Robey NeJame

Jun 5, 2019

7 min read

War, War Never Changes

Hi everyone, this is going to be a more somber topic, and fair warning, this could be close to home for some people. I want to start with that disclaimer because if you’re reading this, you’re most likely family or a good friend, and this is not supposed to be aimed at anyone, so please take this with a grain of salt. This post is going to be about war, violence, and what it does to us as human beings. I very well might get myself into trouble with this post, but I wouldn’t be me if I shied away from a controversial topic. This will also be a longer post.

June 6th, 1944. Five Allied Divisions land along the coast of Normandy, France, a mix of American, British, and Canadian forces with the overall objective of opening a major second front against the Axis powers, relieving some of the pressure on the Soviets, and hopefully accelerating the collapse of the Nazi war machine and bringing about the end of a war that had already claimed the lives of tens of millions. The war would continue for over a year, finally ending with the Japanese surrender on September 2nd, 1945. The total death tally was an estimated 70–85 million people, or 3% of the world population as of 1940. The atomic bomb was unleashed, decimating Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the world entered into the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and its allied countries on one side, and “The West”, led by the United States and its allied countries on the other. Thus started the ongoing era in which with a press of a button, the decision of one person, the human race could be wiped from the face of the earth by nuclear fire and the ensuing nuclear winter.

Well, that was cheery. Thanks Robey for putting a damper on my day with that. Now what’s the point? My point is that I do not believe humans were ever “meant” to kill each other, yet we have always had this struggle with violence that has dictated a lot of our world history. Personally, I am a history minor and as you probably know, I am fascinated with military history and how military actions can change world events/the course of history (What if the Greeks had lost at Marathon? What if the Germans had won WW1, etc.). I am currently reading the book, “How Hitler Could Have Won WW2” which lays out how close the Allies came to being defeated several times, and how we kinda have Hitler to thank for losing the war as opposed to the Allies winning it (hot take).

To the point, one of my favorite lines in The Walking Dead is when Morgan is talking with Eastman, the Aikido dude, and Eastman says, “We’re not build to kill. We don’t have claws, fangs, or armor. Vets, they come back with PTSD, that didn’t happen because we’re comfortable with killing. We’re not. We can’t be. We feel. We’re connected.” When I first heard this line, I paused the show and sat thinking about it for a solid ten minutes. He’s right. We aren’t made to kill.

That said, a lot of our history is violence. There is such a paradox between the idea of courage, bravery, gallantry, standing up for what is right, fighting for what you believe in, and the very human reality that people are very rarely the same after they go into combat. I personally have never been in a fight. I’ve never shot a real gun before, and I have never been in a situation in which I’ve had to choose between fight or flight. I hope I never do, and I hope some day our world is one in which no one has to. My mom always says that if there was a draft, she wouldn’t let my brother and I go. The only reason I would ever fight is pretty much on point with what Captain America says when asked the question, “Do you want to kill Nazis?”. “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they are from.” Conceivably that is the only reason I would join up, and even then I do not know if I could ever consider harming another person. If I could “choose” how to serve (which, to be honest, I do not know how the draft works at a level of detail to know), I would want to work in logistics in the medical core. Moving wounded troops, coordinating medical supplies. I would not want to help the logistics of weapons or units. Some call that weakness, or being spineless, that I am not willing to fight, but why? Why is it a negative thing to not want to hurt someone, no matter who they are or what they have done?

I know I am all over the place with this post, but I think it really shows how I feel about it (and I also purposely do not plan out these posts ahead of time, I think I get more emotion when I just dive into it). What I think I am really getting at is the paradox between patriotism and healthy skepticism. We spend so much money in the US on our military, more than the next 17 countries combined. We have more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined. Our military is one of the most powerful and advanced in the world, and factoring out nuclear/chemical weapons and cyber warfare, when “war gaming,” if the United States tried to take over the world by military might, it could. Interdict the oil flow out of the Middle East, knock out the air and sea forces of the rest of the world, place a blockade around the South China sea to stop the flow of trade, boom. the US “wins” (yes, there would be a huge collapse of the world economy, it would hurt the US a lot, and there is no conceivable reason that the US would want to do this, I am just making the point). We sing the national anthem at major sporting events. We have several holidays to honor our veterans and our armed forces. I respect that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to disrespect our veterans or our armed forces.

But why do we spend so much on killing power? Yes, there are other countries that are armed and led by individuals that could threaten world peace (Russia, North Korea, etc.) that theoretically are “checked” by US military might, and there’s the idea of nuclear deterrence, but if no one had nukes, it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s the “good guy with a gun vs. a bad guy with a gun” conundrum. President Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War Two, warned the United States about the “military industrial complex” in his farewell address, and how we should not fuel innovation and our economy with military spending. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” But it has. Budget spending on military is a political stunt. Our current president made a point to make a surprise visit to US soldiers in Iraq and had a press meeting in which he stated that he was going to raise the wage of service members, “something that hasn’t been done in years” (turns out the pay of service members has gone up each year so a bit of a lie from our president).

Another element is the distance from the act of killing that has arisen, especially in the last century. Before, we as humans hacked each other to pieces, hand to hand, face to face. Now we can control a drone from half the world away to bomb an enemy. As the controller, you will never see the eyes of the person or people you are killing. The killing power has increase exponentially. Previously, you could think the most complete way of destroying an opponent in war as a colossal effort, for example the Romans destroying Carthage, tearing down the city brick by brick, poisoning the wells and sowing salt into the fields. Now we can press one button, and an entire country can be obliterated in an instant. J. Robert Oppenheimer said it all in one line about the creation of the atomic bomb, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” which is a quote from The Bhagavad-Gita.

We as a species have developed a way of murdering the entire population of the planet, yet we are not meant to kill. We are the most intelligent species that we are aware of in the universe (I believe there is other intelligent life out there, but currently we have no evidence), yet we cannot shift our way of life to save the planet we call home. I do not have a call to action for you all, but I felt this really important to say. Overall I guess I am frustrated with the fact that we could spend all of this money that could be used to make our education better, our people healthier, we could come together as a planet to advance our technology to new limits, save the planet, colonize Mars, eradicate disease, make famine a thing of the past. Instead we build our forces, we develop new weapons, all the while in the name of making the world a “safer” place.

Alright, next post will be a lot more cheerful, I promise. Please let me know what you thought of this post and what it made you think of, what you agree with or disagree with, or just to say, “Hey Robey, you made some points but I have no idea why you wrote this.”

To close out, my song for the past week that I have really vibed with is, “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers. I really recommend the whole album (Hot Fuss), its a phenomenal piece of music. My favorite lyric though is, “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”