One morning two weeks ago I was travelling into work when I noticed a lovely blackbird on the wall of a garden in which bloomed two bright pink cherry blossom trees. Just around the corner was a green bank full of daffodils. All sights to gladden the heart and herald the onset of Spring. Sadly, it was on this same morning that Russian tanks crossed the borders to begin the invasion of Ukraine.
This act of aggression on the part of Russia overshadowed all other world events and sent hearts plunging on hearing that this long threatening had come at last. Despite all hopes and diplomatic efforts Vladimir Putin had struck, proving himself a worthy successor to Joseph Stalin’s title, ‘The Beast in the East’.
We have watched in horror at the events which have since unfolded, in so many ways reminiscent of the second World War. We probably believed, erroneously, that we would never see the like of that again.
People of course thought the same in the aftermath of World War I, which was seen as ‘the war to end all wars’. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that effectively ended the conflict – the Treaty of Versailles – forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II. It would seem that war will always be with us and maybe always has.
Easier to Fight
Wars have been part of human history for thousands of years and have become increasingly destructive as industrialization and technology have advanced. As the tools and methods of war were developed and honed, it became easier and easier to fall into the patterns of war rather than seeking peace.
The English word “war” comes from the High German “werran” and the Old English “were”, words that mean “confusion “or “to confuse”. For a war to occur there needs to be a large-scale organization of people and weapons directed with a purpose. Accordingly, the first wars didn’t come about until the first societies and civilizations were formed.
Causes of War
So why do wars occur? There are many reasons groups of people go to war with other groups. Major conflicts are often a result of clashes in religion or culture, disputes over territory or other resources, acts of revenge, or to make radical changes in a nation’s government.
There is rarely one single, clear cause of conflict and, ultimately, war. The causes of a war are usually numerous and can often be intertwined in a complicated way.
Whatever the other reasons for a war may be, there is very often an Economic motive underlying most conflicts. This is basically the desire of one country to take over another’s wealth. Also, a country may decide that it needs more land, either for living space, agricultural use, or other purposes.
Religious wars can often be tied to other reasons for aggression, such as Nationalism or revenge for a perceived historical slight in the past. Different sects within a religion (for example, Sunni and Shiite) battling against one another can also instigate war.
Extreme Nationalism caused many countries to become involved in the first world war. Many pre-war Europeans believed in the cultural, economic, and military supremacy of their nation. Related to Nationalism is Imperialism, which is built on the idea that conquering other countries is glorious and brings honour and esteem to the conqueror.
Historically, revenge has been a factor in many European wars and motivated Hitler and the Nazis in their attempts to conquer Europe. Germany had been shamed after Versailles and wanted to reverse that position.
Saddest of all perhaps are the Civil Wars where citizens turn against one another. We experienced it in Ireland in 1922 between the pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty forces and only recently with the Coalition government of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael has there been a sense that some of the resentments might be put aside.
Revolutionary war happens when a large section of the population of a country revolts against the rulers perhaps on grounds of economic hardship as in the French Revolution (1789-1799).
Whatever the causes of war, they are always destructive, causing loss of life and damage in countless other ways. Many people consider wars to be ethically wrong and most people consider them to be deeply undesirable.
The people of Ukraine were going about their daily business, living their lives, working, bringing up their children, just like the people in Ireland. That is until one day a neighbouring tyrant invaded their country, bringing destruction, turning those who were not killed into refugees and ruining their lives forever.
As we look on in horror, we recall the central tenet of Christianity which is “Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself”. The actions of Russia violate this in the most abominable manner. Were Christ to come among us now it seems certain he would suffer again for his message of peace. We live in a world where greed and hatred are the main motivators and power in whatever guise it comes is the ultimate prize.
We have forgotten not only God, but also that we are not God. One day, all of us will answer for how we have treated other people and for our actions. None of us will escape this reckoning, including Vladimir Putin.
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan