War as a Force That Gives us Meaning

War as a Force That Gives us Meaning

The history of mankind is characterized by many wars. Most of the wars that have been document were either about control of resources while others were just meant to showcase the supremacy of one society over their opponents (Neocleous, 2014). There have been many people who have participated in wars in the past who have sought to explain their perception into this matter and what these wars really meant to them. One of the most significant notions about war was documented by Chris Hedges who said that “War is a force that gives us meaning.” Chris Hedges was a soldier who fought in many battle fields around the world and after having taken part is some of the most significant conflicts in history, he came to a conclusion that every society is susceptible to war’s appeal. He came to believe that war is a culture by itself, he argued that the rush a soldier feels in battle is addictive and it possess the aspects of exoticism, excitement, power and chances to rise to glorious lives among other chances. According to Chomsky, Achar & Shalom (2015), war dominates cultures, corrupts language, distorts memory, infects all around it including the sense of humor that is affected by the grim perversities of death and smut. He also feels that war also exposes the evil capacity of mankind as the “victors” enjoy watching others suffer and sinking to the lowest depths

According to Kleber, Figley & Gersons (2013), war affects our own culture and our inner being for it turns the most ordinary men (soldiers) into killers. These authors argue that most of these people give in to the seduction of power willingly as they enjoy the chances of unlimited power to destroy, and also surrender to the feelings of peer pressure. They argue that only a few of the soldiers can resist this urge and it is usually out of disgust, rather than their conscience being plagued by conscience. One a war starts; the universe of mankind collapses and almost every atrocity that takes place from then henceforth can be justified including “organized murder” more so in the eyes of those who wage it. This is under the basis that the cause is just and that the enemy is inhumane and that it is only resulting to war that the balance be restored to the world. This type of thinking leads to an impassioned plea for love, compassion and humanity which are mankind’s only hope for survival.

There are many wars that have had devastating effects on the parties involved.  A good case example would be the cultural effects that were witnessed by the Iraqi people after the Iraqi war that started in October 2002. The effects of this war to Iraq’s and the American culture can be witnessed to date and they never be restored. For starters, when the war broke out and the coalition forces captured Bagdad, they never bothered to protect the cultural sites of the Iraqi’s especially in the archaeological sites.  Research shows that most of the Iraqi’s archeological sites were looted and the occupying forces did not bother to protect them as required by the Geneva Convention. Looting in Iraq was carried out by citizens who were expressing their displeasure with the old regime while others were just typical neighborhood thieves who took electronics, furniture or anything else that they could find. Even when the reports of this looting in Bagdad reached the international media, the occupying forces still took so long to react and even Donald Rumsfeld the then US Defense Secretary dismissed these reports publically at first saying that the cultural devastation reports in this war were being exaggerated (Moran & Abramson, 2014).

After this war, there were so many cultural losses that were reported in Iraq with looses in archives and libraries, to museums and historical buildings, to archeological sites and even destruction of cultural properties by the coalition forces that had occupied Iraq. While the destruction that resulted from this war out of neglect and lack of protection as required by the Geneva Convention was misguided, and deliberate, their destruction actions can also be seen up to date. During the war, the coalition forces continuously bombarded and destroyed 65 mosques in November 2004 in Iraq, especially in Fallujah reducing most of the city’s buildings to rubble. There were many other buildings that were destroyed by coalition forces through aerial strikes in the cities of Samarra, Tal Afar and Ramadi among several others in Iraq. Today, Iraq has not been able to recover from these losses and even the National Museum has never been reopened.

There are other cultural impacts of war that are not discussed in and they tend to affect both parties involved in an act of war. In the worlds of Chris Hedges, “War is a force that gives us meaning” and it tends to affect all parties involved both directly and indirectly for generations. The Iraqi war also affected many cultural aspects of Americans back at home. Many American families way of life was disrupted especially in ones where their loved ones did not come home from these wars (Mirzoeff, 2012). Additionally, there were many adolescents and children who were affected by this war among many others that have been witnessed in the American history. The cultural and impacts of the Iraqi war has continued to be felt a decade later and this remains to be the case for coming generations especially due to loss of life. According to a report released by the United Nations concerning the impacts of war or conflicting situation on children and adolescents, in a period of two twenty years over 2 million children have lost their lives in circumstances of war. Over one million children have been rendered orphans in situations of armed conflict, with more than 5 million children severely injured or disabled permanently. In addition approximately 300, 000 adolescents below the age of 18 are already engaged in dangerous conflicts s military forces, and an estimated number of over 700 young people are killed or severely harmed by planted landmines and undiscovered ordnance on a monthly basis. These statistics are worrying and raises many questions on the safety of children and adolescents in times of political conflict and ever increasing wars. The United Nations refugee program today supports over 7 million refugee children. In addition, over 20 million people are believed to be living as refugees in their own country, and 40 to 50 percent of these people are believed to be children and adolescents less than 18 years (Laevitt & FOX, 2014).

Impacts of War on children and adolescents  

Adolescents are impacted by war and political conflicts not only as members of a particular community, together with adults, but may at times be intentionally targeted by the military forces. War and any other trauma encounters can create devastating impacts on children and adolescents because of their impacts on parents, the need for survival, and harm to basic frameworks that promote and protect child development. When war and conflict end and fundamental needs are taken care of, children and adolescents portray a significant toughness and recovery from the phenomenon. Though adapting to a disaster is normal, severely traumatized children are likely to appear unresponsive, numb, hot-tempered, hyperactive, mute, and stunned (Leavitt & Fox, 2014).

The worst impact of war is manifested when a parent is murdered, terrified, harmed, or unable to perform normally and when the child witnesses violent harm to relatives, friends, to self or is involved in harming others. Response towards these circumstances will depend on the age, developmental phases, and individuality of the child as well as the circumstance. Impacts of war and conflict on children vary by intensity or by duration of exposure, the extent of damage to fundamental systems of human growth, and extend of understanding of the affected child as well as the capability to overcome previous traumatizing scenarios (Leavitt & Fox, 2014). Quality of care is the key protective factor in young children, where those concerned with the safety and needs of the children plays a very crucial role. Children and adolescents may reveal more vivid abrupt implications, especially if they are not permanent. Isolation from loved ones such as parents and other connected people, but the most deep rooted impact may be seen in adolescents and older children due to their exposure to trauma may be far more intense. For adolescents, the nature and extend of trauma exposure is also crucial, as their greater understanding of the circumstance.


Chomsky, N., Achcar, G., & Shalom, S. R. (2015). Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. Routledge.

Kleber, R. J., Figley, C. R., & Gersons, B. P. (Eds.). (2013). Beyond trauma: Cultural and societal dynamics. Springer Science & Business Media.

Leavitt, L. A., & Fox, N. A. (2014). The psychological effects of war and violence on children. Psychology Press.

Mirzoeff, N. (2012). Watching Babylon: The war in Iraq and global visual culture. Routledge.

Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing cultural differences. Routledge.

Neocleous, M. (2014). War power, police power. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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