War

Essay on War immemorial … Sin Fin …

From the desk of the Chief: I am participating in a national grant program that deals with the concept of “Moral Injury” and how it applies to soldiers in wartime. This piece was prompted by one of the Warriors Path workshops. H. W. “Bill” Sparks, CWO, U. S. Army Retired.

The world has changed over the millennia. Man has been at war with one another since Cain and Abel fell into the arms of envy and hate and jealousy. War has always been a bloody business.

Now it is more like a video game. Unmanned aircraft acted as spies in the skies until someone smarter than the rest armed them. They became flying fortresses. Large behemoths, able to fly around the world and drop death and destruction from above, able to fly undetected by all but the most sophisticated radar systems, and for those, they are armed and able to defend themselves.

Next generation weapons under development are unmanned artillery and unmanned armor, such as tanks. Next will be the space-age weapons. We have laser guided munitions. How far of a leap is it to produce effective deadly laser weapons? There are experiments with maser style weapons and weapons using less lethal sound to incapacitate crowds. Imagine the destructive power when these are concentrated on a human being.

War has always been a bloody business. Soldiers – warriors, many conscripted in by-gone centuries, fought for their own survival. Few fought out of a sense of patriotism or fealty to their lord and master or for the spoils of war. That would go to others, not the average foot soldiers. No, fear was the driving motivation on the battlefield. Kill or be killed. Live to fight another day with hope to return home.

Facing an enemy and smiting them with whatever weapon you have at hand was brutal in the early development of war. You could see the enemy’s eyes. You could hear their cries of anger in the attack. You could see the hate in their eyes. You could hear their last breath escape the body.

As family groups became clans and clans became tribes, the loss of life was not lost on the leaders as they went to war. New and more deadly weapons were sought to allow the soldiers able to kill off an enemy from a distance. The sword was replaced by a lance, then the bow and arrow. Villages and towns raised walls to hold attackers at bay. Siege warfare was developed along with crude artillery, literally throwing rocks to knock down walls.

The black powder developed for fireworks quickly spread throughout the known world and modern warfare advanced quickly with all of the power of a human mind’s imagination. The shear explosive power unleashed made war more deadly. New weapons were created. The ability of man to wage war now went global. There were battleships with big guns and airplanes that could drop their eggs from the heavens behind enemy lines. Cities, and their civilian populations, once thought safe from the front lines were now targets on a map. Wars that were a continent away were of no concern by those with a strong navy. The seas kept a potential enemy at bay until the advent of submarine warfare.

Propellor aircraft became jets and jets became supersonic. Rockets became missiles and missiles became intercontinental. And now, the whispers are hypersonic death that is so fast that there is no reaction time for defense.

War certainly is good business, really good for business. Some of the best technological advancements known to man have all evolved from a war or the desire to go to war or prevent a war. There may not be enough money to improve the lives of people but there certainly is plenty of money available when the conversation turns to war.

When my mind turns to war and all of its perturbations, I am amazed at how many ways there are for people to kill people. And yet, throughout all of recorded history, war has not become much cleaner or neater. War is a bloody mess.

A city can disappear in a radioactive cloud of destruction, but the remains of the city will be a mess. The term “weapons of mass destruction” is misleading. It may be easier to kill off a lot of people with a single push of a button, but the result is still messy.

How will war develop in the vacuum of space? There will be a lot of futuristic weapons, maybe ray guns and spaceships darting around the stars? But hold on to your seat there pardner, what about the debris that will be floating around in the ether out there? Something as small as a grain of sand moving fast enough in space can destroy a satellite with today’s technology. Future wars will need shields and inertial dampeners to protect the spaceships and the space crews, won’t they? Oh, scientists are already working on those, sorry, my bad.

Let me bring this back to some sense of reality. The discussion of war and warfare throughout the ages centered around killing people. There has been little discussion on the most important issue of the morality of killing people – the morality of war.

The German war machine in World War I marched to patriotic tunes and chants of “Gott mit Uns!” “God is with us!”

Think about that for just a moment.

There is a war. The war advanced to a global scale with everybody killing everybody else. It was deemed a just war to meet the German perceived destiny to rule Europe. It was deemed a just war by those countries and their allies defending themselves from aggression call out “For God and Country.” Whose side was God on? The defenders against a perceived tyranny? Or those marching under God’s banner?

God cannot be on both sides, can he? Does God even take sides?

The question of morality in war will continue to be an issue for centuries to come. Philosophers and theologians can sit in ivory towers and holy sites and debate while soldiers and warriors strap on their armor and leave their friends and families to fight the next war. The burden of the morality of war lays heavy on the shoulders of those that fight the wars. There is more of course, there is always more … sin fin …

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  1. Frightening for sure. “War is messy.” One wonders why human kind has always had this greed for power over others. Yet, even though history has stories of populations seeking a “higher moral ground,” we continue, as you say, to experience more and more sophisticated ways to kill each other. Agis Sparks would have appreciated this historical summary and perspective. Thank you.

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