The futility of war

Written 2006/11/14, last edited 2022/07/11
Contact: David K Clarke – ©

Victim of white phosphorus bomb
A Vietnam War Remnants Museum (Saigon) photo of a victim of a white phosphorus bomb used by the USA against the Vietnamese
I apologise for the shocking nature of this image. War does terrible things to people, would it be better if we lived more in ignorance of how shocking some of those terrible things can be, or is it better to face the terrible facts?
The war called the Vietnam War in Australia, the Vietnam Conflict in the USA and the American War in Vietnam is a wonderful example of the futility of war.

The USA is guilty of committing many terrible war crimes in its efforts to win this war, but in the end they lost the war. The Vietnamese communists 'won' the war, but thirty years later Vietnam was fast changing to a capitalist system. The Vietnamese people are still living under a regime that allows limited personal freedom – this is nothing new, both sides of the Vietnamese conflict at the time Australia became involved were oppressive.

Four million were killed during that war, 7000 have been killed since the war, and in 2008 ten people were still being injured each month by left over mines and cluster bombs in Quang Tri province alone. The damage to Vietnam's people and environment was horrendous. What did the war achieve for either side?

One might have hoped that the USA and Australia would have learned from the Vietnam war that war can be futile. Even this did not happen. The governments of both countries, together with the United Kingdom, stupidly started an equally futile and unethical war in Iraq in 2003.

The Cold War

The Third World War might easily have come out of the Cold War. That it didn't is probably due mainly to the fact that no leader of either the USA or the USSR was stupid enough to risk so much destruction for so little possible gain. (Ronald Reagan was nearly stupid enough, George W. Bush and Donald Trump were stupid enough, but fortunately they came to power after the Cold War was over).

Making killing acceptable?

Fighting is normally considered unacceptable. Killing our fellows is unacceptable and illegal; many would consider murder to be the worst crime of all. Except in war. In war fighting and killing can not only become acceptable but even admirable – simply because they are sanctioned by the state. Killing the enemies of the state is OK. It is the brave and right thing to do.


Also see Killing in peace and war.

More can be read on the futility of war at