War Is a Tool of the Weak

Eleanor - Gainesville, Florida
Entered on July 31, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

No amount of pain, grief, or death is a requisite for war. As we learned when we were children, there are two sides to every conflict, and if you stop to listen, really listen, you may be able to catch a glimpse of your opponent’s anguish and suffering. You may be able to understand the roots of your disagreement. And you may see that what looks like evil and aggression is actually fear and misunderstanding.

Our lives have been wrecked by the hubris of leaders who do not have the intelligence, compassion, or honesty to deal with differences in constructive ways. To set any nation on the course of war deprives its citizens of freedom, safety, and comfort.

I need only look to my husband for proof of this. Thirty-five years have passed since he served as a door-gunner and a crew chief in Vietnam. Thirty-five years that have not diminished his anxiety and fear. Thirty-five years of memories that are worse than anything in a Martin Scorsese film. At least he is alive. So many are not.

War is a tool for those too weak and ignorant to find other means of communication and conflict resolution. I believe that Congress and other leaders of this country are not capable of deciding when this nation should go to war. I believe our elected and appointed officials have lost the ability of good judgment and common sense. The public is swayed to believe in a war by propaganda created to support goals of those in power and control—goals that are decorated with patriotism to make us feel secure.

No doubt our nation needs a strong military. But that military should use its power as a last resort. And otherwise let it work for the legions of people who need basic services and education. Let soldiers rebuild New Orleans and create sustainable sources of energy. Let them build green cities and preserve forests and grasslands. Let them be ambassadors bringing hope and education to foreign nations rather than death, destruction, and chaos.

I am afraid for our future because we have strayed onto a dangerous and dark path. War has not solved a single problem in the course of human events. It never will. It leaves within its wake, regardless of the “cause,” broken minds and mangled bodies. War has become an economic tool, a way to control cultures and resources.

Properly trained soldiers are a nation’s treasure. They should be treated with respect by the citizens they are prepared to fight for and by the leaders who send them into harm’s way, a choice that should be made rarely, if ever.

We cannot build this nation’s security, prosperity, and future on the graves of the men and women who choose to perform one of the most difficult services. I believe we can and must find a way other than war to achieve our goals.