Wars – Are they worth it?

I have been thinking about it for quite sometime, that how much tendency we humans have to solve disputes and problems through military force, although being among “best of the creations” we have the capacity to rise above such means and use rationale, compassion and love in solving our problems.

Last week an article in New York Times It Takes a School, Not Missiles by Nicholas D. Kristof , made me ponder about it even more and in a way validated my long held instincts against wars. The writer shares the story of an American mountain climber Greg Mortenson who after a failed attempt on climbing K2, the second tallest mountain in the world, in 1993 was cared for by villagers from a tiny and poor village in the mountain’s valley. He was so obliged that he decided to pay them back by building a school in that village, although he didn’t have much means. Unable to raise enough funds through a non-profit he established, finally he ended up building the school selling his own valuable mountain climbing equipment. His selfless sacrifice and his act of love towards those poor villagers was rewarded by pouring of love towards him by the same villagers and not only that this idea worked so well that in a little over a decade he has been able to setup 80 or so schools in parts of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. He enjoys the status of a celebrity in those areas, where anti-American sentiment is at its extreme. His school alumni, many of them women, have been instrumental in repudiating extremism and violence within their families and even reformed some former Talibans who now have given up violence and are teaching at these schools.

I have held and shared this view in my conversations with friends, since the onset of the war in 2001, that this was a wrong approach in tackling and rooting off extremism and terrorism in that area. With the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan climbing to over 1.5 trillion(in addition to hundreds of thousands of lives lost from both sides) and the outcome still as far, as it was 7 years ago, its time for the policymakers in Washington to step back and ponder their strategy. With a tiny fraction of this enormous cost, we could get a lot more tangible results as well as stability in the region, in addition to respect and good will for America.

Looking at the yearly world defense and military expenditure and the global economic slowdown we are facing, I was thinking is it worth it to spend such a big chunk of world GDP on something as lethal and useless as wars? Can’t we just learn to live and let live? Isn’t it cheaper if we can just get along ? When there are millions among us who don’t even know if they will have food on their tables when they go home, is it justified to splurge this much on weapons and wars? When will we be able to rise to our status as “best of the creations”?