Unsupported musings on the history of war, by Melch

by Rachel Creager Ireland

I’ve been thinking about history, about certain threads that run through the weave of it, not events but rather sorta big ideas, or deep ideas, underlying motives, maybe. It’s about war and how people fight.

At least the box turtle could get out of some mud, if she wanted to.

In the middle ages, much of conflict was based in strong defenses. You placed your castle in a high place where you could see and defend against the enemy. Castles got bigger and more complex and became places where a whole village could hole up for weeks or months, to wait out their enemies within thick stone walls. Conflict on the ground also emphasized defense. Sure, soldiers had ridiculously long lances, and crossbows, but they were wearing so much armor that if they fell off their horses they couldn’t get up. If they fell face down in a mud puddle they’d just drown there. Least that’s what I’ve heard.

So you can see the limits of this defensive approach to war and battle. The people in the castle had to wait for their attackers to leave, while the enemy could go round up some friends, or go out for tea, pick up some groceries and a video, grab a beer at the local pub, and come back to the castle refreshed and ready for battle, should the inhabitants finally get tired of sitting inside with nothing to do. (Don’cha like how I work in a reference to the twentieth century?) Because of this problem, castles were eventually abandoned altogether, and the offensive approach to war rose to dominance. Firearms were invented, so people could shoot one another without getting too close. Then tanks, which took the defenses of the castle on the offense. Airplanes were developed to drop bombs and warheads on people from the sky. Biological and chemical weapons took advantage of the physical vulnerabilities inherent in the human body. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, offensive attacks were so sophisticated that a man could sit in a comfortable office and with a few keystrokes send unmanned craft over oceans and continents to target a particular person or place and destroy it/him/her. They probably never knew what had hit them.

Around this time, some people were starting to wonder if any of this was really a good idea after all. They figured they had a choice, to continue on an endless path to nowhere and develop ever-more-sophisticated ways to attack and kill people, or to rethink the whole idea of war and conflict altogether. Maybe getting along was underrated. Did anybody in any of these wars really know what they were fighting for, after all? Sure, everybody likes to talk about freedom, or security, but how free, or secure, is anyone, when drones can find you, anywhere in the world, and kill you in your house while you sleep?

So that was the choice people had, in the early twenty-first century. To keep up the good fight, the expensive, dangerous, never-see-the-end-of-it fight, or to figure out how to quit fighting, to find better things to do, to choose cooperation over conflict. To commit to peace. And here I am, at the other end of the century looking back, sitting at what used to be a crossroads in those days, and what did they choose? Well, look at the history, and you tell me.

Respectfully, Melchisedek Weaver, Strong City, Kansas