The Purpose of War

What were we fighting for? According to the received wisdom of the ages fight is simply a continuation of the process was started by discussion and negotiation. It is the conclusion of failed politics and only has any purpose if the fight is to achieve what politics has failed to achieve.

Unfortunately politicians, while understanding the war is just a continuation of politics, fail to understand that winning a war does not end the politics that caused the wall in the first place. Winning the war merely creates another set of problems which are quite similar to the problems created by losing the war.

So, when the Western democracies decided to start wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they stated that their political purpose was to prevent terrorism. They were not clear on how starting a war prevents terrorism or winning a war prevents terrorism. In fact the truth is the Western democracies and their leaders did not know what at the conclusion of the wars the state of terrorism in the world would be. It was a bit like a man operating complicated machine deciding to push a random button in the hope that this would stop the machine.

I have already written about the legality of war but I suppose that pragmatically if nations are to fight wars they should only do so if they can achieve the aim that they have in fighting the war, whether the war is legal or illegal. For defending nations, the aim is usually quite simple: to prevent the nation being overrun by aggressors and to retain sovereignty over its own affairs. For aggressors nation the aim is usually to improve conditions in the aggressor nation by defeating another nation in war.

However there is a disconnect between defeating another nation and improving conditions in your own nation. Sometimes it can happen: a war of conquest that enslaves another nation and captures its resources will benefit the aggressor nation, at least in the short term. More likely than not the aggressor nation is either confused about its war aims or dare not state them.

The saddest thing about all is the death or brings. Those left alive want to believe the death has not been in vain but the truth is in all cases of soldiers who die in war have had their lives wasted, usually by politicians who are too frightened or incompetent to achieve their political aims by political means.

Politicians make a great show of honouring the dead with ceremonials, posthumous medals, and fine stirring speeches. It may assuage their consciences and it may bring comfort to the bereaved but most of all it will disguise for a short time the foolishness of those who ordered that battle be commenced.

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