Exploring Contemporary Wars

There are roughly three dozen wars going on around the world at any one time, which, true we never see, but we never see war at all anyway. Images of war are very carefully sanitized, and war as it is very carefully hidden from public view. We don’t see war.

We have the technological capacity to show us young men whose legs have been blown off by an antitank mine bleeding to death in the sand. We could do it, but we really never will. We won’t even allow the press to cover the return of bodies in coffins to Dover Air Force base from the Iraq war.

I understand that images of mutilated young Americans would be deeply disturbing to the families and therefore should not be shown, but the arrival of flag-draped coffins is something else. The only people who ever see war are the people who are in war. Otherwise war is packaged, and conveyed to us the same way that other poisons like liquor or tobacco are packaged and conveyed to us an unrealistic fashion.

-- Chris Hedges, Interview for Voices in Wartime



Activities: Investigating War, Its Causes and Implications

  1. What are the root causes of war?  Why do humans venture into war? Conduct research to find out why it is wars begin.  Consider exploring such themes as colonialism and neo-colonialism, culture of violence, belief that violence and going to war are part of human nature, community violence, globalization, economic constraints, injustice, use of environmental resources, and religious intolerance.
  2. War is a complicated business.  Define war.  Include definitions and examples for all of the categories provided here: types of war (civil, conflicts, international, military campaigns, police actions, liberation, etc.), people involved (warriors, combatants, civilians, guerrillas, prisoners of war, mercenaries, spies, etc.), reasons for disputes (sovereignty, territory, crimes against humanity, resources/commodities, etc.), and laws that govern war.
  3. Through the centuries many pundits have tried to explain why people and nations go to war.  These theories can be divided into several different categories: historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, economic, information, and Marxist theories.  Conduct research independently or work with others to gather as much concise information as you can about these various theories and their proponents.  Present your findings and compare notes.
  4. Throughout history war has had its opponents.  French Nobel laureate Albert Camus more than 50 years ago posed a profound question about war:  When do we have the right to kill our fellow human beings or let them be killed?  Research those individuals who were and are opposed to war.  Include pacifists and conscientious objectors in your research.  Look to those individuals who have won Nobel Peace Prizes and the alternative peace prize.  Research people and organizations that are waging peace as an alternative to war.