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A future free of war seems unattainable

Seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day prompts reflection

Two days ago, we all (hopefully) stopped and gave thanks to all the men and women of the Canadian Forces (and other nations) that stormed ashore on D-Day in France on June 6th, 1944, 75 years ago.

Tragically, but expectedly, many of them never returned to the shores of Canada and lay at rest in the soils of Europe.  Within a year, the Allies had conquered Nazi Germany, and a war of staggering waste and misery was finally over.  

Of course, within a few years, war broke out in mainland China, then Korea, Hungary, Pakistan, India, Israel, Central America, Algeria, Central Africa, Haiti and other locations in the Caribbean. Later, Argentina and Great Britain were at war, as were India and Pakistan, Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, and Israel versus a collection of Middle Eastern nations, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and, of course, mixed in with all this chaos, Vietnam.

Meanwhile, through all these time periods, nations were spending staggering volumes amounts of money to research, develop and build ever more increasingly dangerous weapons. Even nations with limited technology were still able to shop the world’s arms markets for cheap and effective instruments to launch their latest war (likely what their enemy was also doing at the moment).

If we turn our gaze backwards, rather than forwards, our view into the past shows a huge volume of wars that have been waged across this planet since mankind first kept records. On Aug. 17th, 1896, the shortest war in history was waged between Great Britain and Zanzibar, a war that lasted between 38-45 minutes (depending on who you asked). Not surprisingly, there were no casualties.

On the other end of the spectrum, the longest war in history ran for 335 years, from 1651 to 1986. Waged between the Dutch and Sicily – this strange war also recorded no casualties. However, thousands of wars have been fought over the last 5,000 years, and very, very few of them are casualty free. In the last 3,400 years, mankind has only been at peace for 268 years, or 8 per cent of the time. Estimates of total casualties range from 150 million, to one billion – the range of numbers indicative of the problem in estimating the total damage and death caused by so many wars.     

Currently, the world’s major arms producers (U.S., U.K., Russia, China, Germany, India, Czech Republic) ship about 52 per cent of their production to “developing countries”. Since developing countries are busy building their infrastructure to raise the standard of living, it seems tragic that so much money has to be spent on preparing for war.

While Star Trek portrays a future free of conflict between humans, the game plan for achieving this idyllic future seems to always be beyond mankind’s grasp.   

Brian McLeod is a St. Albert resident.