“We serve humanity by relegating the term ‘conflict’ to ancient history.”
Article by 17160 Stephen Kalyta
As the 100th anniversary of the Armistice approaches, one cannot help but conclude its grand ambition for peace was a failure. A blood payment of 9 million lives in WWI could not satiate mankind’s thirst for war for more than a few decades. The architects of the peace agreement barely reached 30 years before humanity was again plunged into global conflict. The great social experiment of democracy seemed incapable of sedating tyranny, and more Canadian lives were offered in spilled blood and death during WWII, Korea and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lincoln described man’s eternal struggle in conflict with sobering eloquence. “It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings.” In the context of a civil war, pitting brother against brother, Lincoln seemed certain that war is both inevitable and a curse of the human condition.
Do we dare ask whether king or man is capable of knowing whether their definition of being right will survive the scrutiny of historians or their captors? As Churchill coyly remarked, “history is written by the victors.” The spoils of war include the victor’s unfettered rights to the storyline. A recent and disturbing example of misguided conflict would include the case made by the Americans to go to war with Iraq under the premise of finding weapon of mass destruction (WMD). One small US media outlet stuck to the facts that showed the Bush administration had it wrong, and thankfully our Prime Minister kept us out of the conflict. As history now shows, the wrong principle was applied at a cost of 36,000 American lives committed to an erroneous mission.
How do we as officers reconcile this eternal struggle under Lincoln’s two principles when we may not have all the facts? We rely on our own moral compass to guide us before we act. We reflect on the potential risk to the men and women under our command and respectfully communicate our concerns. We reflect upon the perspective of the mortally oppressed and do not waiver in our cause to protect them from their oppressor. Lastly, we pray that Lincoln is wrong about our eternal struggle. Instead, we pay the highest Honour to our Fallen Soldiers by making peace endure. We serve humanity by relegating the term “conflict” to ancient history.