Why wars are fought!

by Tauqeer Abbas

Shafaqna Pakistan: Two hundred years ago, there lived a chef named Remontel in Mexico who had come from France to earn money there. One day, some people plundered his pastry shop, looted his belongings and ran away. Angered at the loss, the poor chef wrote a letter to the government asking for compensation. His complaint was not given any ear. Several times, he tried to contact the government officials but all his efforts went in vein.

After few days of wandering in government offices, Remontel became frustrated. So, he sent a letter to the French government asking for redressal of the injustice done to him. His letter went from one table to another for six years, but could not attract anyone’s attention. One day, that piece of paper reached King Louis Philippe of France who, after reading it, became angry at the attitude of Mexicans towards a French. The King immediately wrote to the Mexican government to pay 600,000 pesos (currency name) as compensation to the chef.

When the Mexican government refused to meet the demand, Philippe sent troops to invade the Latin country. French generals besieged the Mexican coastal city of Veracruz and demanded damages from the government. When no positive response came from the Mexicans, a regular war broke out. For months, the war continued and at some point the situation became so serious that Britain had to intervene. As a result, Mexico agreed to pay France 600,000 pesos, and the war, which began because of a trivial matter, ended after 250 soldiers had lost their lives.

Wars have been a continuous phenomenon since the birth of civilization. Sometimes,they were fought over petty issues and at times for serious matters. Territorial expansions, economic gains, religious differences, nationalism, revenge, dissatisfaction with the ruling elite and outside threat remained major causes of war in past.

The earliest wars in the world were fought for annexation of strategically important places. The first recorded major battle of known history took place in the 13th century BC when Pharaoh of Egypt fought for a city Kadesh which had become an important trade route. Similar wars were fought for the areas having water and vegetation.

When the great empires emerged in different areas, the priorities of the kings changed. Now the emperor wanted to have more territory under his control in order to show his might and strength to the world. Ashoka in India, Cyrus the Great in Persia, Rameses in Egypt and Alexander the Great in Greece expanded their empires in pursuit of such desires.

As time passed, people realized that a huge empire could not be maintained for long. Therefore, instead of subjugating the people in different areas, it is better to attack them and get their wealth and spend it on their own subjects. So the looting attacks began. The Roman Empire was repeatedly attacked by Scottish warriors who plundered their cities. Mahmud Ghaznavi in the tenth century and Nadir Shah Durrani in the eighteenth century invaded India but did not make Somnath or Delhi part of their empire. They just looted wealth and took it back to their areas.

Similarly, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, Britain sent troops to many countries and grabbed their wealth. During this time almost all the great empires came to an end. For example, the Roman Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman Empire etc.

In ancient times, when religion became centre point of life in the society, wars broke out against the beliefs of others. The Romans in 38 CE and the Greeks in 40 CE used armies against the Jews. Similarly, in the sixth century, the followers of Shintoism fought against the preachers of Buddhism in Japan. When the disbelievers of Makkah did not refrain from persecuting muslims, they also took up arms under the command of Holy Prophet (PBUH). The Crusades, which began in the eleventh century, were fought for religious purposes. The current nature of the fighting in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is religious.

Battles are also fought to decide about the disputed areas. The United States fought wars with Mexico and England fought against Argentina for such territories. Pakistan and India have also fought four wars over Kashmir.

In countries where there was no clear method of transfer of power, many candidates for the leadership of the empire came forward after the death of the emperor. This situation led to many great wars. After the assassination of Julius Caesar and the death of Alexander the Great, battles were fought for the throne. One of the motives for Europe’s Hundred Years’ War was the claim of British King to the ownership of the French throne. Most of the wars in the Indian subcontinent were fought for the throne. Aladdin Khilji killed his uncle Jalaluddin Feroz Khilji in his old age for Sultanate. For the sake of the kingdom, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb persecuted their own brothers and even killed their close relatives. Then the one who won on the battlefield became king. From 1701 to 1714, a bloody battle was fought in Spain to decide the heir to the throne.

Many wars were fought out of fear of the growing power of the enemy. Similarly, weapons were taken up in the past for personal revenge. According to Ramayana, Shri Rama fought the army of Ravana to get Sita. Odysseus fought the Trojan War in Troy to bring back Queen Helenof Sparta. Similarly, Genghis Khan attacked Khwarizm Shah because the Shah had killed Khan’s ambassadors. Arms were also taken up to free the tyrant from oppression. There were also battles meant to crush the uprisings. The 1857 War of Independence is such an example.

In the 20th century, two world wars were fought for a number of reasons that included promises attached with various treaties, nationalism and revenge. After their end, the Cold War between the United States and Russia kept the world engaged for fifty years.

The first war of the current century was fought in Afghanistan. Why it was fought, perhaps, would not be known to the common man for decades. However, the result is obvious. Infrastructure is destroyed there and unemployment is on the rise. With dreams shattered in the shadow of uncertainty, everyone in Afghanistan is now a Remontel and is crying out to the international community for redress of the injustices done to him in the last twenty years.

Source: The Nation (Writer: Babar Ali Raza)

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