War, a Necessary Evil

War, a Necessary Evil

By Siegrid Raible

Is war necessary? To answer this question I look back to my formative years. It was the late-sixties, I was in high school and my brother was in the second year of a four year tour of duty with the Marine Corp. It was the height of the Vietnam War; thousands of American servicemen were sent to fight in a land half-a-world away, ostensibly to stop the spread of communism. But if we could conjure up the spirits of the 58,000 American soldiers, the hundreds of thousands of North and South Vietnamese soldiers and the untold numbers of civilians who died in that war and asked them whether war could have been avoided, I bet they would answer that an alternative should have been possible.

We are now well into the second decade of the twenty-first century and I am in my mid-sixties. It seems not much has changed. Our young servicemen and women find themselves in the fifteenth year of a never-ending war in a different land half-a-world away with a new enemy – “radical Islamic terrorism.” To date sixty eight hundred American service members have lost their lives in on-going campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have been killed and hundreds of thousands cannot escape the war in their backyards. The “lucky” (the sixty-five million refugees) fleeing this and other ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa live in abject poverty. They cry out for an end to this hell on earth. For them war is the enemy.

Grand imposing numbers, like today’s 65 million homeless, can be numbing. But if we look at just one life lost in one conflict maybe we can better grasp the loss of not just that one person, but the millions lost throughout time. On exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., are the paintings of French impressionist Frederic Bazille (1841-1870).  This young artist lost his life in one of the numerous European conflicts of the nineteenth century. Had he lived a full life, he might have been as well-known as Paul Cezanne, Pierre Auguste Renois or Edouard Manet. Included in the exhibition “Frederic Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism” is his painting Summer Scene (Bathers). In May of 1870, it was accepted by the Paris Salon, an honor accorded talented young artists. In November of the same year, just shy of his 29th birthday he was dead, killed in his first military campaign during the Franco-Prussian War. How many Bazille’s die each day in combat or die fleeing today’s conflicts?






Wars can be rationalized, but how do you explain the loss of one Bazille?  How many budding Einsteins are killed each day? Millions upon millions of lives have been lost over the centuries to war, everyone a potential game changer. If we want a world where individuals are afforded a chance to fulfill their life’s purpose, we must create the environment that nourishes the potential in every life and does not squander it on war. War is not a necessary evil. It is a failure to compromise, leading to wholesale death and destruction.

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