Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Wonder of War

This post is brought to you by Moonspun @ Moonspun Spins— thank you Moonspun.

First, it is an honor to be guest posting on CaJoh's site. And I sure hope he is having a great time on his vacation!

I've been thinking a lot about war lately…this is both normal to me and seems odd. It's normal because I am a graduate student and I am studying military history. So therefore, much of the reading I have been doing involves war. Natural, right? Those who know me in my 'real' life looked at me oddly when I told them how I was pursuing a Master in Military History. Like YOU of all people?

Let me back up. When I graduate from my undergraduate college 20 (yikes!) years ago, I was a Women's Studies major. What fascinated me then about the subject was that is was interdisciplinary. I took classes in music, history, art, literature as well as classes of feminist philosophy and such. It was also a brand new major at the time. There was a lot of talk about the "evil military-industrial complex."

On the one hand studying military history 20 years later seems like a polar opposite. Yet I have found that like my undergrad degree, it isn't all that you'd think it is. First, I can't tell one gun from another and really, I don't need to. Second, military history is not just about studying battle after battle and glorifying death and such. It's finding out the why and the how of why societies go to war, the KIND of war they engage in (the why and how often depends on cultural factors). Mixed in between the social and political reasons for war and conflict are the relationship of civilian and military opinions, governments and citizens. In other words, it's fascinating to me! In a way that I'd never even thought about before I decided to take my first class a year and a half ago. It's not true that military historians are warmongers or love conflict or violence. They just want to understand on a different level. I am becoming one of them.

So while reading last night in my Cambridge History of Warfare, I was to a point where the author was discussing all the conflicts of the 1990's and 9/11. And in the context of my reading and my observations about people lately, I have just wondered WHY it is that some people and societies are so hateful toward each other. I have also wondered WHY killing someone else who is different from you is ok.

Personally, I just don't get it. Because although I have felt angry towards people and OK, have struck a few, I would never 1) hate someone people they are so different than me and 2) think they should be killed just because of it. And it's not because I was told this, it's because I feel it inside. I'll admit that I can be suspicious of people who seem different (ie I am a bored and bred Yankee and naturally wary of Southern people :-) ) but it never turned toward hatred and all I need to do is talk to people to know something about them to assuage any odd feelings I have. That seems to be how I am made.

So as I am reading about all the massacres in the Bosnian wars and the fatwa that Bin Laden put out saying to Muslims that killing any American anytime is good…well it makes me wonder about war and about people and why. Are we wired as a global society to protect our own so much that it is worth killing? Is this something we can't help? If we have been doing this for tens of thousands of years will it stop? Do we want it to?

I don't know the answers of course. But I can't help but be curious. And when my 9 year old daughter asks me why…I don't always know what to say. Do you?

(Thanks Christopher! Moonspun :-)

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~Eleanor Roosevelt


Ron said...

Well, this is certainly a post I can relate to as a former infantry officer who did some graduate work in the same subject (my undergrad was English Lit & I focused on war writing).

I'm not going to attempt to answer the question because war exists well beyond the extremes of humanity. It's about oneupmanship in imposing political will and the morality associated with it, but you know that. What scares me is, to defeat an enemy willing to fly loaded jet planes into a skyscraper you have to top them with something more inhumane-something so horrifying they will surrender in advancing their own ideology. Like dropping nuclear bombs on Japan.

Anyway, I'm just rambling. There's a saying, no one hates war more than a soldier. It's true.

A good book you may like on this topic is On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by LTC Dave Grossman. I met the guy once and he is incredible intelligent.

Love this post. Thanks

Mama Badger said...

Interesting topic. I've always thought that there are three types of people in a war. 1) The crazy ones, who think this is what you should do 2) The ones who have been driven to it by either an attack of some sort or just irritation at a situation 3) The ones who are innocent bystanders that get in the way. I can understand people #2 and #3, but not the #1 types, either. To think it's ok to kill someone you don't know based on what you THINK they believe is beyond my comprehension.

Deb said...

wow... this is a big one, indeed.

i think a lot of it is tied to misguided loyalty to religion and ancestry. it's hard to negotiate peacefully with people who think it is God's will to murder.

very thought provoking!

Cajoh said...

Thank you again Moonspun for your contribution.

I always find it interesting that people try to justify hatred towards others because of their differences. I also find it confusing that I live in a nation that tries to encourage uniqueness, yet allows for this type of hatred to be more prevalent than honoring people because of their differences.

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