- Kylan Bartel (Wisconsin Heights High School)
- Anna Deibert (River Valley High School)
- Sarah Dougherty (Dodgeville High School)
- Tarek Fischer (Boscobel High School)
- Summit Koegel (Richland Center)
Cash scholarships were awarded to five students who wrote essays for Veterans For Peace Madison this year. A careful reading of these essays will explain why Veterans For Peace Chapter 25 chose to recognize the outstanding essays. See essays below.
Throughout human history, war has been used by various civilizations to settle land disputes, create new nations, and to flex the power and resources of dominant and opposing ideologies.
Oftentimes, these conflicts are seen as necessary or even heroic. But in truth, war is gruesome and nightmarish to both the soldiers who fight in it and the civilians who are adversely affected by it. To reach our full potential as a species, human societies must move beyond using violence and oppression as a means to an objective. War is never the answer because it causes great loss of human life and environmental destruction and it can lead to future conflict.
Warfare results in irreversible damage to human life and the environment, so it must never be considered a solution. The foundation of war is violence, which is inflicted on soldiers, civilians, and the environment in ways that are often permanent. The colonization war against the First Nations tribes by the young United States is a prime example of the long-lasting wounds that war causes. By slaughtering entire villages, intentionally spreading smallpox, and forcing the remaining Native Americans to revoke their culture, the colonizers killed the vast majority of people from an entire continent and caused irreparable harm to the few survivors.
In addition, the colonizers over hunted buffalo, which originally numbered in the millions, to the point where the species became endangered. Even today, the lasting effects of this colonization war cast a shadow on the First Nations tribes, which struggle with poverty and mental health on reservations that are nothing more than sad reminders of the land their ancestors were stripped from. Over the years, the advances in technology have enabled societies to cause even greater damage to nature and loss of life.
With the advent of nuclear bombs, war took a new meaning. The world’s countries now have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire earth’s population many times over, and still they continue to accumulate more. During World War II, the devastation of nuclear bombs became clear when they were used by the United States to slaughter tens of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians in an instant. The radiation from those bombs injured tens of thousands more, and it also caused permanent damage to the environment. The loss of human life and environmental destruction that war causes is enough in and of itself to show that war is never the answer.
In addition to the destruction it causes, war is not the answer because it can lead to future violence and conflict. A common saying is that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” This saying is especially true when it comes to warfare, because the wounds created during war can generate resentment that contributes to more conflict. For example, after World War I, which was ironically dubbed “The War to End All Wars,” the Allied Powers blamed Germany for the war and punished it in the infamous Treaty of Versailles.
The Allied Powers imposed economic and social costs on Germany, which led to a dark time for the nation. Germany’s poverty and resentment created by the Treaty of Versailles fueled Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and allowed him to unite the nation under a common enemy, directly leading to the Holocaust and World War II. Of course, the Allies had reason to interfere with Germany’s atrocious treatment of the Jews in World War II. Even so, that conflict still harbors resentment among some today, which may lead to more violence. Germany today is struggling with a rise in far-right ideologies and neo-Nazi groups, many of which draw on negative emotions that stem from animosity after World War II. Hopefully this issue will not lead to more violence, but it is possible that this cycle of war and resentment could continue. Because war often leads to future wars and violence, it should never be considered the answer.
To truly progress as a society, we must lookback on our shared history of violence and suffering and learn from past mistakes. We must break the cycle of endless war and never-ending resentment. Only then can we achieve our full potential as the human race.
Our world is filled with hate and division, not only across borders but within our own country. Not only does war create a view of other countries as enemies when we should see each other as neighbors, but it creates deep rooted fear and xenophobia of our own citizens back home.
These prejudices have impacts that ripple throughout a country and can last generations. They can leave long lasting scars and damage for communities, especially minorities. Not only are they severely damaging to people who regularly face discrimination as is, but these divisions actively create blockades preventing us as a global community from combating universal issues that threaten the health, safety, and wellness of us all.
