Why do wars begin?
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2020 - 12:00am

The Trump administration ordered the assassination of Iranian general Suleimani was supposedly to prevent an upcoming attack on Americans. But it is clear that world opinion does not believe this latest Trumpian accusation. American allies like France condemned the attack. Besides, how would the killing of a general stop an attack. If at all, such a killing would cause anger and possibly reinforce the desire to attack if there was ever such a plan. 

Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy writes that though “the Washington defense and diplomatic communities are not exactly mourning the death of Qassim Suleimani, a powerful Iranian commander, there has been such an erosion in confidence, domestically and abroad, in not what the Trump administration says but in its ability to construct a lucid foreign policy.“

There are reports that majority of his military and diplomatic advisers were totally against the planned assassination. There are now speculations as to why Trump insisted. Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist says Trump is just a bully with delusions of grandeur. Another theory is that Trump is faced with a domestic political crisis – his impeachment. International crisis often leads to surging support for a country’s leaders. It would be simple minded to think that this theory always works.

Krugman has a more critical explanation for Trump’s behaviour: “From his first days in office, Trump has acted on the apparent belief that he could easily intimidate foreign governments – that they would quickly fold and allow themselves to be humiliated. That is, he imagined that he faced a world of Lindsey Grahams, willing to abandon all dignity at the first hint of a challenge.” Lindsey Graham is a Senator from South Carolina who was a Trump opponent; but, he is now one of Trump’s loyal puppets in the Senate.

Trump is betting that his assumptions will come true – that Iran will be bullied into submission and the American people will rally to his support. The problem is his credibility. How many people still believe him when he has been caught lying literally thousands of times? If his two assumptions fail to come true, then are we facing the possibility of another war?

Why do wars begin? According to Professor Palaima, they never end. Definitely since the end of the Second World War, the United States has hardly known a period when it was not at  war – in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Central Africa, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and on and on.  He says: “ Peace is an illusion conjured up by a version of  the old Roman magic trick: Where they make a desolation they call it peace.“ 

Tacitus was the greatest historian of Ancient Rome. He once wrote: “ Use your advanced military technology and overwhelming superiority in human and material resources to create a wasteland. Call it peace. The people back home will believe you. They want to believe in their own benignity.”

War is endless. Paul Fussell wrote in his book The Great War and Modern Memory (1975): “The idea of endless war as an inevitable condition of modern life would seem to have become more seriously available to the imagination around 1916.”

He catalogues the wars that have made the imagined real: the Spanish civil war, the Second World War, the Greek civil war, the Korean War, the Arab Israeli War and the Vietnam War.

While wars are such major turning points in world history, only a small proportion of history’s wars begin with some kind of formal declaration. Exactly when a raid, a vendetta, a rebellion – or a police operation like Korea – becomes a war is often dependent on who is writing the history. 

With most wars especially today, nations feel it imperative to define a “just war” and assert the justice of the cause before urging its young people to die for it. 

Wars have also become more brutal as they become more impersonal. There was a time when leaders went to war at the head of their armies. Then came a period when generals did not personally lead their armies; but, they were present at the battlefields. They had first-hand view of the death and carnage caused by wars. Today, the closest they come to viewing battle scenes is through satellite television thousands of miles away. This makes it easy for leaders like Trump, a Vietnam war draft dodger, to order men to kill and to die. 

Ever since there were wars to be fought, there have been chroniclers, philosophers and strategists of war that have written books that have lasted through the ages. Many of these military classics have influenced strategies and thinking in other sectors of society like business and government. The first known classic was the Art of War  by Sun Tzu who was a contemporary of Confucius. The great Renaissance scholar Machiavelli wrote a book with a similar title, The Art of War. The British military thinker Basil Liddel Hart’s book Strategy was one of my reference books when I taught Strategic Management in the MBA program of De La Salle University. 

Why do wars begin? They never end. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Jan. 25 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration, email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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