I’m a pacifist and so I oppose war on general principle. Despite that I am willing to admit there have may have possibly been some ‘just wars’ – I doubt Hitler or Franco could have been negotiated with for example, and the same could be said for other tyrants at that time; their expansionist plans had to be stopped in addition to their genocides. Perhaps however they should never have been allowed to obtain such positions of power in the first instance.
Those ‘just wars’ were not fought under the media spotlight of today – the contemporary reportage was essentially propaganda to boost the morale of the troops and public. Even war-time films were made with that principle in mind; many are still regarded as masterpieces of the art. Those contemporary reports inform us that it was a less cynical and more deferential time, most people regarded it as their duty to support the war-effort and this was mostly unquestioned.
However, I’m sure the public questioned the wars when their sons and daughters lost their lives or were horribly injured, and I’m sure they did when they were bombed out of their homes. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people complained about having to live on rations, particularly when they were still living on them nearly ten years after the war was over and I’m pretty sure children didn’t like being evacuated from their families. Most of this was not recorded on contemporary news-reels though.
Our news today is far less controlled and it is relatively instantaneous; we have 24 hour news coverage on television, not to mention multi-media access to it and much of that is unmediated, filmed and beamed out around the world via the internet by members of the public. What they are recording is the fact that wars are horrific, always disgusting and not suitable for entertainment, the fact that they are unacceptable has become common-knowledge. More information is available today than ever before and what we are learning is that it is never okay for human-beings to kill other human-beings for political reasons, reasons of ethnicity, religious bigotry, nor is it right to strip the wealth of another country and/or kill to fulfil the personal vainglorious ambition of a despotic ruler. More and more people are becoming aware of this, and they are also eager to punish those they feel are responsible for such atrocities being committed.
Some people who start wars are not intentionally evil (if evil genuinely exists), they may feel that what they are doing is just and the last resort. They may even feel they are dealing with another Hitler. I don’t know what Tony Blair felt he was doing when he decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Surely he was aware that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Did he really think it was a war on terrorism? Did he think that only terrorists lived in those countries? None of this is clear because he has never been direct in his answers. What has become clear is that politicians are no longer free to start wars without fear of being asked awkward questions and accused of war-crimes. Something has drastically changed and Tony Blair is arguably the first British Prime Minister whose legacy will suffer as a consequence, despite being one of the most successful and popular of the post-war period. All Prime Ministers and world leaders who follow him should take warning.