Our country is currently experiencing a dramatic increase in Asian American hate crimes. The histo1y of Asian American struggle in the United States is shameful. One of the ugliest periods for specifically Japanese Americans came during World War II. According to the National Archives, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading to the forced uprooting of 112,000 people to “assembly centers”. This blatant racism and discrimination being actively endorsed by the federal government led to a slew of hate crimes during that time.
This is just one example of the consequences war can have within a country; once you label a certain country an enemy, anyone assumed to be from said country is labeled an enemy, too. Not only are these assumptions flagrant and wrong, they’re racist. They create a culture where people point fingers, alienating other individuals based solely on their country of origin, race, or appearance.
The Vietnam War is yet another example of Asian Americans being attacked due to the prejudice war creates. According to the Washington Post, “U.S. soldiers perpetuated a racial animus against the entire Vietnamese population,” something that they carried with them when they returned home. The Post also claims that a lasting effect the Vietnam War had was the “blurring of lines between foreign and domestic threats.”
The threat of actions overseas is no longer seen as an isolated event. Instead, war promotes the idea that the same threat from overseas is here, in our home country. People begin to no longer see fellow citizens, but people who are “other.” This association between citizens of other countries and Americans is doubly harmful. Not only does it alienate and target our own citizens, but it further divides us as a world.
In an age where global unification is of the utmost impo1iance, there could be no better
time to declare that war is not the answer. As of January this year, COVID-19 had killed 2
million people world wide, and that number has only increased (Murphy and Wu). Global
climate change threatens our immediate future. We need to work together, not just as a country, but as a world. The only thing war will do is divide us, cause us to see differences in each other as ways to bring us down rather than lift us up. We need unity and love, not war.
“Life Conquers War”
To this day, I reflect back to a fifth grade history lesson. The topic of discussion was the impacts of World War I with the point of interest being shell shock, a medical and military
phenomenon that resembles the modem day diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The unsettling evidence of confusion, terror, nightmares, and impaired senses these soldiers endured did more than frighten me, but evoked a sense of confusion. I could not fathom the notion of young, bright individuals having to sacrifice their own psychological and physical well-being, dare say lives, for the objective of conflict. It was then, at the ripe age of ten, I recognized how cruel war is, how damaging and unforgiving it is on the lives of innocent bodies, minds, and
spirits that are exploited for the sake of a country’s “sweet victory”. It is in regards to the poor well-being and empty promises given to past and present soldiers of war that inclines me to
believe that war is never the answer.
Going through world history, war is a barbaric, reoccurring act that has expanded issues rather than solve them. While these wars date decades back, soldiers whose days of combat are forgotten are left with memories that cannot be. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
continues to torment veterans of all eras and ages, affecting more than 30 percent of World War II veterans, to 30 percent of Vietnam veterans, and even in today’s light upwards to 20 percent of . Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
While many soldiers who return from war are physically wounded, several more return with not so obvious injuries of mental trauma and scarring. PTSD, and other mental illnesses among veterans, continues to increase anxiety and emotional responses. Without proper help this leads veterans to be more susceptible to issues such as depression, substance abuse, and cognitive distortions. But, what may be the most pressing issue is the high suicide rate, with an overwhelming increase in attempted and completed suicides tragic and exigent statistics that portray the true challenges veterans battle in society are continuously bypassed.
The pure existence of one human’s life and well-being will forever be more valuable than the catastrophe of war.
According to multiple online sources, the leading causes of war include disputes over territory, disputes over resources, and conflicts over religious differences. Yet even if any of these seems plausible to go to war, one must consider the effects of war.
In addition to understanding the ramifications of war, one must consider the answers to a few basic questions. If I were in a position of national leadership, I would ask three questions before considering the option of war: 1. How will we know whether we have won or lost? 2. What will we do after we win (or lose)? 3. Will the short-term gains of winning the war be sustainable or will conflict linger for many years or even decades?
One may deduct from the wording of those questions that they are biased toward ultimately deciding against war. While that notion is correct, it is my belief that the same decision against war would be made regardless of how a set of questions is asked. If the questions were asked: What will happen before the war, during the war, and after the war, I think the answers remain the same. Perhaps we ask: What will it cost, what will we gain, and how will our country respond? In any scenario, it is my belief that diplomatic diplomacy will always be a better choice than war.
