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Joseph Kaminski

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August 19, 2019

The War on Terror Throughout History

When one studies history, they are usually battered and bashed through bloody battles that have taken place throughout time. Oftentimes it is easy to begin seeing people as mere statistics through this method of studying. We focus on the death and the progress of war and tend to downsize life and the progress of peace.

People are more or less, in a sociological sense, casualties for one side or another when it comes to the history of war. A loss that will go unnamed in history books, represented as a simple digit on a page or as a small inscription on a wall somewhere.

That’s the downside of war: we remember the causes, we remember the victors, yet we don’t remember who made it there. We don’t remember the stories, the names or identities, from the average soldier that gave their life to let the war happen in the first place. 

Of course, we’ll remember the political leaders that drove their armies to either success or failure. We’ll recall the unnamed soldier because we built a tomb. We’ll recall the names that stood out longer than the names that did not, because those names are attached to shiny medals and what not.

But, one that is interested in history should not focus on just that. History is more than a series of wars and violence. It’s more than just nonstop bloody warfare and the evolution of weaponry. And to top it all off, those periods of time between the epochs of destruction are not as boring as many students may think. These periods of time, labeled as “peace”, are perhaps the most interesting periods of time we ever live through.

While war and violence are two very prominent themes in our history and the essence of sociology surrounding us, the mere concept of peace is what stabilizes our history. Yes, there are periods of time in our world’s past where it seemed as if there was no stabilization. Take ancient Europe, where history can be perceived as Kings killing each other for more power. Well, it’s more in-depth than that.

Understanding peace is one of the most important things when it comes to studying history. Without peace, there is no stabilization. Without stabilization, a society cannot indulge itself throughout history. Where would our culture be if there was nonstop war? What great inventions would enter the market or our homes if the inventors were on the battlefield? War isn’t what make up our history, it’s what destroys it.

Now of course, history is much more than all of this. It’s the collection of humanity as a whole, the web of social interactions that have led us to where we are today. A long domino effect has created our perception of history. A sort of “this happened because this happened” method of thinking to perceive all of mankind and all of mankind’s achievements.

Perhaps our greatest advancements in history happen not through war, as people would imagine, but through peace. Yes, history has proven countless of times that war saves society: for example to coalition against Nazi Germany and the other Axis Powers during World War II. But, with war comes consequences: for every side involved.

Sometimes war is inevitable, like in that eventual case of Nazi Germany, but when it is not diplomacy desperately tries to enter the stage.

So, when it comes to history, what relatively peaceful times have there been? Especially in modern day? It’s so easy to be pessimistic towards life nowadays, with the creation of ISIS and “the war on terror” and all of these revolutionary waves breaking through society.

Well, I make the case that we are not in a “war on terror.” If that was the case, wouldn’t we have been in it since the beginning of time? How is the modern day fear of terror different than the entire edgy experience of the Cold War? How is the modern day fear of terror different than the fear that was felt in Europe after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand over one hundred years ago? How is the modern day fear of terror different than the pressing conflicts between the “ancient” Ottomans and Persians and Byzantines?

Terror does not equal war. Fear does not equal an epoch or era of our existence. We’ve been in this for thousands of years. But when it comes down to it, the world isn’t the most dangerous it’s ever been. To say such a thing is the largest hyperbole one can say when it comes to modern day diplomacy and conduct.

Unlike thousands of years ago, we have global alliances. We have the United Nations and European Union, as laughable as they may be after their slow decline. We have laws set in place, we have international trade routes and dependencies upon each other that allow diplomacy to work over war unless a government is unstable or against communication.

Yes, while a Third World War would be the end of humanity thanks to our progress in nuclear arms and advanced warfare, it would take something extravagantly massive and out of proportion to trigger it. It is doubtful an assassination and growing distrust would cause a Third World War like it did the First. It is doubtful coalitions and inhumane ideology would cause a Third World War like it did the Second. The powers we see today are most likely here to stay based on what they hold to their names.

war vs peacePeace makes its case throughout history, as does war. Both have their place on the pages of every book. “The War on Terror” has lasted thousands of years, and our current fear of it is nothing new.

A stagnant yet poisonous fear, it will probably last until the end of time itself. However, with each century we gain a longer and more stable period of “peace” despite remaining on edge over terror.

Whether it be immigration, liberation from conservative ideas, or simply ideological differences — we’ve had similar pseudo-war relations and similar peaceful resistances throughout time.

But, when it comes to the end of the end, what will we be in? A period of peace, or a period of war?

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