Monday, Jun 17, 2024 | Last Update : 06:33 PM IST

  Opinion   Columnists  02 Nov 2023  Abhijit Bhattacharyya | In ‘hate wars’ of today, no one can be a winner

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | In ‘hate wars’ of today, no one can be a winner

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.
Published : Nov 2, 2023, 12:03 am IST
Updated : Nov 2, 2023, 12:03 am IST

The two major conflicts raging today have the distinct flavour of “hate war”.

Israeli army tanks move towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel Wednesday, Nov.1, 2023. Israeli ground forces have been operating in Gaza in recent days as Israel presses ahead with its war against Hamas militants. AP/PT
 Israeli army tanks move towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel Wednesday, Nov.1, 2023. Israeli ground forces have been operating in Gaza in recent days as Israel presses ahead with its war against Hamas militants. AP/PT

Two conflicts -- the “intra-racial Slav war” of Eastern Europe’s Balkan-Black Sea axis and the “hate war” in the Levant today -- have brought the world to the precipice of fiery bloodshed and astronomical slaughter, endangering the very future of the human race. As the prospect of self-restraint and an urgent ceasefire appear to be a mirage, let’s try to see the possible implications of such mindless massacres.

War has been seen from several angles due to its multi-dimensional depiction, definition and description through the ages. Fifth-century BC Greek historian and geographer Herodotus penetratingly observed: “In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons”. These words, uttered thousands of years ago, remain valid even today.

Several eminent scholars and battlefield commanders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have had the caustic wisdom of reminding the eternal truth which is known to all, but are seldom remembered or followed in reality. American writer Ernest Hemingway appears to be a practitioner who has clinically diagnosed a debilitating psychopath: “There’s no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter”. Was Hemingway referring to bloodthirsty Napoleon, Hitler, Mao Zedong, or the Huns and Mongols, or the fanatic leaders of Islam-Christianity religious wars called the Crusades?

In today’s twin wars, will French poet-philosopher Paul Valery repeat his words: “War is massacre of people who kill each other for profit of people who know each other very well, but don’t massacre each other”? Or how would the warring parties and their powerful proxy backers, operating from behind the lines in the Balkan-Black Sea belt or the Levant, react to H.G Wells’ advisory: “If we don’t end war, war will end us”? Will the fighters at the front and the faceless financiers of arms bazaar behind the scenes see logic of the legendary Wells?

Similarly, how did France’s legendary philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the leading light of the existentialism theory, clinically diagnose: “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die”? Was he troubled by the post-Second World War (after being prisoner of war for a year) super-rich West’s romance with needless intervention in poverty-afflicted distant non-Western lands, resulting in the loss of millions of innocent lives from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sahel, the Maghreb and Levant with devastating consequences?

Again, how can one not criticise as well as adore William Tecumseh Sherman, the American Civil War’s successful battlefield general, for his war-abhorrence words that “I am tired and sick of war”? And that: “Its glory is all moonshine. It’s only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War’s hell”. Was Sherman foreseeing the Balkan-Black Sea war between two Slav nations and Israel-Hamas mass competitive manslaughter as if the world’s fighting a war to end all wars?

Finally, how does one see the ceaseless mindless violence of humans being transformed from race, religion, ethnic divisions, to hate war for land grabbing of the twenty-first century? How true or untrue are words of Spanish-American poet philosopher George Santayana: “Only the dead have seen end of the war”?

The two major conflicts raging today have the distinct flavour of “hate war”. A peculiar psyche of hatred on part of all the belligerents is giving shape to wholesale ethnic cleansing and savagery, raising the possibility of the emergence of a post-war victor without any vanquished.

While not being a “hate war”, this was seen in ancient India too when the Pandavas emerged victorious after the Great Mahabharata War of total annihilation of the opponent in Kurukshetra, when not a single “enemy cousin brother” of theirs could be present at any post-war peace treaty. All had died in the war which ended for the Pandavas as total, true and

yet a pyrrhic victory. Consequently, the victorious Pandavas just couldn’t celebrate in a graveyard without even a single surviving vanquished.

In the West, however, the Age of the Crusades (1060-1200 AD) could be seen as a precursor to the modern “hate wars”, the first impulsive spark of which was ignited in 1009 by a mentally unstable Caliph al-Hakim of Egypt, who ordered the systematic demolition of Constantine’s “Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre” in Jerusalem. What happened in 1009 AD in Jerusalem appears to be recurring in the same Levant in 2023. The same hatred, the same mass murder and the same bloodthirsty leadership; both on and off the battlefield.

That said, whatever be the outcome of the two wars of today, tomorrow is unlikely to see any real peace. It’s more likely the embers of a mutual retaliatory hate war will linger for long as the defeated seek revenge.

Let’s just look at the history of the twentieth century, arguably the bloodiest in modern history had begun. Hermann Goring, one of the top Nazis, had, perhaps unwittingly, correctly referred to the Second World War as the “Great Racial War”. It was truly a race war in spirit and substance, launched by “pure” Aryan Germans to eliminate the “impure blooded inferior” Slav Russians across two continents.

The mass murder of the mid-20th century restarted soon after the Great War, in carefully orchestrated remote areas, to avoid the wholesale destruction of the West. That was how race, religion and now hate war arrived at the tri-junction of Asia-Africa-Europe.

How prescient could H.G. Wells have been in The War of the Worlds? “The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. You understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning -- the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations. Did they dream they might exterminate us?” Wells’ early 20th century scene is playing out in the 21st century. The motto and single point of this “race war” is simple: it’s “death to all”! There is no space for mutual co-existence in this situation of “either you or me”. The “survival of the fittest” seems to be the future that lies ahead for us.

The person who would have been the happiest at seeing today’s scenario would be German philosopher Hegel, who rejoiced over Napoleon’s bloody campaign of Jena on October 14, 1806. Herodotus will not see any father burying his son, or the reverse, as there will be no one left to bury. The “hate war” will leave everyone dead.

Tags: hamas, israel palestine conflict, kosovo war