War. For or against, justified or not, nothing stirs the blood more. The historians study the past ones, we argue and fight over the current ones, and
our youth dread the future ones. Some argue that it is human nature to fight. From when the first caveman picked up a bone and whacked another caveman
over the head, right up to the modern battle theatre, we've been bludgeoning, shooting, killing, and conquering each other.
Others claim that it is not
in our nature; that we are generally peaceful animals and that it is power-hungry, vindictive, or simply insane
leaders that send us off to fight while they sit back, thousands of miles from bombs and flying bullets, free from immediate consequence, and
ultimately, reaping the spoils.
In the geo-political maelstrom, nothing has the power to affect our lives (and deaths) so much. So why then does the power to send so many to their
deaths lie in the hands of so few?
Some dreamers have suggested "Thunderdome" solutions, whereby leaders of different nations who have disputes are thrown into a cage and forced to
fight it out between themselves. That would be infinitely amusing, and I think Dubya could definitely kick Saddam's butt, as well as Puny Putin's.
John Howard on the other hand couldn't beat up an aggressive third-grader. But that is a fantastical scenario and ignoring the real issue.
The arguments over the justification for the war in Iraq continues, results of opinion polls are constantly paraded in front of us to show support for
or opposition to wars, but polls mean nothing when our leaders can ignore them with impunity. To me, it seems that the power to decide whether or not
to go to war should be placed in the hands of those whom it affects the most: The People. Sound like a romantic idea? Maybe, maybe not. Governmental
policy by public referendum is not feasible for everyday decisions, for obvious reasons, but it is required in most countries for constitutional
amendment. If referendum is required for changing the basic tenets of a nation, then why is it not required to plunge the same nation into armed
conflict? How many wars could have been avoided if we, the people, made the decision?
If the decision to go to war were made by public referendum, would the United States have invaded Iraq? Would she have entered WWII earlier and
perhaps helped to lessen the overall destruction and loss of life? What about Vietnam? Britain in the Falkland Islands? China in Tibet?
And how about Hitler invading Poland? Hermann Goering, Hitler’s Reich Marshall once said, “Naturally the common people don’t want war. But
after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy
or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the
leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the
country to danger. It works the same in every country."
"A person is smart, but people are panicky and dumb." Keeping the masses
controlled, passive, and collectively supportive while leaders
instigate wars is easy enough, as Hitler and others throughout history have so tragically shown us. But what if the decision to invade another country
and murder its citizens or the decision to invade a country and restore democracy, the decision to come to the aid of your nation's allies, what if
these decisions were made by individual, anonymous
, compulsory referendum of the people; checking boxes in little booths? Would the
decisions be more acceptable to us, and more beneficial to our respective countries and to the world? Or does the majority not necessarily understand
what is best for a nation? Do we, like children, sometimes need to have tough, complex decisions made for us by those who are "wiser" than us? And
are they really wiser? After all, politicians are just people like you and me, with the same faults, prejudices, weaknesses and emotions.
This is not meant to be a diatribe on the merits of war. Sometimes war is justified, sometimes it is unavoidable. Nor is it intended to be a
comparison between leaders of today and tyrants of the past. Rather it is intended to raise the question of who the decision-makers, who the
"war-makers" should be: Those who do the talking, or those who do the dying?
Photos courtesy of ushmm.org, doorcountycompass.com, gunboards.com
[edit on 2005/3/20 by wecomeinpeace]