The world has had two world wars in recent history. World War I, which was fought between the Allies: Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States, against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. World War I saw the destruction of over 38 million lives, including civilian and military personnel in the four short years it was waged from 1914 to 1918. The next big war in recent history was waged by Hitler, a notorious tyrant, from the years 1939 to 1945. It’s safe to say that the war started long before that in Germany, as veterans of World War I came home and looked to Hitler to lead them in the pursuit of the Third Reich. Hitler eventually took his message worldwide, trying to eliminate all Jewish people and other “impure” people from the face of the Earth. World War II saw the destruction of over 60 million people; however, some estimates place the number of lives lost could equal as many as 80 million. Today, many would call the war on terrorism a global war, and it has been being fought for about sixteen years and is still being fought today. These three examples of World Wars demonstrate that it is possible for the entire world to come together to accomplish a goal that they find necessary and for the good of the world. In this paper, I will discuss how the previous World Wars and wars in ancient history, can be used to demonstrate that a world built on global peace is just as possible as a world made on world wars.
Global Wars and their Impact
The age-old question of rather a war is a part of human evolution and, therefore, a human necessity is not an issue that we are going to concern ourselves with in this paper. Instead, we are going to skip ahead in history, from early war: unplanned tribal attacks, to more recent wars, involving planned attacks by military personnel. If we compare modern warfare to ancient Greece; we can see many similarities and many differences. One main similarity is that war is fought under the important notion of defending one’s home, and the military is made of civilians that arm themselves when their city-state is attacked (Bowden, 1995). However, war today is not fought only in defense of one’s nation, or in the hopes of expanding one’s territory. Global war today, and in the recent past, has been fought over resources, genocide, or terrorism, and the consequences have been much more devastating than in the past, with more people, and resources lost on both sides. With globalization comes the ability to defend countries half way around the world, and this can have far-reaching effects on all of the world.
The First World War in modern history, World War I, had far-reaching effects on many parts of the world. World War I saw the financial center of the world shift from England to the United States, as England consumed all of their credits on the global marketplace and became deeply indebted to the US. Shortly after the war, women worldwide gained the right to vote (where voting was allowed), and the working class people were given a higher social status than they had before the war. The United States, joining as they did, late in the War, suffered relatively minor losses and emerged as the great superpower of the world. The United States could be said to have benefitted the most from World War I, as it pushed forward industrialization. However, some argue that the United States was not prepared for this position of world leadership (Effects of World War One).
The end of World War I was the beginning, in Germany’s eyes, of World War II. Veterans from World War I, returned to Germany after the war to find an utterly defeated country; looking for a new leader to take them to glory and the Third Reich, and they found that leader in Hitler. Hitler became a Messiah to the World War I veterans, now called the Nazi’s, and they would have done anything to please him. Indeed, they did commit some of the most hideous war crimes upon humanity to please Hitler; following his orders blindly as he tried to eradicate any impure persons from Germany and the rest of the world (Redles, 2010). Aside from almost complete genocide of the Jewish race, the effects of World War II on the world were also far-reaching, and some would argue that they are still being felt today.
One primary effect that is still being felt today was the dropping of the first atomic bombs, from the United States, devastating Japan. Indeed changing their DNA, so that their children and grandchildren are still seeing mutations today; mostly in the prevalence of leukemia found in the Japanese children (Center for Nuclear Studies, 2012). Germany, Japan, England, France, and Russia suffered immeasurably in lives lost and damage taken due to bombings during World War II, and world power shifted again, from England and France to Russia; making Russia one of two superpowers in the World along with the United States. In the United States, World War II stimulated the economy, and cemented the US as a superpower. Scientific discoveries, that were used to fight diseases during the war, would later be applied to benefit mankind; reducing the mortality rate and encouraging population growth. Other technological advancements, such as the development of the atomic bomb, would leave future wars more precarious, as now nuclear weapons were a possibility in every future war. While the development of nuclear weapons was a definite pitfall for the future of humanity, perhaps the biggest benefit to emerge from World War II was the creation of the United Nations. With the unification of the world’s superpowers, most considered the world to be entering a new era of peace (Effects of World War Two).
