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Introduction to war and peace

By Frank Lawrence

None of us are experts, we are only interested amateurs. If I read a hundred books, a thousand articles, and watch a thousand videos, I will never fully comprehend some topics. I sit in a nice house. My house is located in a relatively safe place. As far as I know, nobody is trying to kill me now.

My mother’s ancestors came from the Ukraine. That area is located in one of the busiest trails in the world. A grassy highway to hell. They have experienced constant waves of invading armies sweeping through those areas. This has been going on for thousands of years.

I come from a military family that has fought in every war. I have visited with uncles that survived the worst of the worst battles. Much of what they experienced is beyond my comprehension. The ones that survived rarely talk about their war experiences. They shake their heads, close their eyes, and send their brains to some distant, dark place. You can’t go there with them.

My son was an Army MP and a dog handler in Afghanistan. He and his bomb sniffer walked the point trying to keep his comrades alive from roadside bombs. Like my uncles who fought in historic battles, he doesn’t want to talk about it. Their memories rob them of sleep. Some sounds may trigger physical and mental reactions. They may wake up with cold sweats from some reoccurring nightmare.

I suggested that my son join the military. I wish that I had not done that. It changed him. Now I pray that he doesn’t commit suicide. I pray that he doesn’t drop out, and become some homeless, lost soul living on a street. His mother and myself call him just to check in, just to hear his voice. If things get bad, “you can come home, anytime.”

For various personal and political reasons we have been tasked with the job of making a statement about wars. At this time the two countries that have the greatest skills at propaganda (Russia and the United States) are flooding the news channels with misinformation. You will not get everything right. You are dealing with world-class experts that can’t make any accurate predictions.

By the nature of war, we are always preparing to fight the last war. The technologies and strategies change constantly. War is deception.

All of us apply filters to deal with the huge volume of information that is available to us. We have a tendency to weigh information that supports our current beliefs much heavier than things that contradict our core values. We want information that helps us rationalize our opinions.

We are told that about four million people in the Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 were deliberately starved to death by Russia. That at the height of the famine, the survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive. “They ate their own babies.” Can we begin to understand how much guilt and hatred can be passed down for generations?

One of the most common errors in logic is dichotomous thinking. It is an artificial construction. If issues are framed in such a way that one side is good and the other is evil, you are most certainly wrong. We live in a world that is mostly shades of gray. The Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Europeans and the Americans are not intrinsically evil. It is very doubtful that any of us are very heroic either.

War is a crime. It brings out the thinly disguised beast that civilization tries to hide. Most of the predators that have large fangs and claws have built-in signals that attenuate violence. Their battles don’t result in the death of their own species. It is doubtful that our human species ever had an effective kill switch that turned off aggressiveness.

—Frank Lawrence grew up on a fourth-generation family farm and has an MA in clinical microbiology and an MBA. He was employed by and managed laboratories for more than 40 years. He worked for Bernie Sanders before joining the Green Party and now volunteers for Powell Gardens and PeaceWorks.

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