The Evils of War
Responsible citizens of all countries today, have learned to hate and mistrust warfare as a means of resolving international disputes through the bitter experience of two world conflagrations in this century. Between the wars, the major powers established the ‘League of Nations’. Its dual role was to attempt to substitute negotiation for warfare and to press for multi and unilateral disarmament, but certain ambitious powers treated it with cynical contempt, and it was powerless in the face of German, Italian and Japanese empire-building. Since 1945, a somewhat more realistic organization, the U.N.O., has come into being, and by means of its international ‘police’ forces has successfully quenched many ‘bushfires’ which would otherwise have become conflagrations. yet, it is doubtful whether even U.N.O., could halt a major power, and it is a sinister fact that certain of them ether ignore its decisions or absent themselves from its council’s Most sane individuals condemn warfare absolutely, but not all governments. History has taught us that there will always be warfare, because a government may display the lowest common denominator of human characteristics, and act upon it. Accepting war was a periodic fact, therefore, peace-loving nations usually feel compelled to arm themselves with the most powerful and effective weapons of defense, including nuclear weapons, and refuse to part with them, unless their competitors do the same we thus reach the position of an armed truce, based on parity of weapons, and the paradoxical situation of having to avoid the evils of war, by manufacturing the very weapons and training the very armies which alone can bring them about. The alternative is pacifism. The disarmers, the ‘Ban the Bomb’ movement in Britain would have the Commonwealth abolish arms and armies, believing that non-resistance to aggression, even the acceptance of invasion, is the only sure way to peace. But is it? it was certainly not so in Britain in 1939, when the declaration of war called a halt to German expansion, and when, without an all-out arms effort, Britain would have been overrun and her people enslaved, even exterminated. In 1939, the true evil of war, deprivation of freedom, was avoided by the very act of going to war. It cannot be over-emphasized that, while every sane person must condemn warfare ‘in vaccuo’, the same person, realistically viewing the world in which we live, must distinguish between the greater evil of losing his freedom and the lesser, of both sufferings and inflicting the evils of warfare. In certain clearly defined circumstances, it is right to inflict the evils of war.
Fear, both experienced and imposed, has its shattering effects. Brutality is at a premium, in the prisoner-of-war and concentration camps. Racial hatred is stirred up; it is believed that the whole Jewish population of Europe would have been wiped out, had the war gone on for another year. Greed, of course, becomes paramount. War always means food and luxury rationing. ‘Black Market’ operations begin, and the unscrupulous grow far at the expense of the poor. Personal freedom is inevitably lost. All fit men are expected to join the forces or be branded as cowards; all civilians exist in a welter of government controls that completely regulate their lives. Overwork, fatigue, and irritability are only minor by-products. Much more important is the fact that everything is geared to the war effort, and cultural and humane discoveries and developments come to an abrupt halt.
Physically and materially, the evils of war are catastrophic. Enemy control of the seas and skies may reduce countries that rely on imports to famine. It is the poor and the children who suffer most. Cities and countryside are laid waste. Hospitals are filled with those who are injured, or blinded or crippled or poisoned by gas or radioactivity. wealth ad resources are wasted, fine men and women squandered, buildings, art-treasures, historic places obliterated.
Countries may be forced to resort to the evils of war, but humanity will always condemn warfare because it is humanity that suffers.