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WARS…                                                                                                                                  Is Thomas Mann right that “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace”?  Is there ever a just war?  If there is can an enlightened society determine when it is right to go to war?

Over the last 65+ years, there has been between 150 to 250 wars, depending on how war is defined (World Psychiatry, 2006overview of global issues) .   Harrison and Wolf from Humboldt University reported that the increase in wars during the last few years has primarily been caused by two national states fighting one another.  In their June 2011 article they wrote, “the number of conflicts between pairs of states rose steadily from 6 per year on average between 1870 and 1913 to 17 per year in the period of the two World Wars, 31 per year in the Cold War, and 36 per year in the 1990s “ (Science Daily, 2011).

Siem Reap Cambodia with a depiction of war.

I cringe as I think about the wars that continue to plague us in this fallen world, and the thought of those who have been and are currently being harmed in the name of war.  Millions suffer due to a myriad of war-related consequences from injury, to homelessness, to death.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  Dwight D. Eisenhower


I have been thinking a lot about the consequences of war as I worked on a talk for Fashions for Freedom (I will tell you more about that in my May 1 blog).

Research shows that wherever there is war the most vulnerable people during and after

Women and children suffer wherever there is war - Darfur

the war are women and children (Whittington, 2005).   One of the most demoralizing consequences of war for women and children is sexual violence.   Why waste a bullet when rape is one of the most powerful weapons to crush the spirit of your enemy.   Rape humiliates, dominates, and terrifies (United Nations Human Rights, 2012).


The use of rape as a weapon was rampant in Liberia during the civil war.  Child soldiers were often required to rape females as part of their initiation rites (Whittington, 2005).  The World Health Organization surveyed six out of the 15 counties in Liberia, with 75% of the women who responded to the survey indicating that they had been raped during the civil war (Walker, 2006).  UNICEF found that in one county that 7-11-year old girls were the targets of rape by enemy soldiers and even babies were raped (Whittington, 2005).  As women, it is hard for most of us to imagine what this must have been like.  Yet, think about the imprint it left on children as they were either victims of or often forced to watch their mothers and sisters being raped.

Sadly, the consequence of such sexual violence did not end with the signing of a peace treaty.  The physical scars might have vanished but the emotional and psychological scars last a lifetime.  In addition, females who were sexually violated during the war were at higher risk for sexually transmitted disease.  Many of these females also were left pregnant or had given birth to an enemies soldier’s child.   When they tried to re-integrate into their community they were often stigmatized, rejected, unmarriageable, and had no choice but live on the street with their children.

Sexual violence was not the only consequence of war for Liberian women and children.  Many children were forced to become child soldiers.  Women and children watched soldiers kill their families, and some children were killed just for the sport of it.  I have heard some horrific stories about what happened to innocent children during war.  Unfortunately, this is not just the story of Liberia, but the same story has been and is ongoing across the globe.


The ramifications of war

Harrison and Wolf noted that the increase in wars between border countries is counterintuitive to the current theory of war.  When countries become wealthier, more interdependent, and more democratic there should be less war.  Wolf writes, “The thinkers of the Enlightenment held that these things ought generally to make the world more peaceful. Much political science is built on the idea that the political leaders of richer, more democratic countries have fewer incentives to make war and are more constrained from doing so” (Science Daily, 2011).

Harrison believes that prosperity actually may contribute to war by making it cheaper.  When countries prosper due to productivity, trade, and democracy it makes “destructive power cheaper” and war can be waged more efficiently.

Genocides around the world

Harrison and Wolf share interesting insight, but yet it leaves unanswered so many soul-searching questions.  Is the foundation of most wars based on greed?   Is war a “man” thing or are women equally disposed to going to war?  Is power more enticing than the welfare of women and children?  Do the old decide upon war with no regard for the youth? Are wars an ecological consequence of nature so the world will not become overpopulated?  Is there such a thing as a “just war?”

The Oxford Companion to Military History lays out the following parameters for a just war.  It must:

  1. Have the intention to right a wrong with the ultimate goal of peace,
  2. Use armed force as the last resort,
  3. Have legitimate authorities calling for and conducting the war,
  4. Have a good prospect that the war will result in resolving the issue and not be a wasted effort, and
  5. Have an outcome that outweighs the harm caused by war.

As I try to blend the parameters of a just war with the  ideology of Enlightenment used by political science, and the fact that we are living in a post modern world, then more questions are raised.  Whose moral code do we use to decide what is just and unjust?  After all in a truly enlightened and postmodern society, there is no existence of any ultimate truth or principles to follow (PBS glossary).  So if there is no absolute truth or moral code does it mean any group has the right to contemplate war because they want to right a wrong?  By the way, how is right or wrong defined in postmodernism?  With no moral code or absolute truth how do we decide if someone is a legitimate authority?  How do we define what a good outcome is?  Thomas Mann may be correct about us being to cowardly to deal with the problems of peace, but if there is no one truth how do we determine what the problems are or what peace is?  Maybe this is why there are so many wars, because those who are debating and determining war are postmodern thinkers and have no TRUTH by which to live.

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.  DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Mass grave site of Rwandans who were killed during the genocide.


What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

This week’s Think Through: Why do you think there are so many wars?  What is the answer to stopping them?  Is there such a thing as a just war?