Every decade since the Second World War American society has become more confident in its capacity to apply technical expertise and the fruits of such techniques (called, improperly, ‘technology’) to play an overriding factor in securing military success in the conflicts that our society has engaged in. In fact, American society has a somewhat naïve recollection of modern warfare: our participation in the Great War was quite limited, during the Second World War we were spared the full brunt of the German military’s capabilities which were engaged in the horrendous and tragic slaughter on the Eastern Front, and finally our memory of other wars are pasted over with nostalgia. Mixed in with our naïve understanding of war is the constant propagation of the technological miracles, via television and other mediums of communication, which show war is a positive light, blessed with the machinery that make war safe, clinical, and clean.
However, there is an overriding perception of war as technology versus people (who are our enemies) which makes war a remote application supported by personnel to clean up what remains after the drones, missiles, and bombs finish their job. However, what happens when our nation must face another nation with comparable technology? Perhaps our society’s first hope is that war would become a sort of game where no human beings would have to commit to military service in a serious capacity and that the automated extensions of someone behind an advanced computer would duel it out in a harmless kite-match?
However, this cannot be so. If such a thing were to happen, the arm-chair combatants would soon realize that they have gained nothing in such activity. The reason being is that war is, by its definition, a form of Politics. When I speak of politics, I refer to the broad concept understood by the Ancient Greek and Medieval societies. Politics in this conception means the whole human social life and there striving for material and spiritual flourishing. War, in its nature, must naturally target human beings, because it is naturally a horrendously distorted form of politics, where the Ends or Means of attaining the Ends of the human social life are misapprehended or denied. What then will happen when the arm-chair combatants realize they achieve nothing is that they will begin to target any human being in the society against which they are engaged against, whether a professional soldier or a humble desk clerk. War must by its very core seek to engage against another human being.
This is not to say that we should say that all combatants are by their engagement in war wicked for doing so, given that nations of people are forced into conflict by the volition of another group of people attacking them. Yet, in today’s world it seems that even the civilian must become, if war comes upon them, a person who must bear some form of protection upon themselves and in turn be singled out doubly as a target of war. It is not helped by the fact that war seems increasingly to be a clash of ideas, a concept that emerged and played out increasingly in the 19th and 20th centuries.
However, in those conflicts victory was still, to some degree, measured in material terms. Now societies and the ideas and ideologies that hold become internalized within the participants of that society, and increasingly it seems that to root out ideas from an opposing society may entail exterminating a society. This may not be too recent a novelty, considering the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, but such a terrible line of thinking may have come upon a new degree of maturation (if we could use this term…).
One last question to consider is whether the forces of the western (liberal, technique-oriented) society does, in fact create an extreme dichotomy in world politics, where traditional societies dissolve in the face of its advance, and evolutionary process occurs involving the fusing of western technique and the degraded caricatures of a society’s own tradition? We see this with the emergence of such movements as ISIS in the Middle East, and in Hindu Nationalist movements in India.
Pray for Peace. War truly is a degrading of humanity, and one cannot make war ‘better’ or ‘cleaner’, it must always come full circle. The irony is that the more ‘clean’ it is perceived, the more our taste for its dirtiness will grow.