I’m ready to give up on world peace.
It’s a sweet sentiment, it’s been dear to me for most of my life and you hear a lot about it this time of year, folks hoping for it, praying for it, wishing for it in the New Year. I’ve done all of that hoping, praying and wishing myself, and a little bit of working for it. But it’s not ever going to happen, and here’s why.
First, there are a lot of people who profit from war and the threat of war. Leaders of nations benefit because in time of war no one is likely to throw them out of office, so they get to hold on to power, or at least bolster their popularity. If it takes a war to hold on to power, that’s fine with them. They will find an enemy and promote a jingoistic fervor so that they can be President or Prime Minister or Premier or Grand Hoo Ha a bit longer. You may be thinking “No, there are real enemies. They’re not made up, and we must defend ourselves from them.” If I’m right, and I think I am, in every case someone has cooked up a false pretense for going to war, or preparing for one. If we have a real enemy, perhaps it is because we are their imagined enemy. In any case, the regular people, not running the country, have to go along because they don’t know if maybe the President knows something they don’t.
Another group that profits, literally, are arms dealers. When you’re in business you need to sell stuff, and the biggest sales have always been the guns to “defend” the country. These days the term “guns” means sophisticated weaponry like guided missiles, smart bombs and the elaborate technological infrastructure to make it all work. These are big ticket items, and most governments will pay literally any amount to get the best armament, no matter what sacrifices their people may have to make. Needless to say, this powerful and wealthy group can and will do whatever it takes to make wars inevitable. It’s good for business.
Then there are those who actually fight the wars. There are two groups here: the generals, men who have grown up thinking about war, studying war, planning for war. They have been in uniform all their adult lives, and war is their business. They don’t see diplomatic solutions – they see military ones. Some of them may simply be trying to stay “in business,” but most are just doing their jobs, and following what they think is a “proud tradition.”
The other group is the soldiers, the eighteen year old boys bursting with testosterone and eager to prove their manhood. It’s easy for the other groups – the leaders, the arms dealers and the generals – to persuade these kids to become cannon fodder: Most of them are eager to go. They don’t believe they can be hurt, they long for adventure and they are unable at their age to contemplate the brutality and futility of what they are ordered to do. If they waver in their ignorance and resolve, a patriotic speech or a good strong sermon will restore their urge to join the few.
We’ve been slaughtering, torturing and enslaving each other since the beginning of time. We’ve refined our weapons and our techniques until warmaking is nearly a science. In every war both opponents think God is on their side, that it is they who are righteous, that this is the way to solve the world’s problems.
And yet we have not solved all the problems. The same ones keep cropping up: the need for more resources, the hatred of someone else’s religion or skin color, economic crisis, the need to defend one’s past arrogant and cruel behavior. Each time, war seems to be the best option, and our leaders, in cahoots with the gun sellers and the generals are forever sending our boys to fight and kill their boys, to come home dead, or maimed or crazy and believing that they have brought justice to “the enemy.”
I’m sad to say that I don’t think the habit can be broken. It’s been going on too long. There’s an establishment that benefits, and can’t see any other way. There are eager boys who think it’s fun, who will endlessly replace the worn-out veterans. So I really am giving up. I’m going to stop worrying about it so much. I’m going to stop wishing and hoping that, in my lifetime, humanity will come to it’s senses.
And if I say another prayer, I won’t ask for anything so foolish as world peace. I’ll pray for something more realistic. Like cookies.