Essay on What Is War and Why Does It Exist

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What is war, it can be described as an armed fight between two or groups. War can be characterized by violence, aggression, certain death, and the use of military forces, whether they are ethical or not. War is not only controversial but it can be misunderstood. Most people would say that war is not necessary and if it didn’t exist there could be world peace, but with a glance into the past you could see that war has been a recurrent phenomenon. At no point in time has the world been set free from the constant battle and long-lasting effects, it would seem that there is no ‘winner’ in most situations. Nonetheless, many people focus on the negative effects, overshadowing any positive attributes. War is a necessary evil in the sense that it gives people a chance to fight for their freedom, defend against an aggressor, and to defend those who cannot defend themselves. According to Franziska Quabeck, a professor of British Studies: Early Modern and Modern Texts, war cannot serve as a means to right a slight injustice, but must be morally required. Three categories of just cause can be distinguished. First of all, responding to an immediate form of aggression from another constitutes a just cause. Secondly, a pre-emptive strike against likely aggression, such as a serious threat, can be justified if the danger is immediate. Thirdly, a response to threats against the lives of citizens of other nations can be justified.

Fighting for one’s freedom can mean throwing yourself into the fire just to make sure you do not end up in the ashes that are left behind. This is similar to what Marevasei Kachere describes in her ‘War Memoir’. Instead referring to this particular section as the fight for one’s freedom but as the war for freedom. To this day, not everyone has the luxury of walking down the street to the market, even living in the same area that they grew up in, or having in any say what their day-to-day life looks like. This is similar to what Kachere went through, she and her family were moved into a camp where people were making huts that they would call their home. To escape the sad reality that was her life, she made the decision to not only leave the camp and her family to join the comrades. By joining them she decided to help fight for her and others freedom. Social scientist Robert Carkhuff says that the war for freedom can be explained by freedom being found in our ability to generate new and more productive responses to the changing conditions of our times. To be sure, true freedom is found in our ability to generate changes in the conditions of our times. Being able to create new ways to exercise their right to generate freedom, not only for themselves but for those who cannot fight and those who come after them.

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Self-defense is typically thought of as the defense of one’s self-interest, which can involve the use of physical force. On a larger scale, self-defense is the protection of a group, its people, and their rights. “A right of defense exists when a subject is at liberty to defend a certain good by performing an action which would otherwise be impermissible. The moral justification for this liberty invokes the following three considerations: an appropriate normative relation exists between the subject and the end of the right, consisting either of a right to, or a duty of care towards the good protected, the defensive act is a proportionate, necessary response to an imminent threat of harm, the object of defensive force has an appropriate degree of normative responsibility for, and the subject is innocent of, the harm threatened” (Holmes, 255). These reasons could be a moral justification because without them a country would not only be surrendering the territory, people’s safety, and their rights. Standing still so to speak could be worse than not stepping up to defend the place someone calls home.

Another reason war can be justified is to help those who cannot help themselves. Involving oneself in international problems not only involves them in a problem that did not initially involve them but there is a moral justification to help those who cannot help themselves. This helping hand does not always mean the supplying of physical violence, it can mean helping by aiding their existing soldiers, defusing a tense situation, or even just the thought of security. A country can play a key role in helping out just by acting as bodyguards and not actually engaging in violence. According to peace researcher Kristian Gleditsch and conflict analyst Govinda Clayton, “..the onset of mediation in a conflict hinges on both a third party being willing to offer their services and the belligerents being open to outside intervention. Mediation is a less costly form of involvement than economic sanctions or military action, and outside parties are often open to mediate. Supplying mediation can, however, incur significant costs for the intermediary, including administrative burdens, economic investment, and reputational damage if the process collapses. Third parties are thus only likely to offer mediation when they have some interest at stake in the resolution of war and believe mediation will have a positive effect. Potential mediators are unlikely to invest scarce resources when they have no interest in the outcome or consider it unlikely that mediation will contribute to a better result” (pp.264-284). Imagine if the country we live in now had less than half of the military we do now. Would the U.S. be involved in several conflicts? Would we be the ones needing assistance from those around us? Someone who can attest to that concept is author Diana Francis. She says that whether by action or inaction, we are bound to influence each other’s lives since, in John Donne’s words, we are ‘involved in mankind’. Honoring our interdependence implies participation in the business of society, based on human equality. This we can do directly by caring for one another in living communities, giving service to them, supporting them, and participating in collective activities for the common good (including enjoyment). Participation of this kind will involve both collective decision-making and collective or delegated action. Another good point has been made by two authors: “But in many cases, intervention is the proper course, though intervention does not necessarily mean the use of force. As mentioned already, every state has a moral duty to prevent human suffering if it is in its power to do so, no matter where the violence threatens” (p.196). They use the words ‘moral duty’, meaning that there is some standard in human nature that almost makes us do things to better ourselves and those around us.

