The reality of war

World Beyond War is a global movement to end all wars. They have listed some of the myths and facts about war, and why it's bad for everybody...

War is not inevitable.

War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. During the most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it.

War is not “natural” or healthy.

A great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.

War is not a permanent part of our culture.

Any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.

Ending war is possible.

Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, during the 1920s and 1930s, then it is today. It is the reason that the United Nations was created. In recent decades, the notion has been propogated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, dangerous, and without basis in fact.

War is not “defense”.

The U.S. War Department was renamed the Defense Department in 1947, and it is common in many countries to speak of the war departments of one’s own and all other nations as “defense.” But if the term has any meaning, it cannot be stretched to cover offensive war making or aggressive militarism.  If “defense” is to mean something other than “offense,” then attacking another nation “so that they can’t attack us first” or “to send a message” or to “punish” a crime is not defensive and not necessary.

War preparation is also not “defense”.

The same logic that would claim that attacking another nation is “defensive” can be used to try to justify the permanent stationing of troops in another nation. The result, in both cases, is counterproductive, producing threats rather than eliminating them. A defensive military would consist of a coast guard, a border patrol, anti-aircraft weapons, and other forces able to defend against an attack.  The vast majority of military spending, especially by wealthy nations, is offensive.

Defense does not need to involve violence.

Evidence shows that the most effective means of defense is, far more often than not, nonviolent resistance. The mythology of warrior cultures suggests that nonviolent action is weak, passive, and ineffective at solving large-scale social problems. The facts show just the opposite. People under attack can refuse to recognize an attacker’s authority.  Peace teams from abroad can join the nonviolent resistance.  Targeted sanctions and prosecutions can be combined with international diplomatic pressure. There are alternatives to mass violence.

War makes everyone less safe.

War mythology would have us believe that war kills evil people who need to be killed to protect us and our freedoms.  In reality, recent wars involving wealthy nations have been one-sided slaughters of children, the elderly, and ordinary residents of the poorer nations attacked. And while “freedom” has served as a justification for the wars, the wars have served as a justification for curtailing actual freedoms.

War does not bring stability and is not moral.

War can be imagined as a tool for enforcing the rule of law, including laws against war, only by ignoring the hypocrisy and the historical record of failure. War actually violates the most basic principles of law and encourages their further violation. Murder is the one crime that we’re taught to excuse if it’s done on a large enough scale. Morality demands that we not so excuse it. War is nothing other than murder on a large scale.

War erodes our liberties.

Just look what is happening in America now, as a result of our endless wars. Freedom is being compromised in the name of security. The War on Terror and the War on Drugs have been the excuses used to increase control on the population, and limit what we do.

War threatens our environment.

The world's militaries are the leading cause of pollution and environmental degradation. Plus a major motivation behind some wars is the desire to control resources that poison the earth, especially oil and gas, which are then used instead of clean alternatives.

We need the money we spend on war for other things.

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. That sounds like a lot of money to you or me. But if we had trillions of dollars it wouldn’t. And we do. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. Again, that sounds like a lot. Let’s round up $50 billion per year to provide the world with both food and water. Who has that kind of money? We do. But we're spending that money on war, which is impoverishing us. The world spends around $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the United States spends about half, or $1 trillion. The effects of war and other violence cost the world trillions more. A study published by the Institute for Economics and Peace found that violence cost the world $9.46 trillion in 2012 alone. That’s 11 percent of gross world product. By comparison, the cost of the financial crisis was just 0.5 percent of the 2009 global economy.

Of course, we in the wealthier parts of the world don’t share the money, even among ourselves. Those in need of aid are right here as well as far away. But imagine if one of the wealthy nations, the United States for example, were to put $500 billion into its own education (meaning “college debt” can begin the process of coming to sound as backward as “human sacrifice”), housing (meaning no more people without homes), infrastructure, and sustainable green energy and agricultural practices. What if, instead of leading the destruction of the natural environment, the United States was leading the world in creating a sustainable future.

The potential of green energy would suddenly skyrocket with that sort of unimaginable investment, year after year. But where would the money come from? $500 billion? Well, if $1 trillion fell from the sky on an annual basis, half of it would still be left. After $50 billion to provide the world with food and water, what if another $450 billion went into providing the world with green energy and infrastructure, topsoil preservation, environmental protection, schools, medicine, programs of cultural exchange, and the study of peace and nonviolent action?

U.S. foreign aid right now is about $23 billion a year. Taking it up to $100 billion — never mind $500 billion — would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A recent poll of 65 nations found that the United States is far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing food and schools and medicine and solar panels to the entire world, instead of military actions, then the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be laughable and probably non-existent.

 


Imagining a world without war.