World has seen several wars like American Civil war, World War I and II, Vietnam War, US-Mexican war, Indo-Pak war, Iraq War, Korea war, other civil wars perpetually being fought within countries and several others. These wars have been fought for various reasons some for the gain of land, rise of the political power, defending territories, for justice, etc and for varying lengths lasting for a few months to several years. But the purpose of this commentary is not to establish or justify the reason for wars waged in different countries or world but to evaluate the impact of war on the people against whom the war is waged and the people who are at war and their allies.
One can argue that the war was fought for the betterment of the society, to improve the standard of living, to relieve people of oppression and misery or to cleanse the society of weaklings-‘survival of the fittest’. For example the American Civil War championed the cause of equality similarly the war in Japan uprooted imperialism and pushed the country towards progression. But here again I would say that it is not the cause in question but the impact on communities that we would discuss. After careful evaluation of different wars, reading about the war victims and war veterans and their experience I can say that all wars have deep psychological, emotional and sociological impact on the communities (Fearon, 483-507).
One major impact of any war is the casualties. In World War I the total number of casualties was 37.5 million approximately-16.5 million died and 21 million were wounded. Also, 6 million civilians died due to famine and diseases caused by the war. World War II was even worse with approximately 60 million deaths. Total number of civilians who died was 40 to 52 million out of which 13-20 million died due to famine and health related issues and diseases at large in the war (Cooke & Jenkins, 382-390). All countries in the world were affected due to these high impact wars. In Vietnam War alone approximately 6 million people died. The idea of projecting these numbers is to show how many people get affected due to a war. It is a known fact that whenever there is a war, the men in the family has to sign up for it.
Even young boys still in their teens have to enlist during wars. Only the old, women and small children remain behind. One can only imagine the void in the family, the void in an entire generation when all of its men have been taken away. There are so many who die in the war and they can never be replaced. It causes an entire generation to be wiped out. World Wars with their huge casualties caused an imbalance in the structure of the society. In those days men used to be the bread winners, the head of the family and they being taken away left a huge gap in the society. It left the women, children and the old to fend for themselves in a war zone (Moul, 468-489).
Besides the death tolls there are several other factors that leave an impact on the community. During wars all the resources of the country is used on the military and the defense. USA has spent 20 billion dollars on World War I, 296 billion dollars on World War II, 111 billion dollars on Vietnam War and 715 billion dollars on Iraq war while the cost of World War I for the European powers was 180 billion dollars and the cost was ten times greater during World War II (Goodliffe, 289-315). The governments’ main concern at that time is the war and diverting funds towards winning the war. Moreover, the land on which the war is being fought is the worst hit as the ways and means of directing resources like food, medical assistance required by the civilians is disrupted. The people who are well off can easily send their families to safer places in the world, may be to their friends and relatives as they can afford it but people who are middle class and poor are the ones affected to a large extent. With the men in their family gone, trade routes disrupted, normal lives upset and constant bombings there is hardly any way of earning a living. As such the standards of living drastically come down. There is dearth of food. With hygiene conditions an all time low diseases spread rapidly. So the communities not only lose their men at war but also other members through famine and diseases (Fearon, 483-507)
A lot of families have to run away from their homeland in search of safety and at times they have to be on the move constantly. In accordance to the United Nations, some family members, especially children who are separated from their families, are at risk of being stripped of their familial, cultural, religious, and national identity altogether (Sullivan, 496-524). The United Nations, in 1996, mentioned in article 26, that there are millions who are on the move fleeing from one country to the other and “among these uprooted millions, it is estimated that 80 percent are children and women" (Sullivan, 496-524). As per United Nations (1996), mentioned by Sullivan, (2007), it recognizes 27.4 million refugees. Most of these youngsters grow up confused about their identities and it takes them years together to adjust themselves socially. Sociologists also say that at times it becomes impossible for them to ever adjust socially because of the atrocities they have witnessed and the tribulations and physical hurt they have been through. After seeing so much violence they can hardly ever be completely normal (Sullivan, 496-524).
Migration also means disruption of family life, starting from scratch to build a life and facing the stigma of being a refugee all their lives. At times their political asylum is also short lived and they have to be one the move again. The ones who return to their homeland cannot overcome the sense of loss as everything that they would have left behind is ruined-neighbors displaced, house ransacked, and cities in rubble.
Wars and the large scale exodus during wars would also mean that the education would be affected as the schools would be shut. The education would then be the responsibility of the parents and during war time the only predominant factor for family elders is the safety of the family and education is the least of their priorities as such an entire generation goes without basic education. This can have serious consequence on the economy of the country in the long term. The country would lack skilled resources in years to come especially when these kids would grow up. An entire generation of people would be impaired (Cooke & Jenkins, 382-390).
Affect on procreation
Another serious consequence of a war on community is that procreation is affected as the male members are out at war and only the women and children are left behind as such for years together there is no procreation and the very existence of a community is at risk. The community cannot grow if the most natural function of a community is disrupted like procreation. A community is there to protect and help the people within the community to grow and without these basics the community’s growth can become stunted. Even if the men are with the family the men and women are restricted in their affection and expression of love as they face anxiety and live in fear constantly. Other practical matters would be in case they procreate they would have another mouth to feed and the little one’s safety and basic food and clothing; medical needs would also be a serious cause of worry for them. The only predominant emotion and struggle during war time is for survival (Moul, 468-489).
Wartime atrocities can lead the entire community and its people to be numbed and impaired. It can have deep psychological impact and scar people for their lifetime.
War rapes are common during a war where the military, combatants or the civilians rape the women. Women at times are also forced into sexual slavery and prostitution to satiate the needs of the soldiers like the “comfort women” in Japan during the Second World War United Nations has declared war rapes as genocides. Around 500, 000 women were raped in Rwandan Genocide in the year 1994 (Goodliffe, 289-315). Many of such war time crimes are well hidden and an estimate of this atrocity cannot be taken. Even children are not spared in some wars and they too are raped and many of them die.
In Sudan and several such warring nations little children especially boys are handed over guns and asked to kill their friends and fellow citizens in case they are deviant. They are forced to take to killing as the safety of their families is at stake. For survival these young boys kill after taking drugs so that they can kill better and without flinching. Many of these young boys have been rescued by the United Nations and they live to tell their tales of horror.
People-civilians and soldiers who return from war are either physically or emotionally scarred. They are unable to lead a normal life. Most of the soldiers at wars still have nightmares of the violence they have witnessed. Be it the recent Iraq war or the long past Vietnam war, the war veterans after surviving the enemy came back home only to commit suicide. There are several such examples according to the CBS news in America there are 120 war vets a week who commit suicide as per the survey in 2005. The ones who survive their emotional struggle can never adjust and come back to the mainstream (Sullivan, 496-524).
The impact of war on communities is not limited to the ones mentioned above. Whatever the reason for the war it has brought more damage than it has done well. An entire generation wiped out, mass exodus, no procreation, children and families living in violence and fending for food which is the basic necessity, famine, widespread diseases, rape, mass killings, constant fear for life and safety, no education or nurturing culture can lead to severe damages to a community for a long time to come. A country’s resources should be used for the development and growth of the community and not to fund genocides and create victims of war.