The issue with war and violence is that of an S1, S2 problem. This is the philosophical problem that, while one side may hold a principle (pacifism) this is no guarantee that the other side will hold the same principle. Or put more crudely, if people A are a bunch of hippies then people B, who are not such repulsive creatures (I said it), will come and take people A’s crap. Violence is a human universal, it is because of this universal aspect of humanity that any form of pacifism (personal or political) is inconceivable. I plan to go further into this topic in a later post. However, the point of this preamble was to indicate the necessity of violence. However, whilst I hold to this view, this is not to say that I view this necessity as being desirable or moral.
All death is a tragedy. Tragedy, in a theatrical sense, deals with a bad outcome, usually of the main character although a play may be multifaceted in this way, that is foreshadowed and, therefore, foreseen by the audience. Life is, in a way, a whole big tragedy with death being the foreshadowed end for us all. If we view the lives lost in these tales as being sort of morality tales (Hamlet and the consequences of seeking revenge) then we can glance through their story and see where they went wrong, ergo how we can avoid their fate.
However, in life, this is not always so simple. Sometimes things happen. I recently read a rather sad news story of two preteen girls who were killed by being struck by lightning. They had sought shelter as told they should do, but the lightning bounced through the entryway of the shelter (built for such things), and were struck and killed. They did nothing wrong, they took the appropriate measures, but they died.
This is a long way to circle back (thanks for the tip Psaki) to war. As stated, war is a human universal, but a regrettable one. Let’s take the current case of the Russo-Ukraine War. To put it very simply, Ukraine’s heroic defense of its country is entirely justified. No matter the complicated geopolitical issues of the region, that does not justify Russia’s war of aggression.
However, it is hard not to feel a certain sense of horror at the losses on the Russian side. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the Russian Bear is in fact paper if not for the exception of nuclear weapons. This is not only for the fact that their equipment is far from superb, or that their troops are conscripts. No, it is for the fact that their commanders have failed their men. And because of that, the bodies are piling up. The Russians have lost more men in 3 months than in the entire decade of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
Because of their commanders' incompetence and corruption, these young Russian men (many barely that) who probably never gave much ado about Ukraine are being slaughtered in Ukraine where their opponent is highly unlikely to be too terribly forgiving.
For that reason, I get a sense of sorrow when I see images like this of a failed river crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River wherein Russia lost an entire Battalion Tactical Group (BTG). Apparently, during the crossing, the armor of said BTG had remained clumped together and thus easy prey for Ukrainian artillery.
Another example going back several decades is that of the First Gulf War. After Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the US coalition opted to push the Iraqi military back into their borders. Thus, was born Operation Desert Shield and soon after Operation Desert Storm. To put it mildly, the Iraqi military was entirely outmatched and the US and her Allies were able to push the Iraqi military back into Iraq. The war would bring us such images like those below that depicts an Iraqi armored column being obliterated on a road in the Euphrates River Valley.
Again this produces a sense of melancholy as you can see for yourself the finality and brutality of war. Those men in those vehicles had no chance or say in the conflict they fought in, nor were they responsible for the poor decisions of Hussein. But they died anyway.
Again, this is not to say either of these wars are unjust. If Ukraine’s fight against Russia isn’t just, then I don’t know what is. But perhaps we need to take into account also the suffering of those on the other side. It won’t end war, but maybe it will make us more hesitant to get into them.