That new era of peace came to an abrupt end on September eleventh, 2001, when a group of terrorist attacked the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and killed over three thousand people (History Channel). The attacks on nine eleven caused, then President George W. Bush, to call a global war on terrorism, ending the hope of world peace, and creating a ripple effect of changes in the United States and worldwide. Since President Bush announced the global war on terror, the militia groups connected to or inspired by al-Qaeda, have increased as well as the number of attacks committed by the group, over twenty attacks that have killed over twenty people since 2001, and counting. Other terrorist groups have sprung up, accounting for more minor assaults, and more deaths worldwide; demonstrating that global terrorism is on the rise and not on the decline (BBC News, 2011). Perhaps, however, the global war on terrorism has caused the most internal change to the US and its citizens. It saw the decrease in personal privacy (with the government now able to pry by recording both phone conversations and internet history of everyday civilians), the militarization of the police force, and the formation of the National Security Administration, which now oversees all internal and foreign affairs, using recorded personal data disguised as intelligence to target civilians accused of ordinary crimes (Kane, 2013). Recently, with the attacks committed by ISIS, the global war on terrorism has increased the amount of discrimination toward Muslim people on US territory as well as globally. The global war on terrorism could easily be argued to have had the opposite effect of world peace, and may, in fact, be a significant contribution to a future World War; but that remains to be seen.
The Effects of World Peace
While it is safe to say that since the development of human communities and cities, as well as military arms, and the advancement of civilization, the world has never known peace. Some country, rather little or big, in human history, has always been at war. However, with the
Ending of World War I and the development of the United Nations, world peace could be a possibility in the future if the world’s governments and resources could be used to promote world peace instead of world war.
The United Nations (UN) was founded to foster global peace, prosperity, and justice, and since the time of its inception, it has prevented a third world war from breaking out; if one does not count the war on terrorism (United Nations, 2013). The UN could be said to have been tasked with an impossible mission; world peace has never existed, why would it now? Michael Mandelbaum, in his book entitled Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century compares the pursuit of world peace to the search for a cure for cancer; it is done slowly over time, taking small steps in the right direction with the hopeful development of a “cure” at the end of the road (Mandelbaum, 2004). However, despite these difficulties, Mandelbaum maintains hope for world peace, through democracy, global government, and free markets that, he says, is the key to world peace at the onset of the twenty-first century (Mandelbaum, 2004). As Dwight D. Eisenhower said of the UN, “ With all the defects, with all the failures we can check up on it, the UN still represents man’s best-organized hope to substitute the conference table for the battlefield” (Sharp, 2011).
US Motivations to Continue the War Effort
While the initial, official stated reason for the global war on terrorism has remained the same throughout the last fifteen years (national security, God’s will, and eliminating evil from the world), after the death of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, many people have begun to question the necessity of the War on Terrorism. Since the evidence suggests that the War on Terrorism has created more terrorists, not less, why does America continue to fight this war; does America need war?
Since America’s economic system is built on a brand of capitalism, where the rich get richer, and the crumbs are left for the rest of society, it is argued that America needs a war every four years, or so, to maintain its economic system. The legitimate causes of war were justified, to begin with in the eyes of the American public, however while they were blinded with hatred and with the war in the middle east, the government levied taxes upon the poorer citizens of the country to pay for the war, thereby increasing the pockets of the already rich suppliers of weapons and other military necessities (Pauwels, 2003). It would be safe to say that the war on terrorism has become a war designed to make corporate America richer while devastating “enemy countries.” The fight on terrorism is abstract enough that it is a war that can continually be fought, for many, many years, without a clear enemy in mind, increasing the pockets of the rich in corporate America, while further decreasing the wealth of the middle to poor class of America.
