The other day I came across a graph I had drawn of the number of live births in England and Wales during Twentieth Century. What was even more noticeable than the post-war baby boomers and the drop in live births after 1966, when the combined effect of the Pill and the Abortion Act cut births by a third, was the fall in the number of births during and after the First World War
Birdsong is a novel by Sebastian Faulks. If you saw the film, Charlotte Gray, it was based on another book by Faulks. Birdsong recounts the story of Stephen Wraysford during World War 1. As a doctor I am not squeamish about injuries, body parts or even mutilation; but as I read the description of the Battle of the Somme I found tears leaking from my eyes. The horror and stupidity was so great that Generals were shooting themselves in their guilt.
The book cleverly contrasts the modern day attitudes to life with the fear, then resignation, then indifference shown by the men in the trenches.
The other day I had an MRI. As I moved into the tunnel I had feelings of claustrophobia, but I really began to sweat when I read about the tunellers in the front line who dug tunnels 70 feet below the surface with the intent of blowing up the enemy above them. The enemy dug counter tunnels with the aim of collapsing their tunnels and burying them alive.
This is a book with the power to reveal the unimaginably horrid. Anyone whoever supported a war anywhere should read it. Yet 21 years later they started all over again.
There is nothing glorious in war. As our television screens show us yet again buildings that have collapsed under rockets or bombs, and reporters tell us of people crushed beneath them you have to wonder why it continues.
When was it ever decided that might was right? Suppose the whole thing was to be decided on a football match? Would the result make one side right and the other wrong?
Sure, every nation that is attacked has the right to defend itself. Sure, unfairness abounds. Sure, some countries are run by criminals.
I remember being told a fable when I was very young about the sun and the wind trying to get a man to remove his overcoat. The wind blew as hard as it could but although it almost flew from his shoulders, he pulled it all the tighter and it would not dislodge. The sun simply shone and shone, and the man took his own overcoat off.
The intractable war in Ulster that began with the Romans and continued off and on for 2000 years, ended not because of military success, but because Eire became more affluent.
The rights and wrongs of the war against Israel, which some say began in 1948 and has continued off and on for nearly 60 years, and some say began with Abraham and has continued on and off for 4000 years, are impossible to resolve. A compromise will, in the end, have to be reached and continued killing only delays the inevitable and makes the compromise more difficult to swallow.
In Europe there has been war between France and Germany since records began. The Rome Treaty in 1961(?) was, in part, designed to put a stop to war. By and large it has succeeded in this (though not in much else). The point I am trying to make is that the bitterest enemies can become friends. If they don’t blood feud heaps upon blood feud and vengeance is never done. To end it someone has to accept less than they deserve.
Difficulty arises when one side won’t listen to reason. Alas, I suspect that in this war at lest one of the sides will not listen, because it will not relent on its premise that the other side should not be allowed to exist. But no amount of bombing will make it see reason. However, if people in that country attained the affluence of some in that country, then support for the criminal terrorist would leak away.