Thursday, December 19, 2013

The mechanism of war: Introduction

War is a terrible thing. Almost everyone agrees about that. Also, almost everyone agrees that most people in a war, on both sides, lose. Maybe we don’t all agree that most people lose more than they gain in all wars. To remove the possibility of quarreling about this at the outset, for those who think that there are some wars in which the majority of people on one of the warring sides gains more than it loses, this article refers to those wars in which the majority, on both sides, loses more than it gains.

Now we need to define "loss" and "gain". Since both loss and gain are phenomena that take place primarily in our mind, gains and losses are subjective in nature. Therefore, they cannot be measured by objective methods. For some people, it would not be too much to lose property, health, and even family members and friends for the sake of a "higher" goal. Some call this higher goal freedom, statehood or dignity. This list can be quite long, and it is irrelevant which term is used for that "higher" goal. The point is that sometimes people believe that some higher end justifies all the sacrifices that are necessary to achieve it.

Is the war in the former Yugoslavia one of those wars in which most people, on at least one (winning) side, believe that the losses in the war were less than the gains, and how would we measure losses and gains if they exist only in the minds of people and not in some objective form? Of course, I will use my subjective assessment of the reaction to the war in the former Yugoslav republics, now, twenty years later. The places I have in mind are Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, since I don’t think that what happened in Slovenia could be characterized as a war.

It seems to me that most Kosovars still believe that the war has brought to them more than it took away. On the other hand, my assessment is that most people in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia now think that the war took away from them more than it brought to them. If you don’t agree with that, then this is a good moment to stop reading this article because everything I will write from now on will be based on that assumption. I'll try to explain how a war that was later believed to be a mistake by most of those who were involved in it can happen in the first place. How can otherwise peaceful people like you and I be moved to commit horrible mass destructions of other people?

In the next section: The mechanism of war: the components

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