Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 3

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence

640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropThe people who actually do the fighting are always the victims of inadequate funding – in the most recent war that this country fought in Afghanistan, the Army had the wrong type of personnel carrier, and the soldiers had the wrong kind of kit. In Battlefield conditions things rarely go according to plan. In both World Wars it was confidently assumed that a massive artillery barrage would soften up the enemies defences and make it a piece of cake for allied troops to march into German territory. In practice such bombardments rarely achieved their purpose and young, healthy, fit men went over the top, got entangled in barbed wire, and were ruthlessly cut down by enemy fire. The first time this happened- and maybe the second and the third, you could perhaps understand that the Generals hoped it would eventually work. In reality, in World War 1 the Army big wigs were still insisting on this madness four years after the conflict began, even though millions had by now been killed, shot down in cold blood – and for the sake of the gain of a few yards.

They carried on doing this in the Second World War. On D Day the German coastal defences were supposed to be virtually destroyed by allied aircraft, prior to the landing of thousands of soldiers. In most cases it did not work. Soldiers had to jump into the sea and swim into vicious and unforgiving enemy fire. It was only by sacrificing thousands of lives that eventually a foothold was gained.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. The Ministry of Defence is notoriously secretive about casualty figures and is reluctant to even put a figure on civilian casualties. Fortunately journalists have compiled statistics based on casualty figures reported in the press. To use the recent Afghanistan War as an example, over 400 British troops lost their lives. But 18,000 Afghanis civilians were killed and some put this figure as high as 22,000. I’m sure they all think that war is an important tool in the resolution of conflict. In point of fact the real cost of the war in Afghanistan is estimated to be £37 billion according to the detailed analysis by Frank Ledwidge in his book ‘Investment in Blood’ (Yale University Press, 2013).

The sheer horror of war and the experience of it dehumanises the troops and leaves many of them severely traumatised. It took the Generals who lived in comparative comfort in French Chateaux during the Two World Wars a long time to take this seriously. Men who had volunteered, and even put themselves forward when they were underage were shot in cold blood for cowardice if they simply lost it and could not go on. Over three hundred British soldiers were shot by their own men. In the Vietnam War thousands of soldiers in desperation became addicted to drugs to numb their pain, and blot out the horror of what they were doing. In America today there are hundreds of Vietnam Vets who live with terrible injuries and mental and psychological damage.

The British Army has one of the better reputations for discipline and does not have a bad reputation for pillaging from houses and communities where they have conquered the enemy, or for raping the women of the villages and towns they have ‘liberated’; except in Kenya during the Mau Mau terror when British troops engaged in some of the cruellest and most vicious assaults on British subjects who lived in Kenya but were black and assumed to be on the side of the terrorists. Violence breeds violence and war breeds more war. Faced with a tyrant like Hitler a devout German Christian called Dietrich Bonhoeffer eventually decided in good conscience to support a plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed and 5,000 people lost their lives when Hitler ordered massive reprisals. Violence always breeds more violence.      To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years.  A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four
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