By Nicholas Perugini, Opinion Writer
We live in an age where the lives of millions of people can be extinguished within an instant. The age of the atomic bomb has changed the world we live in. In the tens of thousands of years that human society has existed we have only gained this ability less than a century ago. Before 1945, wars could be waged but the human race would live on. If a major conflict were to happen today, our existence as a species is uncertain. Since the end of the Cold War, we have believed that this threat is no longer a major issue. The idea of nuclear annihilation no longer took the forefront of our minds; instead, we busied ourselves with other pressing matters, peace in the Middle East, economic stability, and the promotion of liberal equality across the globe. These ideas took precedence over nuclear proliferation. The idea that another World War would occur seemed ridiculous to some. It seemed as if international diplomacy and trade had permanently replaced the need for conflict. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Some believe that there will never be another great world conflict and that world peace is soon obtainable. There certainly is data that supports this idea. The amount of individuals killed by combat has never been lower in recent history. The 21st century has been a relatively peaceful time considering 100 years ago World War One was raging in Europe. People also argue that trade will help prevent future global conflict. The United States and China’s economies are so intertwined that it would not be beneficial to go to war. A war would destroy the world economy and no nation would want to risk that. The final argument people make is that mutually assured destruction from nuclear weapons would stop countries from going to war. These ideas have lured many people into a false sense of security that the world will not change and this peace will go one forever.
While optimistic, these ideas fail to take in some harsh realities. Nothing lasts forever, including peace. Thirty years ago, people thought the world would be divided forever between communism and capitalism. It seemed as if the United States and the Soviet Union would be locked in a Cold War until the end of time. That was until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. We were lucky that the Soviet Union’s collapse was peaceful and that nuclear war was avoided. The end of the Cold War proves that the status quo is not permanent and that the unexpected can happen. No one expected the Soviet Union, a world super power, to dissolve so quickly. It is not impossible that our world order can change again.
The issue with war is that sometimes it can happen beyond any one person or country’s control. At the start of the 20th Century, many people thought that a large-scale war would never happen. Norman Angell, an English journalist wrote The Great Illusion. The book said that the odds of Europe falling into war were unlikely because of the complex trade between nations. The cost of war was too expensive and no nation would risk the status quo. The book was published in 1909. In 1914, European leaders stumbled into World War I. Few expected to see such carnage overtake the continent after four years of fighting over 18 million people were killed. At the war’s conclusion in 1918, some believed that such a massive war would never happen again. Only to be proven wrong again in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, sparking World War II. When that war finally ended in 1945, over 70 million had perished.
Now in 2017, one hundred years after World War I and seventy-two years after World War II, we are making the same mistakes our ancestors made. Nuclear weapons are still new to humans, but war has been around since the dawn of time. It is important that we stay wary of war and the power of nuclear weapons. If we do not continually push for nuclear proliferation and sanction nations that try to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction then H.G. Wells’ quote that “If we don’t end war, war will end us” rings true.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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