All wars are stupid | Dailytrust

All wars are stupid


Senator, as he was then, Barack Obama, opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. He said it was a stupid war. He said, “I am not opposed to all wars. I am only opposed to stupid wars.”

There is no such thing as a wise war. There could hardly be a more stupid war than the American involvement in Vietnam, or the Gulf War of 1990-91. A war necessitated by a worse alternative option is not necessarily a wise war. It is still a war that glorifies might and massages the ego of the man who sends young men into the path of death and destruction. There are always an alternatives to all wars. The reluctance to explore them makes all wars stupid.

The current Russian war with Ukraine is, of course, stupid. It is a cruel reminder once more that all wars, wise or stupid, are grounded in the logic that might has never been wrong in human history. The strong reserves the right to conquer the weak as and when it suits him. When a weak country tweaks the whiskers of a strong country it knows it is looking for trouble and as Fela would say, trouble he go get. 

Every war exacts human sacrifices. The young die in their thousands; civilians die in their millions; public and private property are destroyed; life gets shorter and more brutish; the world becomes less peaceful. And peace submits to violence. The ancient gods were appeased with human blood. The modern gods too are appeased with human blood. It is commonsensical to suggest that there can be no end to wars, big and small. The strong will never give up their right to conquer or subdue the weak. The world has travelled a pretty short distance in nearly 77 years since the superpowers first committed themselves to the prevention of war, beginning with the San Francisco conference of April 25, 1945.

On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter, signed on June 26 the same year by 26 nations including Britain, the US, and the Soviet Union, was ratified and became binding on all the signatories. It committed them to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war… to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights … to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

The world heaved a big sigh of relief. Hitler’s madness had been contained. The death and destruction of World War II had become not just a matter of historical record but the impetus to containing aggression and maintaining world peace. The superpowers said, never again. The supra-national UN was set to police world peace. History would not repeat itself; another Hitler would not rise from the ashes of his cowardly suicide. And the world would not witness a third world war. 

That was how much hope the world invested in the capacity of the UN to guarantee world peace. It turned out to a vain hope wrapped in mutual duplicity. The world has never quite known peace. The period that should have heralded peace fuelled the deadly arms race among the superpowers. Their signatures on the piece of paper meant nothing to them. The Cold War was fought in the laboratories where each side developed more and more lethal weapons of mass destruction that they periodically tested in third world countries to assess their effectiveness.  Many third world countries, such as ours, are now sorry victims of the free and mass circulation of small and medium arms t fuelling the rise of non-state actors such as Boko Haram and ISWAP. The gun is power. Power resides in the trigger. The superpowers need no lessons on that. Bandits too know that; so do armed robbers and kidnappers. 

This is the most enlightened period in human history. But it remains a dark period in human development and relationship. The tremendous advancements in science and technology have not banished the darkness in the dark recesses of the human mind where the devil prides in all nations in matters of self-pride, deviousness, and the irresistible temptation by one nation to assert and demonstrate its military superiority over other nations. 

It should be the responsibility of the superpowers to make the world safer. They were the principal motivators of the San Francisco declaration. And they were signatories to the UN charter. Still, they cause troubled waters and fish in troubled waters. Still, they confront us with the possibility of the apocalypse. Think of the film, The Day After.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is committed to Russian expansionism. He may not bring back the USSR, but as a cardinal of Russian superpower, he will keep the huge Russian bear howling to disturb the sleep of the west and frighten away small and weaker countries in the former Soviet bloc that might be foolish enough to assert their independence without his expressed permission.

In invading Ukraine, he makes two important points. One, he serves notice on the west that although the cold war might have ended, superpower rivalry is alive and well and his right to prevent the west from making Ukraine its satellite state is unassailable. Two, he has shown that superpowers do not oppose superpowers because doing so raises the ugly spectre of a major war. He knew that he would get away with crushing Ukraine and that protests by the other superpowers would be limited to spirited condemnations. No more.

Contrast that with the Gulf war of 1990-91. The US and its allies invaded Iraq to prevent it from annexing Kuwait. Iraq was beaten back and forced to retreat; Kuwait was saved and its oil export to the west was thus uninterrupted.

We are pawns in the chess game among the superpowers. They care less about world peace and more about their national and international interests. Ukraine is no match for Russia. The victory of the latter over the former was never in doubt. When it is over, Putin would have his trophy as a victorious war-time president. For his ego, he would have sacrificed the precious lives of young Russian soldiers, none of whom was his child; he would have killed thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and destroyed large swathes of the country. 

All wars are thus stupid because all wars massage the bloated ego of ambitious leaders.

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