The sudden eruption of open warfare in the Middle East brought about by the generational on-again, off-again conflict between Israel and Hamas caught the world by surprise and has appalled all of us for the untold death and destruction sparing no one, young or old, woman or child, Jew or Christian, Israeli or Filipino, both combatants and innocent bystanders, that has persisted through the ages in Palestine.

In a world of non-stop 24/7 streaming, our consciousness is constantly bombarded by jarring images of a bloodied Israeli woman being pulled by her hair as she is roughly pushed into a military vehicle; a Hamas fighter, a rocket-propelled grenade in hand, standing over an unconscious German-Israeli woman as a jeering mob spits on her; scores of barefoot fathers and half-naked children forcibly shoved into vehicles and certain captivity; reveling music festival goers mowed down mercilessly by Hamas intruders who swooped down on the unsuspecting Israelis, all committed ironically amid triumphant salutations to Allah.

But then, as the Israelis started to counter attack, the clouds over Gaza darkened during the day and blazed into the night, as rockets unceasingly rained down on the hapless Palestinians with the nightmare not yet in sight as the Israeli Defense Forces prepared to launch a ground assault on Gaza promising hellish apocalypse in revenge for their own thousands of deaths.

And from the rubble of collapsed buildings, you see dazed, dust-covered, bloodied Palestinians, young as well as old, crying, screaming, seemingly running aimlessly for succor — one can’t help but wonder how human beings can inflict so much inhumanity on each other. Unquestionably, there now exists a no-holds-barred state of war between Israel and Hamas, and God only knows when this holocaust will end.

Why do we have wars? When you try googling the definition of war, it is quite surprising to see that there are actually quite a number of interpretations and perspectives of what academically defines a war. I thought war was simply a state of conflict between nations, states, or people, resulting in untold deaths to the protagonists.

But in a research paper by Dr. Johann Van Der Dennen, a noted behavioral scientist specializing in Peace Research at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who has published extensively on all aspects of violence and aggression, he succinctly covered in a literary review and bibliography a slew of political sociologists’ works entitled WAR: Concepts, Definitions and Research Data, on what is war.

My thoughts on the fairly complex treatise of Van Der Dennen.

As damning proof of man’s stupidity, several modes of war conjured up over eons of conflict and aggression to weaken and inflict pain on an adversary. To name a few, as cited by Dennen — cold or hot, local or world, controlled or uncontrolled, accidental or premeditated, nuclear or conventional, civil or international, preventive or pre-emptive, guerrilla or counterinsurgency, or wars of conquest, political, religious, genocidal, and psychological. This wide array of combat is rooted in the leaders’ divergent attitudes and behavioral perspectives and the particular situation’s circumstances.

But a common thread always is the hostility felt rightly or wrongly, imagined or real, by an aggrieved leader towards the offender perceived to be responsible for the offense. This umbrage can eventually lead to outright physical and material destruction and subjugation of the transgressor, particularly if there is an imbalance of power between the antagonists.

What struck me most, however, is Dennen’s view of Thomas Hobbes, an English political philosopher of the 17th century known for his book Leviathan, wherein he advocated governance based on a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes believed that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature could be avoided only by a strong, undivided government. Or, in other words, a benevolent dictatorship.

Furthermore, he notes that there is actually no material difference between war and peace but only in the form “distinguishable by their locus and implements rather than by their intrinsic qualities as human behavior.” Or simply put, man instinctively always desires to take advantage of another in whatever form, but only differs in how one can attain the advantage.

So what does this all mean in the context of the Israeli-Hamas conflict? Because of the nature of man, war, unfortunately, will always be a constant fixture in the Middle East, interspersed by occasional interludes of fleeting peace.

Until next week… OBF!


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