04 October 2014

FWS Topics: My Definition of War

I received an email from FWS reader Rodney Kelly, and he posed me a question that pulled me away from the TCU/OU game that my wife and I were watching (she and I went to TCU. Go Frogs!). He asked me about my own definition of war. Over the course of these four years, FWS has discussed war in nearly every single blogpost (over 400), and I thought after the question posed by Mr. Kelly, I should define war in my own words. If you have a personal definition of war, please comment and share your own definition of war. To let you know, I have a degree in History and the majority of my time at university, the papers I wrote were concerning war in one form or another. War itself both fascinates me and disgust me. But, I grimly realize there will always be wars, heroes and victims, along with graves and hard memories.
War is the armed conflict between groups of varying size, and is fought for various reasons that are both known and unknown to the people waging the war, the governments and peoples paying for them, and the civilians caught in the middle. It can be offensive or defensive, noble or selfish. To me, war is one (if not the) of the primary force-of-change in the history of our species and our planet as a whole. It is both the yin and the yang of human history: it both destroys and saves. There is nearly nothing else that has so defined and altered the course of history more than war. Even from the earliest days of our species, groups have fought groups. The outcome of these conflicts, changed the course of how every day since would unfold. War saves governments and people, while it scatters people and destroys governments.
It changes the borders and boundaries of land, and the peoples who dwell within them. It spreads religions, DNA, sickness, and culture. It forces the evolution of technology and knowledge, while destroying culture, technology, and knowledge. War, as an endeavor of human energies and knowledge, is one of the most pointed and focused. War can bring the best out of us as a species, or arise ancient demons allowing humans to commit unspeakable crimes against the very soul of humanity.
War just does not alter the course of the soldiers' lives on the battlefield or the government involved, but the people left behind by the wars fought: the families. The ultimate cost of war is reaped by the families. While most wars are fought to save families, it also does destroy families and the future of families. Families are displaced by war, and their family members are killed either by direct involvement or by a miscalculation of bombs and morals. It causes some people never to come home, and wipes out entire bloodlines from the face of the Earth. Families bear the cost of battles, caring for the returning soldiers or weeping over gravestones. While a people remember the war and the outcome, the family remembers the soldier. In summary, War is humanity at most heroic and it most sadistic. It is the duality of man in a single word.

"In War, there are no unwounded Soldiers"
-Jose Narosky


  1. As you have remarked, William, war is the dicotomy of man. If in the future we find another intelligent race among the stars, one that is tuly 'alien' in the fullest sense of the word, this is the thing that they might find the most confusing; that while individually none (or at least very few) people wish for war, humanity as a whole has an unnerving tendency towards self destruction. As you also remarked, war itself is just as confusing as the humans who wage it, something that brings out the best and the worst in humanity. One of the greatest horrors of war is that most of those who die would rather live in peace, have no idea why they are fighting, and thing that their side is justified, no matter what side of the lines they inhabit, so to speak.
    Interestingly, there is a essy by Isaac Asimov titiled 'The Unforgivable Sin', dealing with war and science, and the rise of the all to common 'frankenstein complexe' in liturature and the real world. He points out that although war is unutterably evil, and just as inevitable, most of the people involved are not. Even the people who designed atomic weapons can be pardoned, as that knowledge has other uses(spacecraft propulsion, planetary engineering, and better understanding of particle physics). To him the unforgivable sin was the invention and use of such things as poison gas, which have no application other than death. Even firearms have legitimate uses, smallarms for hunting, and it seems, giant cannon for launching stuff into orbit. But something like poison gas is a sin in the trus sense of the word. Extrapolating this the true evil of war is in the things that it makes men do in the name of patriotism, rather than in the direct toll it takes, although that is the greater weight of loss. War itself is a phenominon, brought about by ill fortune, miscommunication, and the ill will of realitvly few people, it is what men do in the name of war that makes it evil.
    Sorry if that is a little rantish, as an amature historian and philosopher it is one of the things about Us(humanity) that annoys me the most. Humanity better get its game together, if anyone out there is watching us, ther're not going to be impressed :)


    1. No way to tell if an alien species would be impressed or not. Maybe it's common place in the galaxy, I suspect it may be.

  2. I am flattered by your response, though it probably has more to do with the question I posed rather than the email itself. Your definition limits war to the physical conflict. This is good for the blog because it keeps the conversation out of areas of contention. As you know, my definition of war is political, which could lead to some messy arguments. By keeping to the subjects of tactics, equipment, and soldiers, we can keep the discussions to areas where we can come to some consensus.

  3. I found your question very interesting, and yes, there is a massive political compound to any war or armed conflict. Many military sci-fi stories, movies, and cartoons deal with the political situation of these future wars...I am not as interested in the political aspect, but FWS will be covering it very soon. Keep up the excellent commenting!

  4. War itself is political, from the politicians that declare it (some for stupid reasons) to the taxpayers to executives finding reason. But the war itself is morally, physically, mentally, & emotionally fucked. When you're a soldier you have 2 shits of knowledge on why we fight for both sides (in insurgencies however the insurgents have full idea on why & the opposition has mixed or full idea like Afghanistan & Iraq) in conventional war it's just one side of mindless grunts fight another side of mindless grunts for their perspective no frackin reason. But in the search to find more of themselves & return home to the fucked post war life that they have. Will I end, yes a conflict will end but there's always another that fills it's shoes. & there's always someone ready to answer the call. & when it ends, he/she returns home . They might love someone, have a kid, buy/build a house, be famous even but every day they're still there. I'm still patroling kunar province. We are still in Afghanistan. & everyone is watching. That is what war is.��

  5. Oh yes, when is the sniper rifle blog posts will be out. Thought it would be out in summer. No rush. Not trying to be a dick. But still wanted it.

  6. Writing the sniper rifle armory blogpost as we speak. Tons of research and attempting to separate the fact from fiction. I have enjoyed writing it, thought. Hopefully, it will be out in two weeks.