20060216 “War has never achieved anything and never will”. How far do you agree?

A great war leaves the country with three armies – an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves, as a German proverb goes. It is indeed so that war, an openly acknowledged state of armed conflict between nations, serves only to destroy. Personally, I agree fully that war has never achieved anything and never will.

It is near impossible to say that war does have its good points, for only when relations start to sour between countries does the notion of war arise. This is because war is seen mainly as a solution to problems which have been deemed to be too severe to be settled by diplomacy. Many a time, war is a last resort, a means to put a quick and permanent end to a contentious issue which has dragged for a period of time.

Thus, war is the final destination of blown-up tension between countries. One of the causes is when one country shows signs of going back on its word which it had previously given to other countries. For example, by breaching an agreement signed jointly by a group of countries, that particular country is seen to be openly disregarding the others of that grouping. Inevitably, it will spark off displeasure among the affected countries. This similar situation can be seen in the current dispute going on between Iran and the rest of the world. By threatening to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty so as to continue with its uranium-enrichment programme, Iran has seriously offended and infuriated many countries who are strong advocates of world peace. These countries do not have much of a choice other than war to bring Iran under control lest it really had the intention to make nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Furthermore, war can also be started by the insensitivity of countries towards one another. In this globalised world, where countries get increasingly inter-dependent, it is paramount to maintain good relationships with one another. There is no other way than to show respect and tolerance to one another. Such lessons can be drawn from Sino-Japan ties in the recent weeks. Despite constant vibes of disappointment from China, Japan Prime Minister has insisted on regular visits of worships to the highly controversial Yasukuni Shrine where the ashes of Class A war criminals are kept. By doing so, Japan has clearly not shown any remorse or repentance over its cruel invasion of China during World War Two, and instead seems to be acknowledging it proudly. In response, China has called off bilateral meetings with Japan due to irreconcilable differences and would only make amendments after Japan changes from its defiance. We can see from here that inconsiderateness plays a very important role in diplomacy between countries, for all countries have their national pride, and for another country to attack it would only incur them to retaliate by means of war.

Following technological advances, the weapons of war have also improved tremendously to be more efficient in causing mass destruction with more ease. From soldiers with bayonets, we have slowly replaced them with impenetrable tankers and fighter jets. Nuclear bombs capable of wiping out thousands of lives at a time have been introduced too.

The consequences of using all these weapons on battlefield are certainly overwhelming. Firstly and mainly, many lives will be lost, those of sole breadwinners, filial sons and devoted husbands. As a result, families will be shattered, leaving behind helpless orphans and widows.

Not only that, the conflicting countries will bear open hostility and resentment towards citizens of the other countries. With war, whatever happened to universal brotherhood and unity? More often than not, the hatred lingers on and is passed down the generations, like how some elder Singaporeans still refuse to have anything to do with Japan, the country which tormented Singapore for three years. Besides, whether a country emerges victorious from or loses in the war, it still has to deal with the major losses from the moribund economy caused by the war. Without a functioning economy, the country is similar to a body without a backbone. Together with massive loss of life, there will be an insufficient number of workers to jumpstart the running of the whole country. Lastly, on the international scale, the conflicting country may face a potential boycott from disagreeing countries, meaning a further weakening of the country.

The country may have won back its pride and glory, but is that little bit of honour really worth the people’s sufferings and the orphans’ cries? In the end, its victory would only be remembered in history, whilst the terror of war will always sound in the mouths of the civilians. Nothing is worth more than a life. War carries no such price worth valuing at all, since it only aims to destroy and destruct.

The Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) of Singapore is an excellent example to support my stand that war will never achieve anything noteworthy. For Japan, it wanted to gain control of the whole South-East Asia region. Thus, it fought its way hard to become our masters for three years. In the end, it not only had to return Singapore to the British, but incurred great losses with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Furthermore, its people suffered the brunt of it, with many children born with birth defects as a result of the harmful radiation from the atomic bomb.

Fast forward to the Iraq War (2003-2005). In the beginning, U.S.A had entered into the scene with the good intentions of leading Iraq on the path to democracy. Sadly to say, war and democracy simply do not go together. U.S.A countered violence in Iraq with violence and force from its troops. As the insurgency intensified, it also concentrated more soldiers to bring the situation under control. Last year, it finally saw ‘some’ fruits of its labour. The first time it held polls for election of party candidates since Saddam Hussein’s reign, the polling stations saw a total turnout of more than half of the eligible voters, without any divisions boycotting the polls. However, what it did not emphasize on were the huge human costs sacrificed for this little bit of results. Just within this period, 60 journalists had been killed in one way or another in their line of work, and a few thousand soldiers in its troops had perished in the insurgents-led resistance. Recently, there have been reports of more violent riots coming up. So, did the Iraq war really achieve anything, or did the successes and failures negate one another?

Basically, war strips the world of its highly-regarded values of peace and harmony. The devastation caused by it is too horrible to be witnessed fully. Mankind should never be embroiled in such a suffering and torture. The only way is that countries start to be more far-sighted by keeping a global perspective. Instead of doing things in our own interests only, we should learn to give more. It takes two hands to clap. As long as each country plays its part to live harmoniously with one another, there will be no need for war to happen. Diplomacy and pure brotherliness surpass the short-term solution of black-and-white peace treaties agreements.

Let’s not hope to hear about an Iran War or China-Japan War. Moreover, with uranium-rich Iran, the stakes are much higher. Needless to say, War is never a solution; it is an aggravation.  ~Benjamin Disraeli

Gloria Cheng

4SY

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