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The True Cost of War

By Ryan Lau | MIDDLE EAST

After the absolute strategic mishap that was the military’s decision to shoot down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, tensions are once again rising between the United States and Russia. This is not remotely surprising, given Vladimir Putin’s close ties with Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, but rather it is deeply saddening and disturbing, as it brings the two superpowers one step closer to war. After the incident, Russia responded with a reminder to the United States that any planes over the western half of Syria would be considered “air targets” to them, essentially placing a no-fly zone. These no-fly zones seldom are successful, as seen by implementation in Bosnia and Iraq. More often, they result in the absolute tragedy that is war. We as a free society must reject these anti-diplomatic measures in order to avoid the mass slaughter that is war.

The fact of the matter is, half of all war casualties consist of innocent civilians caught in the battle. The other half consists of soldiers who are often naive to the drastic consequences of war, and many who are unaware of the ulterior motives behind the fighting. Two men will fight valiantly against each other, each imagining themselves on some sort of moral high ground, fighting because of the emblem on the other’s shirt. Two people, once separated by geographic location, shedding blood for an unimportant cause, enacted by merciless superiors.

Many may say that these young men and women are exercising their patriotic and civic duty, pledging to make the ultimate sacrifice out of selflessness. But more times than not, these same soldiers do not even know why their rulers have chosen to send them into battle. Even when enlightened, it is darkly laughable that one can consider a pledge to kill to be an act of selflessness. These innocent soldiers die at the mercy of other young people, often from the same generation, often from similar backgrounds, often with families and friends and lives similar to their own. Innocent people are transformed into murderers, killing only because somebody somewhere signed some paper with someone else. Blind patriotism and faith in these arbitrary papers lead to servicemen being murdered and committing acts of murder, acts that could have been avoided, had our society rejected violence as a means long ago.

Soldiers in war go through physical and mental struggles that make it exceedingly difficult to live after they are out of combat, that is, if they make it that far. The real cost of war is not measured in dollars spent on weapons and supplies, but in the human lives wasted in seemingly endless bloodshed. Families tear apart, and mothers often don’t know when their children will return– or if they will return at all. If they do return, soldiers often have extreme emotional problems resulting from the killing they have completed, and from the often gruesome deaths of comrades they witnessed. War may bring soldiers closer together, but this is of no benefit unless all of one’s comrades make it through the war alive. There is a severe human cost of war, the toll on soldiers, the lives of family members, the bonds between mothers and sons, of grandmothers and grandchildren, of sisters and brothers, of comrades.

Unfortunately, the cost of war doesn’t end with the last shot. The last shot of one war turns into the first shot of the next war, as the continuous cycle of bloody battles continues. Since 1914, there has not been a period of peace longer than twenty-five years. When a war occurs, the lives of innocent civilians are destroyed, and civilians who are not killed often have family members and loved ones torn away from them. The civilians who survive a war often grow to hate those who have killed their loved ones, and another war commences.

War is a cycle of hatred that will continue unless someone has the courage to end it, and our current foreign relations show no sign of approaching this courage. 

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