“Inescapable paradox of war: A plea for peace and human dignity”

WE have been witnessing wars for various reasons. From wars for a sovereign and independent authority to wars against weapons of mass destruction or wars on terror.

Why must we have wars?

Some justify wars with proclaimed theological doctrines others in the name of the ‘necessity’ of expanding or reclaiming sovereign and independent authority. Meanwhile, on both sides of the war, leaders vow to bring peace to humanity.

Nevertheless, a war in the end means killing men, women and children on a massive scale. Hence, wanting for ‘peace’ remains an enigma.

Indeed, there is something ominous about humanity and there is something surreal about peace. In fact, the inherent paradox of war in search of peace for humanity is a telltale sign against very humanity. It is never more than a power struggle.

Many would argue that there are times when war is morally permissible and even obligatory. They use the ‘Just War Theory’ to assess the moral permissibility of a war.

The theory is based on two broad principles: Jus ad bellum i.e., the reasons for going to war; and Jus in bello i.e., the conduct of war. In some cases, a war might be’morally permissible’ but the means could be unethical, such as using torture or chemical weapons like phosphorous bombing.

In wars, soldiers fight soldiers. However, according to the Hindu Scriptures, in ‘dharma-yuddha’ i.e., in righteous war, only equals are allowed to fight opponents who are equal.

For example, chariot warriors are not supposed to attack cavalry and infantry, and it is forbidden to use divine weapons on ordinary soldiers.

Having those principles, the wars we are witnessing today are not wars then. In these invading ‘wars’, soldiers kill unarmed civilians—men, women and children.

Moreover, invading wars is nothing new in the history of mankind.

To name a few: There was an invasion of the Roman Empire by Persia in 243 AD and a counter-invasion of Persia by the Roman Empire in 363 AD. The Fatimid invasion of Egypt continued from 914 to 921 AD. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was invaded on many occasions including the infamous Crusades for not less than a century commencing in 1097 AD.

The Mongol invasion led by Genghis Khan (1162-1272) marked millions of deaths across Asia and Eastern Europe. Japanese invasions of Korea during the 1590s also killed millions. These are just a few of the thousands of invading wars at different time periods in our past civilisation.

In modern times, Hitler’s invasion of Poland marked World War II (1939–1945).

Prof Dr Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

More recently, human casualties from the 2003 US invasion of Iraq accounted for no less than half a million. The ongoing invading ‘wars’ of Ukraine by Russia and Israel’s ‘war’ against Gaza are aimed at erasing the afflicted nations from the map of the earth.

Besides, post-modern civilisation witnessed hundreds more invading wars by the nations of the so-called developed world. Those invading ‘wars’ have brought no peace to humanity but rather dead and injured human bodies. Thus, there has always been a short-lived public outcry against invading wars.

Our momentary flare-ups and slogans with blood-painted bunting and banners for peace and justice against invading wars vaporise in no time in the air. Albeit, many sporadic opinion pieces like this one condemning these invading wars will do nothing but add to the digital archive of hundreds of other similar pieces written in the past.

The outcome remains the same—wars remain unstoppable. Rather wars continue to injure, displace and kill millions of unarmed men, women and children every day.

Simultaneously, many of us have moments of euphoria. Somewhere on this planet, millions pass jubilant moments watching games, movies or celebrating success and anniversaries.

On one hand, the abundance of stories of triumphs and jubilations creates an ecstatic world, on the other hand, ongoing wars mark the failure of humanity. Ironically, here we failed to realise our double standards of moral and human ethos to address the cause and casualties of a war.

It is not a surprise then that, from the level of an ordinary individual to leadership at the national or international level, our double standards know no bounds. To the question of war, the same individuals and leaders who advocate the principle of justice and humanity for certain nations flout the same principle for others.

Or else, why must millions have to die in search of weapons of mass destruction? Why must millions of unarmed Afghans, Serbians, Ukrainians, Palestinians or Israelis die before a so-called siege-fire or withdrawal of troops?

Is it impossible to realise that those who have lost their lives in all those invading wars have the right to live a peaceful life on Earth? Or, it can only be realised once a stream of innocent souls must flow?

The separation of Singapore and Malaysia did not claim millions of lives. A communal riot was enough for the leaders to realise the danger to their citizens. Brexit did not have to have a war to come out of the EU. China has not gone to war with Taiwan.

Is it difficult for world leaders to execute a peaceful solution for the people of Ukraine or the people of Gaza, Westbank and Israel? No, it is not, in all its actuality.

All we need is a sincere and wishful effort by the leaders. Unfortunately, for many of them, war is business as usual. Amidst the invading wars, they find themselves enjoying this world of eccentric happiness, where the peace of mind of ordinary humans has become no less than an illusion. – Oct 19, 2023



Prof Dr Mohammad Tariqur Rahman is the Associate Dean (Continuing Education), Faculty of Dentistry and Universiti Malaya UM LEAD associate member.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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