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Will There Be War When We Have Peace?

This is not as crazy a question as it sounds. It forces us to talk about what peace really means. Should we strive for a time when there is no war at all? Should we settle for wars that are “contained,” and not catastrophic with severe loss of life and property? If this is not possible, should we just hope that only the bad guys fight and kill each other off?

When I finally have peace in my corner of the globe, what should I do with it? Should I just try to sell as much life insurance as is humanly possible? Would that “insure” the peace and make sure it lasts? These kinds of questions make you think about how what you do – and how you do it – affect the world at large.

Some people say that to bring peace into the world, you have to find “inner peace.” That is certainly true: if people act with hostility and aggression, they will receive it in return. If they offer peace and gentleness, they will get such back. But is that all we need: for each person to simply get his or her act together, so peace will naturally fall into place?

I do not think so. It seems to me that what we do matters as much as how we do it. Many murderers, serial killers, and thugs are cool, calm, and collected as they do their dastardly deeds. It is what they do that makes the world a worse place. How they do it can make matters worse, but is not the cause of the problem.

By the same token, it is the good deeds we do that make the world a better place. Making a wholesome living in an honorable occupation… devoting oneself to a worthwhile cause, such as eradicating cancer… and even performing a single act of kindness, such as walking a little old lady across the street… all make a positive difference.

The good things we do can even involve bad things. Defending yourself against a violent mugger is good, even if it means hurting your attacker. Ordinarily, we would not want to hurt anybody; but it is sometimes necessary to do so to save ourselves. The same principle applies to a nation protecting itself from an invader. It would not want to incur any civilian casualties, but that is sometimes necessary to save itself.

But is life really that simple? Does the world become a better place simply by doing good things, even though bad stuff happens in the process? This is where “how we do what we do” can make a difference. Fighting off a mugger in a way that simply ends the fight and does not prolong the confrontation, can make the fight a single event. But getting into it for the sake of fighting can make violence between people a habit. Similarly, a nation fighting off an invader in way that simply ends the war and does not prolong the confrontation, can make the war a single event. But getting into it for the sake of fighting can make war between nations a habit. In both cases, the world becomes a worse place because people did the right thing (self defense) in the wrong way (with unpeaceful intent).

So what does this say about the possibility of a world without war? It says that wars can still be good if nations conduct them in the right way – with peaceful intent. And if people try to always have a peaceful intent, why would they start a war in the first place?

Make sense to you?