Have you noticed that our thinking about war has gotten softer? These days, our wars tend to earn euphemisms such as: border skirmish, police action, regime change, nation building, civil uprising, popular revolution and gorilla opposition. Similarly, killing becomes targeting, eliminating, taking out, and collateral damage.
Obviously, the idea of war is becoming too repulsive to be named for what it is without shame. Anymore, you don’t often see Group A attacking Group B with the intent of killing or enslaving everyone in their path and taking all of their land and property. Yeah, “real war” used to really mean something.
It used to be that horsemen pounded off the barren steppes to pillage great swathes of quiet villages. European colonizers often summarily claimed whatever they "discovered," demanding its resources for themselves, and usually were more than rude to its current inhabitants.We try to not remember how recently indigenous peoples of the American continents were slaughtered or driven from their lands and how recently slavery drove agricultural economies.
The incomprehensible violence of World War II so scared everybody that we all just had to find ways to not do that again. Now, several generations later, we are still feeling good about returning pieces of art to the grandchildren of people who had their homes plundered. Parliaments and presidents are still feeling obliged to make apologies for atrocities committed by their predecessors in other times.
Real war is all about violent conquest, and it produces victors and the vanquished. And yes, this is a very bad state of affairs. However, isn't there some point at which the victors stop oppressing their victims and the vanquished stop seeking revenge? A real war happened. Somebody won. We have to eventually move on and work together to make life better for all those disenfranchised survivors and restrain those whose greed or hate would create injustice and misery to others.
What will we do as sea levels rise, deserts take over cropland and essential services fail? Refugees will want to immigrate to more-hospitable areas as a matter of survival. What will happen to Phoenix when the American Southwest starts to resemble Death Valley? What will happen when Iowa becomes a dust bowl and our children want to relocate to the milder climates of Canada or Siberia?
Is humanity in the process of becoming able to see strangers as members of the same family? Can we have the conviction and commitment to consider our impact on the lives of others? Can we work together to solve shared problems? Will those who have resources waste them, unsustainably, while others suffer and die? Will too many choose to say, “I’ve got mine and that’s all I care about?” If so, we will certainly go back to waging real wars of conquest over diminishing resources.
There is still hope. Our world is changing, growing, developing and maturing. The general tolerance of real war is evaporating. We are increasingly beginning to respond with brotherly consideration and liberal compassion for unknown others. Our sense of community continues to expand from family, to village, to tribe, to nation, to humanity, to all life on this earth. Are you truly committed to peace on earth and good will to men?