after the guns fall silent – the 5 most tragic legacies of war

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Warfare is often thought of as the breakdown of society; the failure of human decency. One of America’s most famous military men, President Dwight Eisenhower said of it: “œI hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”The immediate effects of combat are easy to perceive: death, injury and destruction. But the lingering effects warfare can have on veterans, on civilians and on the very world itself are perhaps the greatest tragedies of all. A war never ends cleanly, even after the fighting has stopped.

5 The Seeds of War

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If there is one thing that war often leads to, it’s more war. WWII was in effect a continuation of WWI, which was stirred up by regional conflicts in the Balkan lands and by long-simmering tensions left over by various wars of the 19th century. And much of the Balkan regions remain uneasy even to this day. A peace treaty may end a conflict, but rarely does it end conflict at large. Remember that we “œRemember the Alamo”when we charge into battle: every fight leaves both soldiers and nations itching for a fight.

4 Agricultural Damage

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Crops and livestock hate bombs and lead and chemical weapons almost as much as soldiers and civilians do. From the defoliant Agent Orange spread over much of Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s to the mines and other ordnance littering fields across Africa, Europe and Asia, to the direct destruction of crops, stock and arable land from combat operations, warfare can devastate food production, often in areas already at risk for food shortages.

3 Debt

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War is not a cheap undertaking. In fact, defense spending (the pleasant euphemism we use for all military activity) in the U.S. alone approaches a trillion dollars each year. Massive wars can ruin entire economies, plunging countries into debt and leaving them unstable and poised to slide back into the morass of unrest and open violence. Adjusted for inflation, World War I cost America 334 billion dollars. And WWII? That one cost us more than four trillion.

2 Landmines

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There are nearly 110 million landmines planted around the globe today, according to estimates from UNICEF. Nearly 10,000 innocent people will be killed by this cruel weapon in a given year. But the more awful statistic is not the death toll, but the number of those maimed by “œantipersonnel”landmines: according to some metrics, three people an hour will be wounded by a landmine, most often losing one or more limbs.

1 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Every year, the greatest killer of American soldiers is their own hand. More American soldiers die by suicide than by combat deaths at an astounding ratio of over two to one. The rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans is estimated at around thirty percent. We are still struggling to understand the lasting impact of combat experience on the human psyche, and at least today no one needs to be ashamed of confronting “œmoral injury.”While the phenomenon of PTSD has long been known””it has been called shell shock, nerves and combat fatigue, to name a few terms””in the past it was largely swept under the table.

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