Those who know me know I am a proud intellectual that seeks answers in information. I look for inspiration in common actions. But when we talk about war we must remember the realities. Too often I hear people, myself included when I was younger, that we should bomb “them” into the stone age, go to war and solve the problem. That should never be the knee jerk reaction to most issues. Peal Harbor was one of the exceptions. But the war it was part of is also an example of why such conflict and in fact any conflict, must be gone to as slowly as humanly possible and only be the last choice.
We in the States are lucky. Our experiences in War are very tilted and minimized compared to other nations. Some of my readers right there are pissed. Hang with me. We have only had one major war fought on our own soil and that was of our own making.
Yes I can talk about Japan and Pearl Harbor, and balloon bombs and German saboteurs in New York during WWII but the US was never really attacked. WWI and WWII were fought in Europe and Russia and those nations bore the brunt of the casualties. I am proud that we can and will fight when needed, even when it is not our fight. But I hate how often we send our troops into war. I do believe this is partially because few wealthy families that run our nation have children in the armed services. This is class bias.
Many friends I grew up with, served. Some were middle class. Most of them came from lower income families. This is the usual experience. But until the cost of war comes home, most find war an easy solution to conflict or to exert national power. I suppose it can be; as long as it is not your child or spouse or sibling or parent that paid the ultimate price for someone’s political agenda. The first criteria of this solution being considered in my opinion should be in the cost of human life. ALL life.
When asked how many died in WWII, most people I know would say several million. Now this was not my generation’s war. Most I know were not alive then. “Several”, is a gross and disgusting understatement. I can find several sources for this total number. The range for total life lost in WWII is 55 to 61 million people. 55,000,000 to 61,000,000 people. Dead. All of those lives for national pride. That is almost half of the US population before WWII.
Here are more personal numbers:
UK – 384,000 soldiers dead, 67,000 civilians dead.
France – 210,000 soldiers dead, 400,000 civilians dead.
Japan – 2.7 million soldiers dead, 675,000 civilians dead.
Germany – 5.4 million soldiers dead, 3 million civilians dead.
China – 3.8 million soldiers dead, 8.2 million civilians dead.
Russia – 11 million soldiers dead, 9.7 million civilians dead.
US – 487,000 soldiers dead, 12,000 civilians dead.
These are just the major players.
The US has been blessed by isolation. Our costs have not been as high as other nations. We cannot see that as bravado or superiority of force. It does play into it. But this is because we have not fought our major wars through our civilian’s back yards.
In the case of our Revolution, it is hard to say but about 8,000 soldiers [of many nations] died on our side. In the case of our Civil war about 215,000 soldiers died in combat. Even more died due to disease on both sides but it is hard to say how many and how many are directly from the war itself.
Total number of combat deaths in all conflicts in US history is estimated at 671,000. That is less than just the battle of Moscow during WWII. But it is still a large number.
I love heros and we tend to over use that term. People wont like this but we do not need more heros. We need less conflict. We over inflate heroism. Not to say that Taylor, Welch and Miller are not heros [ see post Taylor, Welch and Miller], they are, and many, many more. But if a hero is one who saves lives, then how about all those diplomats and politicians, yes politicians, that have averted war at all?
I hate how callously we regard peace. I am blessed that none of my friends who have served, have died in service. I am also blessed that none of my family who has served in wars, have been killed in service. My family was of German origin during WWII. That didn’t make us Nazis. In fact most of the men in my family in that generation fought in one way or another. From commanders in the field to The Manhattan Project, we of German extraction, fought against Nazis. Soldiers fight for peace and intend it to be lived.
One person’s actions do not define all people like them. I would like to think I would have flown right next to Taylor and Welch, but I don’t know. They may have exceptional guts and maybe I don’t. Just as heros stand out as exceptional, villains do too. Not all people of German origin were Hitler.
The KKK is to Christianity as terrorists are to Muslims. We cannot just fear or attack all who we can put under a common label as terrorists.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Let us be the bigger nation, the bigger hearts and the bigger intellect and see that we cannot fear those fleeing war. We cannot see them as terrorists just because they come from that part of the world. To fear the world is to ignore the peace our heros willed us when they died on the battle fields of wars we did not rush into.