The Sad Truth About War: It’s Nothing New
The world has been keeping an eye on the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on February 24th, 2022. Up until Day 4 into the war, 352 civilians of Ukraine have been killed, 1,684 wounded, and more than 650,000 people have fled Ukraine.
Russia’s ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, on February 27th, stated that since the beginning of the invasion, Russian armed forces hit 1,067 targets of Ukraine’s military infrastructure while accusing the Ukraine forces of having used torture on their soldiers, “All faces, voices, phones, their coordinates, IP addresses, as well as correspondence of all Ukrainian Nazis involved in the torture of our comrades have been recorded and identified….”
People across the globe are paying attention and keeping themselves updated with this tragedy. But with the news of the Russia-Ukraine war trending on the internet, wars that started years ago—and are still going on— are being forgotten.
It’s not a sinful thing to put our attention on ‘newer’ wars. In fact, it will help them gain support and aid from the international community. But it’s devastating because while people are shifting their attention to ‘newer’ wars, people in an ‘older’ raging war countries are bring forgotten even though their lives are still on the line to claim their peace. They’re still suffering; their homes are still getting bombed and they have to leave their once-called-home to an unknown destination, their family and friends are still dying; be it because of the attacks or because of the aftermath.
Despite being an ‘old’ war, they still need news written about them so they can gain the exposure to grasp the attention of the international community and to at least have a little hope that their fellow-human on the other side of the world will provide them aid.
Is War Necessary?
Being a student of an International Relations major, for more than three years, most of my lecturers always said that, yes, war is necessary. It happens because the parties involved have objectives that need to be achieved, and after many stages of negotiating, when their objectives cannot be met, the use of force is considered necessary.
I once argued one of my lecturer — one who I feel intimidated by, but also I very much look up to — asking, “Wars bring greater loss than gain, how is that necessary? It brings humanitarian crisis and it brings global instability, how does it bring us closer to international peace and security?”
My lecturer answered with something like, “You’re forgetting that international peace and security should be inclusive to all people. Say, if the people of Syria didn’t fight for their rights, or they turned a blind eye when the first protesters were arrested, is it a real peace to live under the authoritarian regime? Living in poverty, food shortage, their human rights violated; is that peace and security? They have the right for peace and security just as much as we do, and in order to gain it, many have to make sacrifices. The best practice would be to gain their objective through protests and demonstrations without lives lost, but it doesn’t always stop there. Compared to their great loss, their small win from our point of view might be a big win for them.”
Is there a ‘successful’ war?
If the definition of a ‘successful’ war is the discontinuation of the use of force because the objectives had been met, then yes, it might be considered as a ‘successful’ war. There had been countless of times where wars are ‘successful’.
Taking a look at the Libyan First War, the people wanted democracy, and to achieve that, their objective was to overthrow their then-president, Muammar Gaddafi. The eight month-long war ended with the death of their then-leader. Technically, because their objective to overthrow their then-president was met, if we stop at that, it’s safe to say that it’s a ‘successful’ war.
But the thing with wars is that the aftermath isn’t always pretty.
Wars are expensive. It attracts casualties, it creates chaos, and it brings instability. According to Libyan Interim National Council in International Criminal Court’s Report issued in 2011, death toll caused by the Libyan First War reached the number of 10,000 people, more than 50,000 people injured, 535,000 migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers (approximately), and 327,342 people internally displaced.
The biggest cost of this war is that it led to the Second Libyan Civil War that lasted for 6 years, and the aftermath is still there; fragile political situation, high risk of violent crime, internally displaced people, and it is even considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Financially, it is also very expensive to build back a ruined country.
But then, does that mean there is no ‘real’ ‘successful’ war? Not exactly. Take a look at former colonized countries; they were able to claim their independence by fighting in wars; Indonesian National Revolution, First Indochina War, Slovenian War of Independence, and the list goes on. But of course, it comes with a cost.
So can wars be avoided?
Yes and no.
The Tunisian Revolution — which then sparked the start of the Arab Spring — began at the end of December 2010 with the aim of gaining democracy by overthrowing their then-government regime. Tunisia, under the regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, suffered from government corruption, poverty, and political repression, and therefore, the people demanded change.
The people of Tunisia achieved their goal to overthrow their then-president within a month. Or to be exact, in 28 days. Fortunately, the president stepped down before a war breaks out. But even so, during the Tunisian Revolution, 129 people died, 634 people injured, and even after the war ended, at least 4,000 people fled their country. After the people of Tunisia regained their democracy, poverty kept declining but the people still remained unsatisfied. Many fled for a better condition of life in neighboring countries; 13,000 Tunisians fled to the Italian coast by boat in 2020.
In some, if not most cases, wars can’t be avoided; like the Syrian Civil War in which President Bashar al-Assad refuses to step down which led the small protest into a civil war with external forces like the US and Russia involved. Due to the still-on-going civil war, Syria contributes to the biggest number of refugee in the world with 6.8 million people as of mid 2021, which equals to around 25% of the total refugees worldwide.
When the Russian government decided to invade Ukraine, it is also one example of a war that cannot be avoided, especially on the Ukrainian side, because invasion is the biggest threat to the national security of a country.
One thing to remember here is that the government doesn’t always represent all of its people. According to a friend who lives in Russia as an international student, on Sunday (GMT+7) small protests demanding Putin to stop the war were still seen on the streets despite thousands of people having been arrested, and that they too ended up arrested. It is evident that the Russians does not agree with their leader’s decision to start a war in Ukraine.
Though it’s not possible to impose sanctions only effective to the government officials, we, as people who does not support the invasion, instead of being racist toward Russians, we should be encouraging each other to voice out our concern regarding the war, especially because Russians have ‘direct access’ to their government. Russians have the same attitude toward their country’s invasion of Ukraine: they don’t support it and they want it to stop.
War is nothing new but people tend to forget about that obvious fact. In this fast-paced world, sometimes, news about what’s happening on the other side of the world is just like a moving image passing on our TV screen that pulls in our attention for a second, and that’s it. Because it’s not something that we’re directly involved in and not something that directly affects us, we’re quick to move on to real problems that we actually have to face. And it’s not anyone’s fault.
War is nothing new; it’s still happening on many lands across the world. In fact, there has been not one day throughout our history where a war does not exist. People are starting to forget the once-on-every-headlines wars, even many don’t even know some wars exist at all. Many times, war is an inevitable catastrophe to achieve peace and security, and that is the sad truth about war.