How do wars affect our lives?

Media war

What war means, the grief, the pain, the horror, the terrible consequences, can only really be understood by people who have experienced the war themselves.

South Vietnamese troops chase and scare children as they walk Route 1 near Trang Bang after a napalm attack on a Viet Cong hideout. (& copy AP)

The picture shook the whole world. The photo was taken during the Vietnam War after an erroneous attack by the South Vietnamese on the village of Trang Bang on June 8th, 1972. The nine-year-old girl tore off her clothes after they went up in flames from chemical weapons (napalm). Wars, no matter why they are waged, always have dire consequences for people. The suffering of the civilian population is often increased by the negative effects that a war has on the economy, politics and the environment over the long term.

Human sacrifice

Every war brings great suffering to all concerned. Countless people are injured, maimed or murdered. In the Second World War alone, 40 million people died, in the wars after 1945, it is estimated that another 25 to 40 million died. Survivors often suffer for the rest of their lives from the terrible experiences of fear of death, rape, mistreatment, looting, torture, hunger, flight and displacement as well as the loss of family and friends or their home.

The documentary "Lost Children"

Lost Children (& copy Dreamer Joint Venture / ARTE / WDR)

The documentary "Lost Children" (2005) impressively describes the terrible memories that many child soldiers suffer from throughout their lives. An excerpt from the documentary "Lost Children" can be found on the DVD "The War in the Media" in E1 - Live there? / Knowledge in detail / The war / Cruel war.

Expert interview

For the media and the responsible journalists in connection with the suffering of war, the question arises again and again whether and how victims can be shown. The television journalist Antonia Rados comments on this.

The television journalist Antonia Rados comments on the question of whether and how war victims may be shown in the media. (& copy 2006, Federal Agency for Civic Education)

But soldiers can also be victims of war. Since the Bundeswehr has been involved in combat operations again, there have been repeated reports in the media about dead German soldiers or secondary diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Political Consequences

If there is a regime change after a war, the former political order is suspended. The state apparatus must be rebuilt, and that harbors great dangers for the internal stability of the country. If different rival social groups strive to participate in power, there is a threat of prolonged internal disputes, which in turn can lead to a new war, a civil war. At the international level, an entire region can be destabilized if the new government is not recognized by neighboring states or is even viewed as a threat.

Economic consequences

The fall of the Saddam regime sparked a wave of violence with protests, attacks and assassinations in Iraq. (& copy AP)

Wars also have a major impact on a country's economy. The destruction of industrial plants and infrastructural facilities that guarantee energy supply, traffic and communication can lead the economy to collapse. Unemployment and poverty are the result. The interconnectedness of the global economy often also affects other countries indirectly: raw material and energy prices can rise and stock exchange prices collapse.

Consequences for the environment

Image: U.S. Army, public domain.

During the Iraq war in 1991, Kuwaiti oil wells were deliberately set on fire by Iraqi soldiers. This caused severe environmental damage. Wars have lasting consequences for the environment and thus for people's livelihoods. Through the use of weapons (chemical, biological, nuclear, etc.) pollutants get into the water, air and soil and subsequently also into food and cause dangerous long-term consequences. The destruction of the environment has also been used as a weapon of war, for example by destroying sewage systems, blowing up oil wells and pumping oil into the sea. In addition, unexploded mines, bombs and grenades make the corresponding areas inaccessible to both humans and larger animals long after the end of the war.