Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lessons of War and Peace

My apologies, I've put off this post for too long so I decided to tap this out on my iPod. It will send it out as soon as I get to a hot spot

Now, two unrelated world events caused me to reflect on the lessons we should have learned from history, but apparently have not. Last month, Israel launched a military offensive into Gaza to stop the continous rocket attacks launched by Hamas. In Sri Lanka, the government has mounted an offensive against the Tamil Tigers, who have been waging a terrorist war for decades. In both cases, there has been a lot of talk and political pressure brought to bear in attempts to stop the fighting. The media's parade of civilian tragedy is a primary tool in mobilizing support for the so-called peace efforts. While I wish to generally advocate peace, peace can only exist were there is political will to create peace.

I both cases, and others around the world, the terrorists/rebels/freedom fighters depending on your point of view could not exist without a significant measure of public support. Hamas, which has clearly demonstrated itself to be a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the utter destruction of Israel, has been elevated to fill the role of the government in Gaza. Can it be any less ambigous that the people of Gaza condone Hamas? By electing a terrorist group to become the government, the Gazans must accept responsibilty for the consequences when Israel acts to defend itself. The facts clearly demonstrate the lack of political will in Gaza for peace and until something happens to shift that will there cannot be peace. The obvious hope of the Gazans is that Hamas will be able to inflict sufficient damage that Israel will either be defeated outright or that they will otherwise make significant consessions. Of course, the Israeli government's responsibilty to protect the life and liberty of its citizens.

Similarly, the Sri Lankan government is fighting a civil war against a group that has often resorted to terrorist tactics in an attempt to gain major concessions.

Setting aside the morality of using terrorism for political gain, or even the moral rights a people to fight for a government that represents their interests, viewed in purely geopolitical terms, the attempts to stop the fighting at all costs are short-sighted and only serve to aid the weaker side to prolong their war by strengthening their political will.

After the death of Charlemagne, the heart of medieval Europe was divided into three parts - roughly present day France, Germany, and Lorraine, each ruled by one of Charlemagne's sons. When the ruler of Lorraine died, the other brothers fought for control of the territory, and this began a cycle of war and peace that lasted several hundred years. One of the wars is actually known as the Hundred Year War. After a brief respite, the Kaiser decided to finish the fight for good and invaded France, which became the horrible site of destruction and the death of literally millions. The Allies eventually pushed the Germans back to there own lands, and all sides, tired of war and the flu pandemic agreed to an armistice to stop the fighting. The terms were harsh for Germany, acerbating an already fragile economic situation, heaping on national shame without actually having suffered an invasion and experienced "real defeat". Historians commonly agree that the armistice helped set the stage for the rise of Naziism and the Second World War only a few short years after "The War To End All Wars". Fortunately, the second time around the Allies settled for nothing short of total and complete uncomditional defeat. There could be no further question in the minds of the Axis powers, the political will and the physical capacity to wage war was eliminated.

One important lesson that we should take from history is that the decision to go to war is political, and typically the only way to settle the dispute once war has become an option for the parties involved is for war to take its natural course and determine a victor and a loser. That is the truth of geopolitics, and until one side is no longer capable, they will continue to rearm and wage war. If Hamas, or the Tamil Tigers or any other warring faction for that matter, are not completely and unconditionally defeated the world will not know peace. So pick a side, pick a righteous cause and see the job through to the end, or else your children's children will have to find the courage to do it for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Makes me think about Vietnam and how one of the reasons they wouldn't end the war when they should have is because of politics and looking weak...or their pride or whatever. It is interesting how we can look back at history and see clearly what the right decision was but how muddled the decision making processes was at the time. So many egos and hidden agendas coming into play that are never written into history as factors. Thanks for the post!