The devastating impact of war in the 21st century

By Josh Bleser
SNN Opinion Co-Editor
Massey-Vanier High School
Cowansville, Quebec

With Remembrance Day just in the past, the media is inundating us with stories, tributes, and memorials regarding the war veterans. While leafing through the Montreal Gazette this weekend, I came across two interesting articles which caused me to stop and think about the history of these bloody battles, the roles of soldiers and the reasons countries declare war.


The thing that astounded me the most was the overwhelming statistics on countries at war. At this moment, 16.1% of the world's nations are at war; that works out to 31 countries currently in a state of conflict. Over the past 100 years, a whopping 91.7 % of this planet's 192 countries have been involved in feuds, both internal (civil war) and external. This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that diplomacy in today's world is in dire need of improvement.

Before considering the solution to this most disconcerting problem, it is first necessary to determine the reasons. This is where the second article mentioned above fits in. This one was about a new breed of mercenaries fighting today's wars in troubled Africa. Mercenaries, or paid foreign soldiers, have always been involved in wars, but up until now they have usually been independent men willing to risk their lives to make a few bucks. Recently, they have evolved into high-tech, legitimate businesses, offering services ranging from security and training to supplying regiments of men prepared to fight in the savage African Bush wars.

As long as warring countries have access to soldiers who will fight for cash and diamonds, the leaders of these countries will see no pressing reason to even attempt peaceful negotiations. After all, their people are not protesting vehemently, either because it is not their kin that is dying on the battlefields, or simply out of fear of the often autocratic African regimes.

Another cause of the high preponderance of countries at war is, and this may seem painfully obvious, is politics. What I mean by this is that often the ordinary citizens of a particular country have absolutely nothing against their counterparts in the nations with which they are engaged in bitter, bloody battles.

A perfect example of this, somewhat subdued, is my native Quebec. In our province, the political leader has waged a vendetta against the English language, imposing often ridiculous language laws, to ensure the "survival" of the French culture. While I do understand that this desire is motivated by a warranted thirst for revenge due to atrocities committed against his people by the English in the past, the steps he is now taking are unnecessary. The vast majority of French Canadians do not care if the lettering on English signs is less than half the size of that of their mother tongue. In addition to this, they get along beautifully with the English and do not fear veiled plans of assimilation.

Although this example does not involve outright war, there are countless other situations that do. For example, the situation in South Africa up until 1990, when a black man was democratically elected president. In the first 90 years of this century, the Afrikaners and the British were conditioned by the government to hate, and discriminate against, the blacks. During World War II, they were also pitted against each other. This led to innumerable wasted lives and an ingrained sense of inferiority among the blacks. This in turn led to hopelessness and apathy.

In South Africa and all other troubled countries, if the people were left to fraternize among themselves peacefully without the influence of a corrupt government, surely this would bring the world one step closer to the ultimate goal of global harmony.