“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.”
Edmund Burke, 1789
This book deals with conflict and violence in their manifest forms and with the manner in which humanity has come to resolve those matters that afflict the human condition. How these terms are used here requires some explanation, as it is by understanding their meanings that one can recognize the significance of the acts performed.
Conflict generally deals with the result of a real or imagined antagonism between two sides, or among several, that may result in violence. Violence does not necessarily attend conflict, but it is often true that savage acts are the end result of confrontation. Religion, territory, presumed and anticipated rights, conquest and, above all, attainment of power are the most easily recognized of the antagonisms that beset humanity. War, invasion, subversion, assassination, massacre and genocide are but a few of the forms of violence that attend such antagonisms.
The forms of the attendant violence vary based on the culture, the means at hand, and the perceived insult caused by the initial disagreement between the opponents or among the several antagonists. One of the more interesting aspects of this paradigm is that the majority of violent conflicts are started not by soldiers but, rather, by politicians who order soldiers to create the acts of violence. In most cases the military becomes the instrument of the politicians' inability to find others means of gaining power. Although this is not always the case, conflict occurs often enough in this fashion to prove Frederick the Great's adage, “If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks.”
Another aspect of this issue may be seen in those incidents in which the military creates the conflict through usurpation of power, most often in the form of the coup or the seizure of power. This is most often done to sustain a status quo, not so much for the soldier as for the generals. Much of the violence of the last 50 years has taken this form. The terrible apparition of ethnic warfare, one form of which took the cloak of a Nazi “master race” in World War II, finds its way in the modem world. The plight of Rwanda leaves little doubt about ethnic hatred still finding an outlet. However, of all the violence, conflict over religion, which seems the most absurd, is the major cause of the violence observed since 1945. The Middle East and Northern Ireland make this point veiy clearly, both in the main events that have transpired and in the secondary form of terrorism that has grown out of these arenas.