a reply to: The angel of light
This was posted earlier in the week here:
It was my topic on this past Wednesday's show, here's what I had to say about the Pope's statement regarding World War III:
Pope Francis is at it again, lending his voice to one of the great moral issues of our time, that of war. Recently, the Pope reiterated the position
of the Catholic Church, which is that there are some just wars, particularly those that prevent the wholesale slaughter of innocents, as may well be
needed in the Middle East to fight the scourge that is the Islamic State. But he's moved beyond a call for justice with a new observation, documented
in a thread by Member New Holographic, “Pope says world's many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three” and posted to the Breaking
Alternative News forum.
Last Saturday, during a Mass at Italy's largest war memorial, paying tribute to 100,000 Italians who died in World War 1, Pope Francis once again
condemned war in no uncertain terms.
"War is madness," he said, "Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal,
with crimes, massacres, destruction."
"War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying," he said. "Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These
motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology ...,"
Now, as to his comments that the current state of conflict in the world may be tantamount to a third World War, I think it's a bit of an
overstatement. Both World War 1 and 2 can be traced back to a single event, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by Yugoslavian
nationalists for World War 1, and the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany for World War 2, these events triggering escalation as the world's
predominant economic powers took sides and began all out war. There were earlier conflicts that led up to the declaration of war, such as the invasion
of China, Russia and the Korean Peninsula by Japan, but there was no mistaking the real deal when it started.
These are the current major conflicts in the world today:
The Mexican Drug War - 12,000 deaths in 2013
Syrian Civil War - 73,000 deaths in 2013
Sudanese Civil War - 10,000 deaths in 2013
Iraq Insurgency - 10,000 deaths in 2013
Additionally, there are nine current lessor conflicts, all of which have less than 10,000 fatalities a year. These are the Israeli-Gaza conflict, the
Afghan Civil War, Somalian Civil War, Islamic Insurgency in Nigeria, the War in Northwest Pakistan, ongoing fighting in Egypt, Libya and the Central
African Republic, and the War in Ukraine.
In looking at this list, two things are pretty obvious. First, most of them regard civil unrest, not regional conflict between nations. Apart from
Israel and Gaza, and to the extent that Russia is involved in the Ukrainian Civil War, none of these is likely to result in the various nations of the
world taking sides and escalating conflict. The second is the relatively low level of involvement by world powers apart from, of course, the United
States, which is embroiled in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a lessor degree, Mexico and Libya. Russia has its hands in Ukraine and Syria, but the other
European powers are mostly silent, apart from happily supplying weapons to conflicted states.
It is difficult to dismiss a pending world conflict, because we saw in 1914 and 1939 how easily one could be set off. There are still situations that
could trigger escalation -- the invasion of South Korea by the unstable North, for example, could quickly result in global war, with Russia and China
on one side, the US and Japan, along with many European nations, on the other. But, for now, it does not appear that things are inevitable.
So what's the real story? Is the Pope just casting out some doom porn of his own? I don't think so, because I don't think that his perception is
off, just his grasp of the facts of global conflict as I have just laid out. In reality, I think that our concern about the stability of world peace
is founded on two things. First, my generation, the tailing off of the baby boomers into Generation X, had a very long stretch of peace, from the end
of Vietnam in 1975 through 2001. The first Persian Gulf war was something of a joke, our involvement in the Yugoslavian civil conflict was not well
publicized, and a variety of minor incidents, such as in Libya and Somalia, were also largely unnoticed, apart from those who were actually
But since 2001, it has been nothing BUT United States involvement in conflict, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Koreas, so we've gone from a
period where there didn't seem to be much going on, to a period where the evening news covers war almost every night. And that's the second reason
-- during these past 13 years, and in particular, in the years of the Arab Spring, the media has been going out of its way to publicize these
conflicts, leading one to the inevitable feeling of dread when the next ISIS beheading video is announced, or when the President orders airstrikes on
terrorists in Syria and Iraq. We've become a nation, if not world, that is always in a state of war, even when that conflict isn't super
significant. Will this ever end? One would hope so, but it seems less and less likely as time goes on -- we're becoming Orwell's 1984 vision, a
country always at war with someone, even when we can't necessarily articulate with who and for what reason.
During World War 1, over 16 million military and civilians were killed, and in World War 2, the number topped 73 million. In 2013, perhaps 200,000
people were killed in ongoing wars. Now, I agree with the Pope on this point -- one person dying in war is too many, but despite the seeming
permanency of military conflict around the world, I don't think that we are even remotely close to being in a state of world war.