Causes of war

Dear Editor:

A recent letter, “Lies are the foundation of War,” December 21, 2018 maintains that duplicity, deceit, and deception form the basis of – and for – war. Indeed, suspicion, deceitful manipulation of facts, and political – or religious – “grandstanding” have resulted in armed conflict. Considering the events leading to America’s entry into World War I, did Woodrow Wilson want to “make the world safe for democracy?” Or, as noted political scientist Theodore Lowi contends, has it always been to make “democracy safe for the world?” (The End of Liberalism, 1969).

The letter of December 21 mentions the desire of the American people to pursue an isolationist policy as the winds of war were brewing in the 1930s. Initially, that was true. However, consider this: When one sees photographs of the ruins of cities, then one witnesses the results of World War II. When one sees photographs of a group of defendants at Nuremberg, then one sees 22 causes for immense death, devastation, and destruction.

Suffice it to say, deliberate lies, deceit, and deception, per se, are too narrow an explanation for the causes of war. In reality, many causes produce war. There are the perennial animosities among groups of people; envy, fear, and greed; turbulent frontiers and borders, the legacy of past events that cloud rational judgement and create enduring prejudices; and, of course, prior wars and conflicts fought on ancient battlefields (perhaps by soldiers who spoke in now forgotten tongues). Julius Caesar reminds us that “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

Throughout history, and continuing in this millennium, the world has been plagued at different times by groups of “zealots” who adhere to a political or religious “fanaticism” — along with an unyielding conviction that they are – that they have become – the unique holders of universal truth and correctness. Taken at its most basic core, the causes of war can be reduced to paranoia, to a selfish misdirection of aggressive impulses, to bigger “gains” and “dividends” – be they financial or philosophical, and to sheer human ignorance and arrogance.

President Harry Truman noted, “We shall never be able to remove suspicion and fear as potential causes of war until communication is permitted to flow, free and open, across international borders.” Perhaps the best method for achieving peace is not through an arms race. Instead, peace can be achieved and maintained by the removal of the causes of war and by placing international agreements on a more solid foundation, one that advocates peaceful communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. That is to say, to replace the terrors and consequences of war with the benefits achieved through peace.

President Kennedy said it best, “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”

John Di Genio