Growing up we were taught to treat others as equals. A common saying is treat others as you would like to be treated. Unfortunately the world does not operate on the assumption of fairness because there are advantages to be gained. This is especially the case when talking about war, and there are many factors that make war unfair. Yes, the Geneva Conventions give us some extremely basic restrictions as to the treatment of other human beings during wars, but the resources available to both sides are not equal. War is expensive in terms of supplying soldiers to fight, guns, ammunition, land vehicles, aircraft, ships, food, combat gear, and fuel to start the list off. My article would end here if the side with the most efficient allocation of resources fought the other on a traditional battlefield in the middle of nowhere. As war strategies have evolved over the past two decades, traditional warfare has been scrapped for urban combat. Speaking of unfairness, proper armies at least have a voice, but in many cases civilians caught in the crossfire do not. In the last stages of war, as the enemy comes marching through the streets, the defending government is more concerned with mounting a grand last defense than forfeiting the safety of high-ranking officers and saving the lives of citizens. In guerilla warfare saving civilians may not even be an option due to the fact that a cohesive government that gives the unified signal of surrender does not exist.
In this moment of chaos, war happens to continue. The so-called victor has smashed any semblance of a resisting army, but now they are engaged in all out war against the new resistance consisting of terrorists, and guerilla fighters. Where do these unlawful individuals come from you ask? The labors of war have trashed all signs of physical infrastructure, left once capable individuals in poverty, and drastically altered civilians’ outlook on the projected future of their day-to-day life. The fear of losing one’s life can lead to a desperate person’s use of logically invalid action. The majority will just try to survive by any means possible, but dangerous situations give birth to fresh extremists. Very few have to die in order for this scenario to be accomplished. The mere presence of the machinery capable of continuing the cycle of death is enough to spark a massive feeling of desperation.
In addition to the fear of death, citizens lose most of their voice as the defending government collapses. In recent times, many wars have been fought due to the conflicts arising between respective governments. Rest assured in “formal” victory, the victor will make sure to wipe out the government of the opposing nation at first chance. Before the victor has the opportunity to establish a new government, that is favorable to their cause, there comes the long pause where helpless civilians are left without a voice. Even though some of these civilians take extreme measures and take to arms, the majority do not. Now how is one supposed to differentiate between the two? Given the opportunity, the guerilla fighters hidden among the civilians will wreak havoc on the invading troops. That is where I believe casualties, both civilian and military, begin to mount. Despite of any advances in technology or military strategy, the true enemy remains hidden.
I am by no means saying pacifism is the solution. I am also unfit to decide who fights wars as I am neither soldier nor politician. All I am asking is that respect be paid to those who lost their lives for the wrong reasons. There are plenty of civilians who die in war, that died as a casualty and not as an enemy. Such casualties are unavoidable in war, but the mass media desensitized us to such occurrences. Much emphasis is placed on capturing terrible dictators or hunting down terrorists, but very little emphasis is placed on the costs paid in civilian casualties to achieve such goals.“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”- Henry David Thoreau. The path to victory is lined with corpses, and while ideological gains throughout history at times have been worth fighting for, one forgets the number or names of the corpses.
Here is what doesn’t make sense to me. Across the world there are terrible individuals who suppress and greatly abuse the people they govern. However, the nations who oppose such tyranny, given a choice, would rather dispose of a single dictator than fight a nation. Such tyrants are enablers of atrocities that happen at the local levels of the dictatorial government. The dictators incite racism, religious hate, sexism, or other divisive ploys to accomplish their climb to power. Now common people incited into a fit of fury, are fulfilling the tasks of their master. The economic cost of taking down the enabling dictator is so unbearably high, but in many cases it must be done.
I do not wish to act as if this post solves problems associated with wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. I wake up some days feeling extreme sadness that conflict and a lack of understanding/perspective escalate into atrocities that lead to war. Then those who were reasonable and absent of loyalty pay the highest price; for these people never asked for war, but they will have it. I would like you to keep these people in your thoughts. They died without voice, never given a chance to say “I’m not your enemy!”.
I would like to also pass on our good thoughts and respects to the soldiers that paid their lives in the cost of war. They fight and serve our countries without hesitance or moral reflex. Here we sit for the most part in general comfort as others pay that great price for us. That comfort comes at a cost and let us not forget that. I wrote this post from the perspective of helpless civilians, but imagine the blood rushing through a young soldier’s veins as he enters the grounds of urban warfare. They are no less of a casualty of war. Looking back I find many of my points also apply to the soldiers who fought the “formal” war.
My greatest wish, is that regardless of your political opinion, we can unite here to respect the human cost of war. Democrat or republican, communist, socialist or capitalist, we all face this problem together.
Small disclaimer: This post is not designed to criticize wars current or past. From this perspective that is not my purpose. I am simply demonstrating the complexity of the decisions that governments fighting wars face, as their actions carry high consequences. So if your political affiliations seem to make you hold a grudge towards me, remember that I am writing this post for a cause more basic than politics. That being understanding the value of another human life as I refuse to see the day when it is undervalued.