Sunday, January 14, 2007


The problem with war today...

I'm not very good at explaining why I believe or feel the things I do. I'm the type that reads or hears an argument for (or against) something, and says either 'Bullshit!' or 'YES! Exactly!' when the author (a more intelligent, learned and succinct individual than myself) manages to identify and put into words something that is churning around as a gut feeling with me.

I read something like this the other day. Submitted to a usually humorous reader contribution column of the Sydney Morning Herald ("Heckler: Apply wit to something that makes your blood boil") I was disappointed the editors didn't hand this one over to a more important opinion page. Why haven't I heard this before? It adds yet another reason for why I think there is something very wrong with the whole Iraq invasion. On top of the many others. One of those "YES! Exactly!" moments.

THE problem with war today is no one wants to win. Once upon a time it was simple: invade, rape, murder and pillage until you subjugate the inhabitants or there are none left. Call the combined nations an empire and move on to the next country.

Then events after World War II gave rise to the absurd concept of "peacekeeping". A paradigm of meaningless marketing jargon. Where on Earth is there any peace to keep?

The trouble is, we're trying to have civilised wars. It's not very nice to take people's land off them, so we'll just drop in for a while, like Super Nanny, and try to sort
everything out. But protecting people and resolving conflicts are the civilised
traits of a highly developed species. War isn't. War is anathema to civilisation. If all's fair in war, then by definition, war, like love, can't be fair.

Today's armies are asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back. They're not invading or all-conquering or even allowed to kill anyone, unless they're being shot at. It's little more than target practice, with them as the target.

Once you decide to have a war, you can't pussyfoot around. You've got to identify the territory you'd like to occupy. And then you have to annihilate anything that stands in your way and seize it.

Therein lies the rub. The reason no one wants to win is not just because too many people, such as arms manufacturers (US) and arms dealers (eastern Europe) and organised criminals (Northern Ireland) and politicians (Sri Lanka) and religious leaders (Middle East) have a vested interest in wars continuing indefinitely; it's that no one has a clear objective of what to do if they win. No one has the master plan essential for true, lasting victory.

The wars of yesteryear were usually driven by the clearly stated goals of a megalomaniac: something focused, like world domination. Today's wars are so wishy-washy. How did America possibly expect to win the Vietnam War without invading, occupying and subjugating North Vietnam? And what then? Even if President George Bush had on the war in Iraq, as he erroneously claimed three years ago, did he have the slightest idea what he wanted to do with it? Give it straight back to the locals? That is not what war is about. And as for most of the world's terrorist groups, the England cricket team has a better understanding of the consequences of victory.

In future the question our esteemed leaders should be asking, before they sacrifice a few more thousand innocent lives, is not whether this war is right or wrong, but: "Do we really want to win it, and what the hell do we do if we do?"

Mark Silcocks. Heckler Column. Sydney Morning Herald. 11/1/07



Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?