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100 years post World War I, have we lost the plot again?

Monday, 28 July 2014 - 2:00am IST Updated: Tuesday, 29 July 2014 - 2:24pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk
  • Reuters

Though both World War I and World War II taught us lessons about global policy and the dire need to maintain world peace, recent outbreaks between Israel and Hamas, the secession of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula to Russia and the Malaysian plane crashes have put questions back into the debate table. 

Has the world lost the plot and do we need to go back to square one? Do the superpowers need to reassess their objectives while developing nations need to assert themselves and prevent global leaders from pushing them into war? The questions are many, but the answers very few as body bags keep mounting, children remain homeless and innocent civilians are killed in crossfire. 

As we hit the hundredth year since the first World War broke out in 1914, it is time to introspect about the current global meltdown. When numerous treaties were signed and the war ended, it was naturally believed that such a situation would not arise again, but with the race between global superpowers to reach the numero position intensifying, it's time we check the situation again. 

The whole division of the world's superpowers — Russia, United States and China — is reminiscent of the Cold War post the World War where the nations were not involved in direct fights but numerous smaller wars supported by them broke out in succession. With Crimea, because of support for federalists in Eastern Ukraine and the MH17 tragedy, Russia has come into centre spot again as US leaders rake up and target Vladimir Putin and Russia

But if we rewind a bit earlier into 2013, the Syrian war had blown out of proportion as Barack Obama and the US were almost on the verge of attacking the country for possessing chemical weapons. But it was Russia's timely intervention that saved the day. And now Western sanctions are targeting Russia’s energy, defense and finance — and are fast on their way towards all-out economic war, which in itself is a declaration of war, as an analysis by Russia Today explains.

The whole idea of 'Global Jihads', the formation of a caliphate by Boko Haram and the ideology to thwart westernisation has left the Muslim world in chaos. The continual infighting between different clans within one religion will explode into mainstream war unless the global giants step in and bring peace. China had distanced itself from Russia during the World Wars and the United States views Russia and China as competitors, rivals. These juggernauts, if desired, can bring peace and stop the bickering, thereby saving lives. 

Read: Even Jihadist thinkers believe Islamic caliphate will cause Islamist infighting

The war between Israel and Gaza has triggered a division between the general populace as never before. Criticism for the offensive has mounted, but the war seems to have intensified. As numerous body bags pile up and horrific images of the war pierce our hearts, its time to start a dialogue for world peace a third time before we collapse. 

The reason for World War I was a rather small incident. Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in retaliation for the assassination one month earlier of his heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian pan-Slavic nationalist. This time around, the Israel-Gaza war was sparked by the June 10 murder of three young Israeli students.

Teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel disappeared while in the West Bank, where they were studying at a yeshiva. Israel conducted a massive manhunt in the Palestinian territory and alleged they were abducted by members of Hamas. The boys were found dead on June 30 and had apparently been executed. 

Image credit: Reuters

Notice the similarity of events? Surely you do. “There is damage to every part of civilian infrastructure imaginable. Water, electricity, food, shelter, everything will need aid. It will take years for Gaza to recover,” says Muhammed Abu Halima, a UN aid worker who works at a Gaza school that has been converted into a shelter. This statement is not to add context to the story, but rather to draw your attention to the pressing need for channeling our energies towards building a better place for future generations rather than ruin every principle, structure and way of life slowly and steadily. 

This ongoing violence has claimed over 1,000 Palestinian lives and around 50 Israeli to date, and the numbers are mounting, be it the Malalysia Airlines MH17 crash, the missing Flight MH370 or the Israel-Gaza offensive. 

Now, the stage is set in Ukraine, but in 1914, it was in the Balkans. What could have remained a regional conflict between the dying Hapsburg Empire and one of its former holdings instead became two world wars that began in 1914 and ended in 1945, with a 21-year intermission for the Jazz Age and the Great Depression. All this happened because of a tangle of alliances and a global power imbalance as mistrust, decoy and hunger for power rose intermittently. 

This era even saw German leader Adolf Hitler rising to power and the Holocaust of Jews under his regime. Thousands of innocent Jews were killed, maimed, plundered of their resources because of one man's hatred towards them. But it was not his victory. Anne Frank, a young teenager and her diary proved to be the final answer of the futilities of war. As Anne clearly wrote in her diary, "Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” 

Even this generation has Malala Yousafzai — the girl from SWAT valley in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for fighting to seek education for girls. If the global leaders have many reasons to push us towards the brink of war, we too have the chance to redeem ourselves and stay away. History has taught us lessons and every country needs to ponder. Is the war actually worth the civilian casualties? 

What could again be interesting is India's role in the future involving a possible war. During the Cold War, India was always in close proximity to Russia. But with the current Modi government, the equations seem to have changed. Modi is trying hard to mend ties with the United States as news reports suggest. Also, India along with other BRICS countries voted in support of a UN Human Rights Council resolution to launch a probe into Israel's offensive on Gaza. India joined Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to vote for a Palestinian-drafted resolution on "Ensuring Respect for international law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jersusalem". 

Civilian and military casualties from the two World Wars approached 100 million – roughly the entire population of the United States as of July 1914. The reasons listed for wars can be numerous. Every nation wants to maintain its sovereignity or independence, but others want to annex and conquer. The regional, religious, ideological, economical to social — the wide variety of reasons to fight never seem to shock us. But hidden deep within our ability to ignore an event once an apparent conclusion has been put into place should stop. A war is a war, a genocide is apparently exactly that. It's time global leaders understand that peace and not war is the solution.

Opinions expressed are personal




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