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War and Peace, Revisited

 War has always interested me; not war in the sense of maneuvers devised by great generals… but the reality of war, the actual killing. I was more interested to know in what way and under the influence of what feelings one soldier kills another than to know how the armies were arranged at Austerlitz and Borodino.

—Leo Tolstoy

Istanbul.

The New York Times selected Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace as the Top novel in its ‘Top 100 Books’ list in 2009. As a Crimean War veteran, Tolstoy used his own experiences while writing this six- volume novel. The famous author is known for his moral and ascetic views and in the novel he mentions how a person can have a moral life amid unwise people. He continually emphasized the preposterousness of war through the eyes of the main character Pierre. Tolstoy also underlined the human need for solidarity and unity rather than violence and separation. Since Tolstoy’s time, not much has changed in the aftermath of his pièce de résistance.

War has existed since the dawn of human history. There have been more than 14,600 wars to date over the last 5,600 years, which would mean an average of 2.6 wars per year. Does this indicate that people are prone to war and violence rather than making reconciliation and peace with each other? The answer is no despite the grim statistics. In general no parties have gained anything positive from wars and none will in the future. When one deeply reflects on the concept of war, they would realize instantly the nonsense of expecting a peaceful solution from trying to kill each other. For some the economic opportunities to benefit are staggering, as the world spends some one trillion dollars annually on military expenditures, a mind-boggling number. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s, 15 countries with the highest spending constitute 81% of the total expenditure. In 2012 expenditure reached as high as $1.75 Trillion, which corresponds to $249 per person globally.[1]

A number of psychological factors also encourage people to participate in wars aside from material benefits. One of those is patriotism. Patriotism, which appeals to the sense of pride and integrity, is often related to an irrational and overly emotional response to providing service for one’s country. That is not to say that patriotism is not essential; of course, citizens must love and do their best to serve and protect their countries, but often times the sense of patriotism is misused. The overly patriotic, the poor, the unemployed, and the uneducated are often targeted by simplistic ads. Military establishments make contests of paintings, essays, poem writings, and documentary productions along with many other topics on the concept of patriotism. We all have heard of the Pat Tillman story, the famous American football player who left his profession to fight in Afghanistan. There was a lot of controversy about his tragic death but his story is indicative of how people become overwhelmed with a sense of patriotic duty, making decisions that later turn poorly for them and their families.

Although people are influenced to participate in wars through various coercive methods used by military establishments that promote the sense of patriotic duties for their material benefits, the actual psychological experience of soldiers and veterans needs to be highlighted. The psychology of the participants of war indicates a surprising find. News reports usually focus on cold and raw statistics representing these conflicts, like the number of casualties, injuries, destruction of cities and so forth. What we do not encounter or hear about much is the psychological effects on individuals. On Killing, a famous book that is on the mandatory must -read list of the FBI, DEA, and a great many other law enforcement agencies after 911, seems to capture the psychological effect of war on soldiers. Contrary to what some might believe – that soldiers want to kill other soldiers – On Killing surprisingly and consistently pointed out the intense dilemma that soldiers go through, and how they try all that they can to purposely miss their targets. This surprising fact is almost never mentioned in the media. Why do soldiers purposely try and miss? The conclusion backed by research is that people naturally do not want to kill other people. Normally one would think that enemies would want to kill each other, however on the contrary the research indicates otherwise. It is only when soldiers are forced to kill that they then develop severe conditions. We can number 15 different related psychological disorders of which the most common is known as Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD “We observe many soldiers who have committed suicide or caused serious harm to themselves in order to stay away from battle. It is not only fear of death or serious injury that pushes them to such an action, but to confront the hatred in a hostile world.”[2]

Regrettably, whatever the cause may be, we are living in a world filled with hatred and wars. We witness the massacres of millions of innocent people before our very eyes. Various states seek their own national interests and security and many leaders claim to start wars in order to protect their people from terrorism or for pre-empting a bigger a crisis. They do not think of the effects of war on the soldiers who are actually involved in killing. A World War Two veteran, Glenn Gray, describes his emotions tragically; “I, too, belong to this species. I am ashamed not only of my own deeds, not only of my nation’s deeds, but of human deeds as well. I am ashamed to be a man.’’[3]

Why would people desire to suffer or make others suffer these psychological disorders and have veterans cope with the rehabilitation necessary to readjust to normal life? Veterans of war and their family members hardly go back to their normal lives. Millions of dollars are spent to establish psychiatric institutions for the treatment of the trauma of war veterans. If we did not start wars, none of that would be needed.

Adnan Oktar has authored more than 300 books translated into 73 languages on politics, religion and science.

Notes.

[1] http://www.globalissues.org/article/74/the-arms-trade-is-big-business

[2] Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave (2014-04-01). On Killing (Kindle Locations 1516-1518). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

[3] Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave (2014-04-01). On Killing (Kindle Locations 1516-1518). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

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