Wars’ Many Faces

Bill Neinast


Today’s war is not yesterday’s war, and yesterday’s war was not day before yesterday’s war.

That one sentence synopsis of war is why some cannot understand that we are in World War III today.  For the doubters, history is just what they lived through.

To those doubters, war is Patton leading a column of Sheridan tanks against a similar column of Nazi Panzers. For others, it is helicopters lifting wounded and dead soldiers out of a tropical forest.

War, however, has many faces.  Basically war started with hand to hand combat with fists and clubs.  That escalated to fighting from a distance with spears and bows and arrows.

A major turn may have been taken in the last decade BC.  That is when Armenius (known today as Hermann the German) annihilated three Roman legions, including the accompanying women and children in the Teutoburg Forest and stopped the Romans’ northward expansion. 

This may have been the first time that civilian deaths were just written off as “collateral damage” to killing enemy soldiers.   This certainly seems to have been the philosophy during the two centuries of pillaging and burning in the Christian Crusades. 

Another turn came when the Chinese invented gunpowder in the 9th Century.  As that substance was incorporated into things like bullets and bombs the world returned for a while to armies fighting armies like the trench warfare in WWI.  Just two short decades later, however, the bombers and missiles of the Allies and Axis powers brought civilians back into the war as collateral damage.

A more recent change in the picture was Vietnam.  That was a war where the soldiers did not know who the enemy was and where they might be.  A farmer working a rice paddy in the morning might be a sniper in a tree in the afternoon.  Standard uniforms and organizations were generally non existent in the Viet Cong.

So now here we are today.  Weapons have morphed into explosives much more powerful than gunpowder.  These lethal weapons can be easily concealed in shoes, underwear, suitcases, or any number of items that do not resemble weapons of old. 

Until recently, lethal delivery systems were guns of various types and airborne vehicles designed specifically as explosive missiles or for dropping bombs.  Now the delivery systems are commercial airliners carrying civilian passengers, POVs that can be unobtrusively parked in crowded shopping or entertainment areas, simple vests that can be concealed under other clothes, etc.

Last week, there was a return to the earliest of all war weapons.  This was the hand to hand combat with an ax and knife on a train in Germany.

So what?  This may be a bit of interesting history, but how does it indicate that the United States is engaged in a world war?  There have just been a few instances of workplace violence that President Obama says indicates just a need for more gun control.

The destruction of the World Trade Center that took more than 3,000 American lives and major damage to the nerve center of the Defense Department with the modern weapons of commercial airlines was not workplace violence.  

The enemy that flew those planes into the Trade Center and the Pentagon has also dumped more than one million refugees in Germany, just one of several European countries providing haven for the victims of war.  More than half a million other civilians have died as a result of the daily combat in Syria and Iraq thar produced the flood of refugees.

That horde of refugees contains, either directly or by recruitment, soldiers of the Islamic terrorist army with a mission of bringing the war to as many countries as possible.  Recently, some of the soldiers of that army used the modern weapons of suicide vests and created mayhem in Frankfurt’s international airport in Germany. 

This followed devastating attacks in France, Belgium, and right here at home.  

Whoops!  Pardon the error.  Those deaths at Fort Hood and San Bernadino were not war casualties, they were just victims of workplace violence made possible by the overabundance of firearms in the country.  Or so say the White House spokespeople. 

So here’s the perspective.

History records something called the Thirty Years War.  Actually, that is something of a misnomer.  During the 20 years between 1618 and 1638, there was a series of wars in central Europe; not one prolonged conflict.

The Crusades, or Holy War, however, raged for two centuries.

So wars can and do last a long time.  The relative shortness of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were anomalies. The world war in which we are now engaged, started on Feb 28, 1991, with the invasion of Iraq in Operation Desert Storm.  So we have been at war with this enemy for 26 years, and there is no end in sight.

That means an unknown number of future generations will have to endure long lines at airports and maybe other modes of public transportation, be concerned about taking vacations away from home, and wonder if it is safe to go to any large public event or arena.

What a shame that some still think we are not at war. 


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