“Wars, and rumours of wars.” We are living at a very dangerous time, faced as we are by Islamic State, threatening not only the Middle East but any part of the world which might be a suitable target for terrorism. Should we get into the ring or merely cheer the good guys from a safe position in the audience? And what are the likely outcomes of either choice?
It is in this spirit that I am copying here a leader from the Catholic Herald. As you may know, leader writers are anonymous, but I have the permission of the author to reproduce it for you. I have edited it slightly for practical reasons.
On the Monday before the anniversary of World War One we listened to Joachim Gauck, the German president, who apologised fulsomely for the “rape of Belgium” which triggered World War 1 — the war to end all wars. We wonder whether the other representatives listening to him were, at least momentarily, aware of the occasions in their own history for which apologies were needed but are not yet given.
To end all wars? We think not. It is true that institutions such as the Common Market and Nato have been effective so far in discouraging global wars, although the threatening shadow of nuclear warfare has played its part. But Wikipedia lists some 240 wars of various levels of severity since 1945. In current history we contemplate examples such as Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Nigeria, Sudan, Ukraine and the Central African Republic. The US State Department identifies eight states who sponsor terrorism, and, to the shame of all believers, much organised violence is motivated, or at least excused, by religion.
We can spend much time analysing the origins of a particular war. For instance some argue that the volatility of the Middle East can be traced back to the British and French highhandedness in the setting of borders after the First War. AJP Taylor argued that it was the railways, which allowed troops to be moved quickly to threatened borders. Those who have listened to the meticulous diaries of the few days which led up to WW1, will have noted the almost casual sequence which led to disaster. But in the end we know that the origins always lie in power and greed – and the psychology never rises above the level of two five-year olds in the playground. We have deep sympathy with those who hold, and witness, that nothing whatsoever can excuse war.
We have no solution. Wars will not end until we love one another. And that will not be before the end of the world, for St Matthew tells us that the last days will be signalled by nations rising against nations and by famines and earthquakes.”
What do readers of this Blog think? I am confident that most of us will put the highest value on peace. Yet, as we have learnt in our lifetimes, there are occasions when a violent response appears to be the lesser evil. But we can also think of occasions when our military action, justifiable though it may have seemed to be, has led us into situations of disaster. Armchair comment is all very well, but imagine that you are Cameron or Obama – and you have to make concrete decisions whose results you cannot easily foresee. We need to pray for those gentlemen.
Many of us on the Blog have had long lifetimes, and so plenty of experience of the follies of war and international politics. What advice will you give?