But say what you will, 151,000 violent deaths in 3 years is not peace. All sides describe peace as a stable Iraq where violence is curbed by strong Iraqi military and police forces. This will only take place when the U.S. occupation ends and Iraq can stand on its own.
Warfare and Policing
Keegan states that peaceful communities flourish where a strong police force keeps the peace basically through a kind of coercion. Where drug peddlers and thugs theaten peaceful commerce and interaction, we can see that this is often true. A police force punishes bad behavior, whereas in war, one people inflicts harm on another people, largely at random. For all the 'smart bombs' and other precision technology that we have developed, there is still plenty of 'collateral damage,' a euphemism for innocent people killed incidentally during the conduct of war.
In war, justice goes to the victor. The loser is accused of war crimes, the winner is not. Police arrest the accused based on evidence and bring them to trial where there is a chance for real justice. If the police misbehave, they are subject to the same justice as the criminal.
Without justice there can be no freedom, therefore the absence of true justice from war makes war a poor tool with which to encourage freedom. Keegan advocates abandonment of traditional warfare in favor of rapidly deployable paramilitary forces trained not just in warfare, but in policing. Such forces could enforce justice around the world, bringing freedom, and, finally, peace.
Armies often act unilaterally whereas the police must act within parameters defined by laws which are created through consensus. To build a truly international police force, they would need to work withing a body of international laws and be supervised by an institution of international justice such as the International Court of Justice. However, to be effective, all major nations would need to agree to submit to international justice. At this writing, we are a long way from that.
War never creates a 'happliy ever after' ending. Perhaps there is no such thing. Yet war produces amputees, rape victims, and new weapons with which to kill each other. I suggest that it is only though striving toward the goal of universal justice that true freedom and lasting peace can be achieved.
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