Being that the U.S. has been involved in several conflicts, there is good reason for it. One instance can be the invasion of Haiti. The invasion of Haiti happened in September 1994. After years of dutiful efforts, confidential government plans, and several military trials the United States, along with the United Nations, had failed to return Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, invasion was the only option left. Although there were plans in motion, President Bill Clinton announced a dramatic change in plans. Instead of a forceful invasion, the plans were turned into peaceful cooperation with an illegal government. Before the involvement of the U.S. two years prior, there were numerous meetings about how this was going to happen, what was going to happen, and how. This was sped up because Haiti’s former president that Aristide’s return was paramount, as were the appointment of a legitimate prime minister and resolving issues of amnesty for junta members. Peacekeeping missions, such as the US intervention in Haiti, have become more and more frequent since the end of the Cold War. Even though they involve ground troops, fighter jets, and helicopters, sometimes under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization command, and can include deadly pitched battles, peacekeeping operations constitute a form of combat singularly different from traditional forms of warfare. Peacekeeping, more than the continuation of politics by other means, is a political war, one in which political factors, both in the invading country and in the country being invaded, not actual fighting, determine whether the operation will be successful. Goals are the first major difference between peacekeeping operations and traditional warfare. This aligns directly what with peace researcher Gleditsch and conflict analyst Govinda Clayton are saying. Mediation is not going to be the way every time, but it can be useful if it is applied to the right situations in the right way.

As I have stated before, war can be described as an armed fight between two or groups. War can be characterized by violence, aggression, certain death, and the use of military forces, whether they are ethical or not. Does this mean it is the definition for every war that we hear of no. People are fighting every day for their own reasons, whether they are necessary or not. It is my hope that those fighting today are not because they were forced, but because they want to stand up and ‘fight’ for what they believe in. It could be the war for freedom, stepping in and taking action into one’s hands to stand up for themselves and others is a noble and justified reason. It can be to protect your country, its people, and their rights, because what would happen if no one defended themselves? The last reason is that there are countries that cannot protect themselves and ultimately need the assistance of other countries. By involving oneself in another country’s conflict, one could possibly save millions of lives that did not have the chance. Stepping in to help can mean a number of things from military, medical, or even as a mediator. No matter the size of the issue, there is a moral obligation to help others around you when asked. To answer the ultimate question is war necessary, by the reasons given above, yes, it is.

Works Cited

  1. Carkhuff, Robert R., et al. Freedom Wars : Freedom and Prosperity in the Possibilities Economy. HRD Press, 2004.
  2. Clayton, Govinda, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch. “Will We See Helping Hands? Predicting Civil War Mediation and Likely Success”. Conflict Management & Peace Science, vol. 31, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 265–284.
  3. Francis, Diana. Rethinking War and Peace. Pluto Press, 2004.
  4. Hinde, Robert A., and Joseph Rotblat. War No More: Eliminating Conflict in the Nuclear Age. Pluto Press, 2003.
  5. Holmes, Robert L. “War and Self-Defense”. Philosophical Books, vol. 46, no. 3, July 2005, pp. 254–260.
  6. Kachere, Marevasei. “War Memoir”. Reading the World: Ideas That Matter, edited by Michael Austin, 3rded., W. W. Norton, 2017, pp. 515-519.
  7. Kretchik, Walter E. Eyewitness to Chaos: Personal Accounts of the Intervention in Haiti, 1994. Potomac Books, 2016.
  8. Quabeck, Franziska. Just and Unjust Wars in Shakespeare. De Gruyter, 2013.
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