Lose the war! Yay!

Sing it with me: ‘War! (Uh!) What is it good for? Habsolutelynuthin! Huh!’ Yup, I hear you. You’re saying: ‘lawks a mercy, not another Iraq War protest column, ah cannae take it! I hannae got the poower!’  Yes, in my mind, the irritated Baptist Times reader always resembles Scotty from Star Trek. And yes, Scotty, in my mind, uses traditionally English minced oaths like ‘lawks’ to start his better known faux-Scottish exclamations. If Simon Pegg can play him in an upcoming prequel (as was revealed last week), I figure the character is pretty much fair game. And don’t worry. It’s not about Iraq. Well, not mostly.

But it is about war. A high-ranking police official suggested last week that we decriminalise drugs, from heroin to cannabis. There were howls of protest from people who don’t use drugs (you can spot them easily: they use words like ‘cannabis’) and, I assume, drug barons (who, despite their ruthlessness, cunning and pure evil, must know in their hearts that Glaxo Smith Kline would crush them like bugs if it came down to it). Why the outrageous suggestion? Because we are losing ‘the war on drugs’.

But why? Could it be we are fighting too many wars? Wait! Stay with me. It’s not what you think—I know Iraq around the, er, claq can get tiring to read about. This is not about the justness or otherwise of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan (not even the news coverage of reaction to the civilian massacre attributed to American mercenary outfit Blackwater last week). I just want to know if war is always the best approach to a problem. Be it Iran, North Korea or, um, France, there are many who can’t get enough of war as a global political tool. It certainly has its uses. But a war on drugs? An abstract concept, a set of chemicals?  That’s just odd.

And inevitably such a war turns upon human targets. Drug users are generally victims of addiction circumstance and bad choices (and when they say they want to get bombed, war is so not what they are talking about). The petty criminals running drugs are hardly the cause, themselves caught in a trap of abuse, poverty and generational criminality. The farmers growing the raw materials for narcotic production are often peasants, unable to make a living from another cash crop. Drug barons (as opposed to Drug Czars –  a small but important distinction) are few and far between. Jail them, sure. But is war really the most efficient response?

The same goes for a ‘war on terror’. Bad people have struck terror into the hearts of your population—what do you do? Strike terror into the hearts of another civilian population. As Christians we have no excuse for assuming that lives in our country are worth any more than those in another, so the convenient justification that we are protecting ‘our people’ (if there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Cockney, Iraqi or Samaritan—good or bad) does not exist. And ultimately, through escalating revenge, terror begets more terror. The ‘war’ approach too often turns to the cause of a problem as a solution.

In medicine, using the disease against itself in a vaccination works. In other areas of life, the same is not true. You can very rarely bomb for peace. Terrorising people abroad will not make you less afraid. Buying more (even if it is eco-friendly or fair trade) is not a good way to fight materialism, greed and over-consumption. Getting people stoned is unlikely to end addiction. And war, with its dehumanising effect on those we deem combatants and civilians alike, is very very rarely a good way to restore humanity.  

Here’s a link to avoid if you’re easily offended


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