A Defining Moment
“There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads onto fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
—William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 4.3.249-52
The seeds of war are usually planted by one person who gains control of a population through charisma, intimidation, or by fomenting hate against convenient scapegoats. When one traces the origins of most armed conflicts, a pattern emerges. War does not usually commence on a large scale; it starts with a push or a shove. Someone crosses the line and breaks the established law. Many historical conflicts essentially start with a first breach of law by an individual. Left unpunished, the first offense is followed by repeated, and often greater, offenses. Eventually, some form of armed conflict ensues. Based on historical experience, including present day governmental and legal structures, we know with some certainty that, if a lawbreaker is stopped initially, a larger armed conflict will not ensue.
“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
—Pastor Martin Niemoller, Protestant Pastor and Nazi protestor
In a sense, war is like cancer. If the first few malignant cells are diagnosed and treated early while the cells are localized, the victim may survive and be cured with relatively simple procedures. If left undiagnosed, the cells spread and grow. Eventually, radical measures like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are required, and oftentimes the outcome is poor. There is a defining moment during the course of any deadly disease. If treatment commences before that moment, it may cure the patient. After that, a cure may not be possible.
Civilization's disease of armed conflict has evolved into a deadly new strain which is resistant to traditional therapy, and there appears to be no cure. Civilization is in critical condition, and it must rid itself of the scourge of war before war consumes it. It must discard old and ineffective treatments and try a medicine globally, which has proven effective locally the rule of law.
“We are the first generation making ethical decisions
that will determine whether we will be the last generation.”
—Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute
Admittedly, nothing can prevent one person, or a group of conspirators, from committing mass murder. Although international laws prohibit such crimes, they are not presently enforceable. Were they enforceable, large-scale international conflicts could be "nipped in the bud" with limited police action rather than all out warfare.