When we are talking about war (and it is fortunate to know that a lot of threads have been initiated to question the discourse of war both in public forums and social media) the question needs to be asked: how are we trying to understand the war, as academicians, as activists, as laypersons, or as informed citizens? All these different positionalities will elicit different kind of responses on our part. Much of the discussion taking place here is restricted to certain key events and arguments on the lines of the politics of war. It creates a polemical relation with other countries through one-sided narratives which, when seen with a critical gaze, can be really problematic. But can we go beyond these event-centric discourse? Can we talk on a slightly theoretical plane and challenge the very concept of a war as it exists and is appropriated in our history and society? The approach will really be consequentialist, as against the deontological argument provided by the pro-war syndicate. How can we challenge the assertion that people use to justify war? That assertion being that it’s a great deed to fight and die for the nation, thereby fulfilling one’s obligations to the nation by participating in a ‘noble cause’.
The first problem with an actual war is that it creates misery, not just for the present but also for the future. It damages a country not only economically, socially, and politically, it creates anxiety among the population. An actual war can be used as an example to create perpetual tension among the people. Tension of a possibility of war is more dangerous than an actual war, as it creates an aura of something lurking somewhere in the bushes, ready to pounce on us. Thus, we are thrown into a war-like situation for the rest of our lives without encountering any actual war.
War is a waste of human lives and resources, not just because it disposes with a huge number of resources, but also because, for the sake of war, the resources are diverted to fulfill the egos of two or more nations. We are all aware of how war can be detrimental to everyday lives of people living near military zones. But it can affect far-flung areas too, in the varying degrees of impact it creates on the economy and society. It creates food shortages, heaving patrolling, and military scrutiny of suspected areas and public spaces, especially where the army has considerable power in its hands. Not to forget that a huge number of able-bodied armed men themselves have to deal with adverse conditions (‘for the greater good of the nation). War reduces armed men to a category, utterly neglecting their individual vulnerabilities and struggle, both on the war front and otherwise, again for the ‘sake of the nation’.
War creates a particular discourse of ‘Nationalism’ in the society which reinforces the belief that direct armed a action is the best (and at times the only) way to show ‘Patriotism’. In a country like ours, where defence is a voluntary service and there is no conscription law of sorts to accommodate every able bodied person in defence services, such a militaristic nationalism that is evoked before, during, and after the war, alienates the people working for betterment of civil society in different capacities. When one says that the army is the only temple for the Goddess of Patriotism to reside in, it renders all other beings atheists, traitors to the cult. That is to say, in such a situation, anyone not going according to the discourse set by the institution of the army (not necessarily by members of the army itself) is always vulnerable to being declared ‘anti-national’. The question needs to be asked: is being concerned about the lives and dignity if people who become victims if war also not a form of patriotism? War then becomes an appeasement to the false god of nationalism which doesn’t take into consideration the lives of people that form a nation, simply for the sake of maintaining the façade of territorial unity.
I conclude by repeating the popular idiom which says that wars teach us to hate people we don’t know, hate the places we have never been to, and constantly look for an enemy outside our own territory. This othering of a nation is the fulcrum on which the whole idea of a nation is based upon. So the final question that needs to be asked is this. Are we creating an army for our enemies or enemies for the army?