Learning war lessons

August 05, 2014 - 12:09:39 am

Just because the third world war looks unlikely doesn’t mean that it is impossible.

Countries around the globe are observing the centenary of the start of the First World War that began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918. But the big question is — has the world learnt lessons from one of the deadliest conflicts in history? 

Going by the devastation caused by the First World War, the answer should have been ‘yes’ and the world should have been a peaceful place to live in. Unfortunately, the answer is negative because humanity is still bleeding when we see conflicts claiming lives in unrest between Russia-Ukraine, Israel-Palestine and turmoil in African countries.  

It is unfortunate that even the extent of destruction caused during the world war has not deterred countries from waging war. It is estimated that the total number of military and civilian casualties in the First World War was over 37 million. There were over 16 million  deaths and 20 million were wounded making it among the deadliest conflicts in history.

However, the leaders chose to ignore the devastation caused during the First World War. Two decades later, countries showed that they have not learned any lesson from the First World War and went into the next world war. 

The results were no different than the first war. Estimates regarding the total casualties during the war differ as many deaths went unrecorded. It is estimated that around 75 million people died in the war, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. Many of the civilians died because of genocide, mass-bombing, disease, and starvation.

History shows that the two world wars could have been averted had the leaders shown better diplomacy and tolerance. Leaders now have the opportunity to show to the world that they are better diplomats and are tolerant, by ending the ongoing conflicts. 

We can take some comfort from the fact that the world has not seen any major war since 1945 — even during the peak of cold war. One of the reasons why the world has escaped the third world war is the amount of ammunition, including nuclear weapons, countries are 

sitting on. Just because the third world war looks unlikely does not mean that it is impossible. The leaders need to be always on their toes to ensure that local tensions do not turn into bigger confrontations.

Countries go into the war thinking that the outcome will follow their plan but they forget war often takes unpredictable turns. Those looking for examples can read about the experience of the United States in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq where the world’s major power has burnt its fingers. 

The role of global institutions becomes crucial now and there is need to make them more inclusive. The United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should work in a way that fosters trust among countries around the globe. Rather than flexing muscles, it is time to give diplomacy a chance.