The War on Terrorism also provides the American government the excuse necessary to monitor and invade their citizens’ rights, it allows the police force of the American government to detain anyone, terrorist ties notwithstanding, in a prison without outside contact for three days, and increased world democracy; pushing their ideas upon every country in the world, rather they want it or not (Higgs, 2005). It may well be that America continues the war on terrorism to push further their ideas while gaining political power across the world. Regardless of the American government’s justification for the continued War on Terrorism, the costs, in human lives, economic and governmental structure ships across the world, and important civil and economic liberties in America, are genuine and detrimental to most countries involved in the War on Terrorism (Higgs, 2005).
US Motivations for World Peace
According to a Gallup International survey, which polled 66,000 people in sixty-five countries, America is seen as the biggest threat to world peace (Bulger, 2014). Since America has technically been involved in some war since 1940, one is forced to ask, does America have any motivations to pursue world peace? As the world’s great superpower, one could argue that America, more than any other countries has a responsibility to use their powers responsibly, pushing world peace instead of continuing to wage war after war; up to this point in recent history, which has not been the case. However, the founding fathers of America brought about the world’s most prosperous, free, and peaceful country in world history; it stands to reason that if they could do it, so can the current governmental powers in America (Lohman, 2013). Could it be that the only motivations the US government has for world peace are the spread of democracy or the pushing of their ideals? Could it be that the only motivating factor the US has for the establishment of world peace is even more political power throughout the world? It could be.
Perhaps if the American government were more straight forward and honest in their dealings with both their citizens and foreign nationals and governments, the complete distrust of the United States by most countries in the world would diminish, and the American military could stand a chance of spreading a peaceful democracy across the world, eliminating world wars altogether. They would have to practice real democracy here at home, as well.
Peaceful Societies in History
The view is that generally friendly societies do not exist in human history; caveman supposedly fought with caveman, and today one country fights another, or a group of people fights another group of individuals, all in the name of “God” or “peace”, even though neither has been seen or heard from in Western civilizations since at least 1940. However, there have been peaceful societies throughout the history of humankind, who not only did not engage in war or warlike behavior with outside societies; they also did not promote fighting or violence even within their societies.
The Paliyan Society of South India, for example, is a relatively nonviolent civilization, that practices avoidance when dealing with violent situations or people (Gardner, 2000). A study of the literature composed of twenty-four other peaceful societies throughout the world shows much of the same thinking in regards to warfare or violence. Peaceful societies do not view violence in the same light as westernized nations. They believe that violence is not inevitable, that punishment and armed forces are not the answer to all conflicts, both internal and external, that political structures are not a necessity to prevent conflict, and that war is not the answer to world peace (Bonta, 1996).
Instead, peaceful societies throughout the world and in human history, have no record of violence. They rarely punish adults and have no prison system. Conflict is often viewed in a negative light, and outside interference by governmental forces are not sought after or approved, rather a conflict is with an outside society or within their society. Conflict is instead resolved through various other tactics, such as self-restraint, negotiation, separation or mobility, intervention, or humor (Bonta, 1996). These ulterior conflict resolution skills could be universally applied, promoting world peace instead of world war.
The examination of previous societies throughout world history that have implemented conflict resolution without the need for violence illustrates the world’s capacity for world peace; it is possible. The same forces it takes to push a country to war could be used to drive a country to peace. World War I set the United States up as the superpower in the world and World War II cemented that position, since then, the US has been in one way or another, and all under the guise of accomplishing world peace. If monies spent on war, some upwards of 450 trillion dollars, so far in the 21st Century, could be devoted to bringing democracy to developing countries instead of more destruction and human suffering, the world would be a superpower that indeed does promote peacefulness, democracy, and freedom. I have shown throughout this paper that the love of power and money is what keeps the world’s superpower at war, and in the words of William Ewart Gladstone, I will end this paper with the hope that world peace is achieved within my lifetime. “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace” (Gladstone, 1809-1898).
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