The consequences of war include a long list. Obviously, the loss of human life is at the forefront. Not only does war cut short the lives of hundreds or thousands, it also impacts loved ones of these casualties. The long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder are enormous and again affects more than just those diagnosed. The destruction of cities, businesses, and homes as well as the disruption of trade is devastating to the economics of all countries involved. It also has an indirect effect on trade partners.
Furthermore, there is often a huge environmental impact which is seldom resolved after the conflict. And to make matters worse, neighboring countries are almost always ill-prepared to assist in the handling of thousands of migrant civilians who flee the country where war is taking place. This means that one singular war, seemingly between only two regions, countries, or cultural regions, can cause a chain reaction that negatively impacts an entire continent. And as world economies are increasingly linked, this means the impact is felt across the world.
The use of diplomatic diplomacy has been extremely effective in preventing war for many decades. When world leaders sit down and discuss differences and ultimately negotiate ways to resolve conflict, agreement is almost always reached. Obviously, this takes time and patience and is ongoing. But it is also a proven means of maintaining peace.
In conclusion, I submit that war is never the answer. The direct consequences to human life alone may be argument enough. But if one needs more, consider the economic devastation as well as the environmental impacts. Diplomacy beats war every time.
In his address to the Riverside Church in New York, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed toe simplest and yet one of the most confounding statements in the history of mankind: ‘War is not the answer.” His statement was in regard to the Vietnam war which at that point had been going on for 12 years with no end in sight and 11,363 lives lost in that year alone. King, as well as millions of other US citizens, religious individuals, and followers of his believed that the Vietnam War was a colossal mistake that brought no social, economic, or political benefits and meant the loss of far too many lives and thousands of broken families waiting for loved ones that would never return home. War is an option that is far too often chosen when other alternatives have never been explored. It is a decision made by a group of people too small to represent the opinion of the entire population and too removed from the conflict and the effect of their ruling to justify choosing their choice.
One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics starts with Hobbes asking Calvin why they always play “war” and never play “peace.” Calvin responds by saying, ”Too few role models.” Despite the humor in those words it also brings up an alarmingly good point. American society and education have become obsessed with the idea that we must be “number one,” and never conceded to another country in politics or war.
But what message is this sending to smaller countries that look to the United States as an example of a stable and peaceful democracy? The United States military budget in the last year has amounted to $934 billion dollars while the Department of Education was granted just $64 billion dollars in 2020. The funding for war alone, exceeded the budget for education by $5 billion dollars. We can not expect to encourage peace in other less-developed nations if we continue to place more importance on conflict and our own military than we do in the minds of the children that will soon be the leaders of our nation. Far more conflicts could be resolved through diplomatic discussion and the use of language and logic than will ever be successfully resolved through force.
The root cause of war between nations is never simply a hatred for another group of people, although on the surface that may seem like the case. There is always some social, political, or economic motive that causes our leaders to enact war. What this entails is that there is always some approach to resolving the details of this motive without simply dominating the opposition and forcing them to comply with your desires. In this perspective, we begin to see war as a last resort when the opposition, simply, refuses to listen to reason. Even in these times. we must consider our own motives, and determine whether our objective is worth the lives of countless men and women.
Albert Dietrich, a survivor of World War II answered this question best by saying, ”There are perhaps many causes worth dying for, but to me, certainly, there are none worth killing for.” Our leaders must learn to value people not as commodities that can be traded and sacrificed, but as human beings with a conscience and morals that tell us that taking the life of another person for shallow objectives of money or land is never justified.
The power is held within the hands of the people in our nation, and it is crucial that we utilize that power to enact meaningful change in the legislation that governs our future. Elected representatives should exhibit peaceful incorporation of laws that show a willingness to sacrifice economic advancement for unity among individuals, organizations. and countries. TI1ere are problems far 1ueater than the one we create for ourselves facing humanity – and those problems are far better off being faced with love and armistice than with war.