There is no place and time in human history that was free of wars. Human
males enjoy fighting and when they do, they destroy property and kill other
humans, often in a cruel, extravagant manner. Large fights with much property
destruction and deaths of large numbers of combatants and civilians are
described as wars. As populations increased, the magnitude of wars increased.
Somehow, even in relatively civilized countries, war is viewed as a normal
expression of nations and war-making governments as valid expressions of the
people. In an ideal future, war would not be considered a legitimate expression
of governments. Instead humans who proposed war would be recognized as mentally
ill and would be confined to special institutions for the politically insane.
History records wars that appeared to have a religious purpose or
justification, although many group dynamics are usually at work, including the
sheer delight one group enjoys when waging war against other groups. The delight
is enhanced by winning a war and growing richer. The delight is diminished by
losing a war and growing poorer. The convergence of three conflicting religions
at the Sinai Peninsula, a tiny piece of land, continues to this day. This modern
version of an ancient conflict promises to generate increasing human paranoia
and militarism that will obstruct efforts to replace war with negotiation and
compromise. The Christian Crusades were a series of military campaigns the
occurred in the 11th through 13th centuries. The goal was to send warriors from
European countries to take Jerusalem, the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Noble knights leaving England might have shouted pro-Christian, anti-Muslim
slogans, but, once on the road, they were easily distracted by other
opportunities to pillage, plunder and rape. A 1250 French Bible illustration
depicts Jews being massacred by Christian Crusaders. The Crusaders' atrocities
against Jews in German and Hungarian towns, later in France, England left
enduring hostility on both sides. The security of the Jews in Western Europe was
threatened; legal restrictions on Jews increased following the Crusades.
Jews fought as allies of Muslim soldiers to defend Jerusalem against the
Christians Once allies against Christians, Jews and Muslims are now enemies and
some Christians, especially in the US, support the Jewish settlement of Israel
with money, weapons and belligerent slogans directed against Islamic states. The
Crusades also involved battles among Christian groups in different countries.
In 16th century France, wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants were
popular. In the 17th century, German states, Scandinavia, and Poland hosted
battles between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. In Northern Ireland, bloody
battles between Roman Catholic and Protestant groups continued through the 20th
Puritan families left England in opposition to some of the expressions of the
Anglican Church. They established New England on the Atlantic coast of what
would become the USA. The first great migration to the new world occurred
between 1630 and 1640 The influence of protestant groups in Canada and the US
continues to this day, although intergroup wars have been replaced by political
battles and litigation. In Canada, a French-speaking, Roman Catholic province,
Quebec, continues to assert its cultural independence from the rest of Canada
which is secular, multicultural and polylingual.
I have mentioned the rise of the Muslim empires, first by the Arabs and later
by the Turks. While the battles that continued for centuries can be viewed as
Muslims against Christians, the quest for territorial domination and wealth
superseded other motivations. In the early 20th century, the Turks brutally
suppressed political opposition in Armenia in what is now known as the “Armenian
genocide.” Talat Pasha, the Turkish interior minister at that time ordered the
arrest of Armenian leaders in 1915 and initiated large scale deportations and
massacres of the Armenians. The stated reasoning was political, although
Armenians were Christians and Turks were Muslims. The Armenians were accused of
collaborating with invading Russian forces. You could argue that, all political
excuses aside, the policies of the Ottomans were Islamic and that the first
priority of an Islamic state was to defend Muslim territory. The second priority
was to extend Muslim territory. The laws of the state were Islamic laws. Islamic
states often tolerated members of other religious groups who paid taxes and
enjoyed inferior status; however opposition to the Islamic state was not
If you advance to 21st century USA, you find growing numbers of militant
Christian fundamentalists ready to fight with Islamic fundamentalists. You time
travel back to the 7th century. The documentary film, Obsession, was a brief
course on radical Islam that increased concern among US viewers in 2007. The
film featured clips from Arabic TV, interviews with former terrorists, videos of
suicide bomber initiations, secret jihad meetings, indoctrination of young
children, and private celebrations of 9/11. To US viewers, the most shocking
revelations were the hatred of the US taught to children and the support for a
global jihad (battle of God) with the goal of Islamic world domination
On the other side, both radical and reasonable Muslims view footage from US
television, news and movies. They see US extremists and their expressions of
belligerence toward Islam. They recognize the belligerence of a US federal
government with a policy of attacking any country that poses a threat to the US.
The Muslims consider the US to be a country of greed, corruption and duplicity.
The political equation is balanced with hatred growing on both sides.
In the middle east a confusion of conflicted groups has arisen with Arabs,
Jews and Christians fighting with each. There are schisms in every group that
lead to internal conflicts. The Islamic world is split in with fighting between
the Sunni majority and minority Shia. Israel with its population of immigrant
Jews from many parts of the world has become a militant oppressor of the
Palestinians, the former occupants of the land now claimed by Israel.
There will be no easy solution when angry, fanatical humans with religious
disguises practice hate and threaten others. Fanatics will attack communities of
nicer, more rational humans. The tendency is for nice, rational humans to become
fanatical in response. The law of Karma is that conflict escalates and everyone
loses. The law of revenge, Lex talionis, produces an endless cycle of property
destruction and killing.
You can argue that human nature can change and permit sustainable, free
societies. Or you can argue that a number of social constructs can identify and
constrain the bad guys, leaving the good guys time and space to enjoy peaceful
lives. Or you can argue that human nature will not change and belligerent groups
cannot be constrained by any combination of social constructs. A study of the
chaotic, paranoid response in the US to the September 11 2001 attack on the twin
towers in New York does not support an optimistic view of social constructs. The
US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq produced devastation, death and global
hatred directed at Americans. The US remains a paranoid nation searching the
world for "terrorists" also known as Islamic militants.
History records an interminable series of wars of revenge. Wars are
contagious. Social order and peaceful intentions fade as belligerence increases.
The wealth of every great civilization has been squandered on war. The results
are predictable – death, destruction, and sooner or later, the collapse of
warring states. There are no winners. The main lesson from the in the 21st
century is that belligerence can prevail in “free” societies and assumes many
forms. Countries with big investments in military equipment and armed personnel
are primed to fight the enemy and will seek opportunities to go to war.