Let me say at the outset that my basic premise here is that most war is totally unnecessary, a waste of precious human life, money and property. That being said, I also suppose there have been, throughout history, just wars. But nevertheless, in most cases, they probably could have been avoided.
People do not wage war against one another generally. It is governments, armies, and leaders who wage war against each other. In many cases, the people are not only caught in the cross-fire, but become its victims.
War is fought by the young, at the behest of the older, supposedly wiser generation. In those cases, it is easy to wage war, when you are not the one who has to fight it. It falls upon the younger, stronger, mostly male members of a society to do it on behalf of all. As a result, a people, a nation can lose the bulk of an entire generation.
It has been said that a general without a war is like an unemployed actor. He needs a war to be important and relevant. In some cases, war is waged to deflect issues at home, to help the people to forget about their own troubles. War can also we used to bolster a weak economy, as a nation shifts to a wartime economy and employs people back home to make the instruments and supplies of war.
Is war necessary? As I stated above, I think it can be avoided. In this modern age of the last 500 years or so, war could have been avoided in most cases had governments paid attention to the warning signs and acted sooner.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
After the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles put serious impositions on Germany. As a result, they were left destitute, poor and shamed. This lead to the rise of Hitler, who, through his dramatic gift of speech, attempted to restore pride in a fallen people. In doing so, he was able to rally the people to support the preparation of the plan to dominate and takeover Europe. Whether the people truly support this notion is debatable, there is no doubt about the rise of the National Socialist Party or Nazis.
For the most part, the rest of the world stood by and watched this take place. Germany violated the Treaty numerous times and continued its build up to what was to become World War II and the Holocaust. Not only did the western powers do nothing, the leader of nations became enthralled with Hitler in large part because he was anti-communist. King Edward VIII of England even paid a visit to Germany in 1937. In short, western governments did nothing to stop Hitler and an ensuing World War cost between 70 million and 90 million lives.
After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the United States went to War in Afghanistan to rid the country of al-Qaeda and its supporters, the Taliban. However, the attacks on the World Trade Center were merely a climax in a series of events and actions that could also have been avoided.
The origin of the al-Qaeda organization is traced largely to the Soviet war in Afghanistan (December 1979 – February 1989). The US, being against the Soviets, channeled money and weapons to the opposition, the Mujahedeen. The Mujahedeen recruited from all across the Arab world and imported fighters, training them in bomb-making, sabotage, and urban guerrilla warfare in camps set up by the CIA. After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Mujahedeen eventually took over the government and created the Islamic State of Afghanistan. This gave rise to the Taliban.
In addition, the first Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991) to free Kuwait from the invasion of Iraq inflamed the passions of al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden, in particular because Saudi Arabia refused their help to protect the country and oil fields from the Iraqis and instead allowed the US and its allies to do so. The claim of the radical element of Islam is that the US and other forces profaned the sacred soil of their land and created further animosity against the US.
In short, the western nations again stood by and even, in some cases, aided the creation of the radical elements of Islam, which in turn have waged war against us and led to the bombing of the World Trade Centers, not once but twice. As a result, we have entered into a prolonged war in Afghanistan and Iraq, for that matter, with no real end in sight. To date, we have lost over 7000 American and Coalition forces and an estimate of over 1.6M civilian people killed in both countries.
Elder Russell M. Nelson gave a talk in General Conference October 2002 in which he said:
“Nevertheless, scriptures are studded with stories of contention and combat. They strongly condemn wars of aggression but sustain obligations of citizens to defend their families and their freedoms. Because “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” members of this Church will be called into military service of many nations. “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”
“Now, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what does the Lord expect of us? As a Church, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace.” (D&C 98:16).
This turned out to be a bit controversial, as it appeared as if he was criticizing the war effort of the US and the Church issued a statement the next day about it.
In some cases, it appears that war is inevitable as one nation invades another. But, could it have been avoided, could lives be saved, property and economies not destroyed and peace reign over the world?
Yes, but, it takes courage to do so. It seems too easy for a President, or other ruler to send his or her people into battle when they are not on the front line, leading the charge.
And these days, most wars seem to end without conclusion, with one side giving up and the other side declaring a hollow victory.