2nd Place: Madeline McCane, Columba College

All wars are deeply atrocious and no war can be called just.
— Archibald Baxter

“All wars are deeply atrocious, and no war can be called just.” This quote from Archibald Baxter has many meanings and can be interpreted in many ways. Repercussions of war in general are very high – rationing and loss are just two negative factors, and the racism often shown during periods of war also comes through. These are some of the disadvantageous outcomes that war has provided countries involved in conflicts with.

Countries isolated from the rest of the world like New Zealand, are some of the hardest hit by war. Because New Zealand is a small outlying country, rationing had a profound effect on the community, and a commodity that the inhabitants of New Zealand struggled to buy was petrol. In 1940, the petrol ration was a maximum of 54 litres per month, and by 1942, the limit was just 9 litres. Robert Powell said that “in the 1950s, as for rationing ended, I remember a plentiful supply of sweets for the first time.” From this quote the conclusion can be drawn that rationing affected young children as they had never known of an unlimited supply of food. If this happened within this century, it could be inferred that many would would be critical of the fairness in the rationing system as in some cases, it wouldn’t be just. New Zealand was also put under a lot of strain to produce meat and vegetables to help feed both the British and American population. However, New Zealand had the advantage over Britain in terms of rationing. For the duration of the Second World War, New Zealand had over four times the ration of butter that Britain had, due to the fact that most butter was made in New Zealand at the time. From this evidence, it can be concluded that while New Zealand had less strict rations to Britain, it was under a lot of pressure to provide food for larger countries.

In addition to rationing, loss of life and psychological well being were large factors in the aftermath of war. This is the main reason why Archibald Baxter was against war. In 1968, Archibald Baxter wrote on the Vietnam war, “The only apparent justification that war ever had was that by destroying some lives it might clumsily preserve others. But now even that justification is being stripped away. We make war chiefly on civilians and respect for human life seems to have become a thing of the past.” This statement can be backed up by alarming evidence in a civilian to soldier ratio – in World War I the ratio was 2:3, and in World War II the ratio was between 3:2 or 2:1 and from these statistics if can be safely assumed that Archibald Baxter had both good insight and a valid opinion on war. Furthermore, the psychological impact on combatants in post-war circumstances was called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, used to explain the impact of a traumatic event on an individual, and shows that even those who choose to fight on the front lines, suffer heavily. This is perhaps the most serious effect on survivors of war. In contrast, possessions were often donated to help out those on the front lines, even with the extremely restricted rations. While this remains a positive, it was only because New Zealand citizens rarely would have lost possessions because of a direct effect from war – Britons were in constant fear of being bombed, but the New Zealand community did not feel they had to worry about bombing, and this case was justified by the fact that New Zealand was over 9,000 kilometres away from the nearest opposing country, Japan. However, stealing increased dramatically during World War I and World War II, because once people had given up their valuables and there was nothing else left, they began to steal from each other,particularly those at a disadvantage, like parents with large families. These are some of the losses communities suffer from during war.

Racism also plays a major part in war. In most wars, specifically New Zealand’s pre-Treaty of Waitangi, the disagreements were caused by cultural variation. During the New Zealand wars, the disputes were triggered by land purchases, with the Europeans claiming they were facing a united Māori resistance. In the aftermath of this war, all Māori tribes both loyal to the european government or rebelling against the government had land confiscated, on the basis that it was “as punishment for the rebellion”. While the land was returned to the Māori, it was often not returned to its original owner, and this had a lasting impact on the Māori tribes, both socially and economically. This implies that the Europeans thought the control over New Zealand still belonged to them, and as they had won the war, proved themselves superior to the Māori’s. The justification for this was nonexistent, and was very unfair to the Māori. Nevertheless, the Māori suffered less discrimination during the Second World War as a result of the Māori battalion, formed in 1940, although the tension between the Pākehā and Māori still existed as some tribes remained bitter from the New Zealand Wars. Unfortunately, this does not make war any less unjust, as even the Māori suffered losses.

In conclusion, war is not ‘just’ and it is deeply ‘atrocious’ because rationing affected every country as each nation provided different commodities, loss of innocent lives and psychological wellbeing has an impact on many people, indirectly and directly, and war also provokes or is caused by racial discrimination. Regrettably, the argument that war is unjust will not prevent war from happening – cultural beliefs and social and economic contrasts are too diverse among nations. So while we do not wish war to happen, it is inevitable and we must learn that sometimes it may be the only way to stand up for what is believed to be right.