Wars are started by leaders of countries but it is the common man who suffers the most. Soldiers too suffer, but they are atleast trained to defend themselves and endure the pain to some extent. Helpless commoners become scapegoats.
Common citizens play a pivotal role in the political discourse of their country. But this role loses its significance if they are unaware of their individual and collective powers.
In a democracy, citizens have the power to choose or dispose their leader with their vote. In all other forms of government, they have the power of collective bargaining through resistance and protests. This collective bargaining can often turn violent in autocratic or dictatorial states, but it must also be noted that the only reward for putting up with suppression is more suppression.
When the misdemeanors of leaders lead to wars and the situation gets out of hand for one party, their common man gets drafted or is forced to pick up arms. He lacks the expertise to fight trained soldiers from the other side, and probably ends up wounded or dead. If he ends up dead, and his heroism has been accounted, he would be celebrated as a martyr. But if he is permanently crippled, the rest of his life may not be as smooth as it would have been without the war.
Leaders don’t get to be crippled for life or live with the pain for long. They end up either as a hero or a dead villain. The winner becomes a hero. The loser usually dies a quick death – a relatively painless one like Hitler’s suicide, or a brutally painful one like Gaddafi’s lynching. In short, their suffering is seldom long lasting.
Change in demograpy, financial crunch in economy and sociocultural bias from other countries are some consequences of war. The intensities will be different for the winners and losers, and can be actually gauged only after the war is over. Unlike the leader, the population of a country might have to bear the brunt of a war for a much longer time. Germany is an example.
World War I ended in November 1918, but it took Germany 92 years to completely pay off all war reparations. In 1933, Hitler stopped paying reparations as he considered it humiliating for his country, but they were resumed after his death in 1945. The Allies demanded reparations for World War II also, and Germany relieved itself of all these with its last debt repayment in October, 2010.
The money forgone in paying war reparations could have been utilised for capital investments. In the Germany of 2010, probably there was no one who had witnessed 1918 as an adult. So, who suffered? A lot of people who had no role in any of the wars, but were just born in Germany. They were the casualties of war, till 2010.
Humans have evolved to be civilised beings in the animal world, but the advent of full-scale wars in today’s times could make one ponder over this fact. What level of maturity still remains to be attained so that one is not agitated enough to start a full-scale war, or one instigates another to do the same with his miscalculated actions or decisions?
World leaders need to revisit the art of paving and walking through the middle path. Strategic engagement with neighbouring countries or blocs, and diplomatic resolution of frictional areas must be their tools to resolve conflicts peacefully. And the common man needs to be much more aware of his rights, duties and powers than he ever was.