2015 Junior essays

1st Place: Sophie O'Neall, Columba College

“All wars are atrocious, and no war can be called just.” Death is inevitable, so why cannot people use their highly developed brains, and let people have the chance for a long and happy life? Everyone has a right to remain unscarred by the horrors of war, something no sane person should wish to be subject to. These deaths do not benefit anyone, they only cause sorrow and pain to those close to them.

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.

3rd Place: Victoria Williamson, Columba College

The statement that “all wars are deeply atrocious and cannot be called just” is one that
does not fit in with the concepts of reality, but is a fatuous acknowledgement of war
by viewing only one side of the story. Whilst war is not desired, sometimes it is
unavoidable and in these times retaliation must be performed in order to settle
disputes when there is no other reasonable line of negotiation. War has never been
bad, and it has never been good. It has just been an outcome of persecution and
retaliation. This essay will argue that war is rationable, how killing is in most cases
necessary, and describe what war has achieved.

War has never been good and it has never been bad. It has been necessary at times and
although saddening when there is loss of human life, it has seen to the end of many a
disagreeable political party. The concept or underlying body of war is when two or
more parties are at a conflict with each other. Although the products of war are not
desirable outcomes, the concept of war itself has no unjustness. It is truly valid; trying
to sort out problems through conflict when there is no other reasonable line of
negotiation. When two parties or more are fighting against each other, the factors
resulting in that could be very well-founded reasons. For example, on the 17
th of July 1863, 14,000 Imperial and colonial troops attacked approximately 4000 Maori tribal warriors, resulting in the Waikato War. This was caused by the European leader at
that time, Sir George Grey, when he attempted to enforce a rule (that all Maori must
pledge an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria or be forced out of Waikato) that the
Maori disagreed with. This was extremely unfair act by the Europeans, but as Mr
Archibald Baxter, a strong anti-war activist, said that ‘all war is unjust’, should the
Maori have not fought back against this unjust rule to avoid the atrocity of war itself?
This is not correct. The Maori fought back because the rule forced upon them was
against their culture and their own freedom. They fought well and upheld their rights
and despite losing, they uttered a powerful blow to the Europeans. In this example,
war was created by persecution and retaliation, and the Maori did no wrong by
retaliating against the restriction threatening them. This shows that war is not good or
bad, but is simply an act of persecution and retaliation.

One of the elements that Pacifists dislike regarding war is the killing. It would be a lie
to say that killing is not usually an outcome of war. However, if there was an
alternative, war would not be conducted, and the killing would not occur. In contrast,
if the situation was as dire that war must be carried out, then human sacrifice is
necessary to ensure safety and stability in that province. War is the last resort for
Governments, the option that many do not like, but are forced to choose because of
the graveness of their situation. It is important to stress that war would not be
conducted if there was a reasonable alternative. Many people simply believe that
Governments have a blatant disregard for their citizens lives and simply desire money
and power. This is a far cry from the truth in democratically elected Governments, as
the sole undertaking of a Government is to keep their citizens happy and safe, and
money or power is miniscule when compared. When war occurs, and therefore
killing, it is normally a result of retaliation if a Government’s citizens are at risk or
when they can not stand back and watch atrocities happen. A recent example and
ongoing problem is ISIS. Tony Abott, the Prime Minister of Australia recently stated:
“You can’t negotiate with an entity like this; you can only fight it.” This perfectly
shows a valid reason for war. When there is no hope for negotiating, you must fight.
This might end in the lives of many taken away, but it is necessary.

Another fervent view of Pacifists is that war has never benefited anyone; that war is
unnecessary and does not achieve anything. However, we can look at what war has
achieved; the end of the Nazis, the end of slavery in America, the end of many wars in
the Middle East. If we carried on with the Pacifist view, that wars are ‘bad’ and are
not needed, then would these injustices be around today? The answer is evidently yes.
Many people complain about the horror of war however they give no alternative.
There will never be a worldwide debate to settle indifferences and however much
Governments try to negotiate, there will not always be an agreeable solution to these
indifferences. When war does arise out of these situations, Governments need their
citizens to act in order to attain a state of stableness once again. Archibald Baxter
refused to enlist in the army during WWI and his son refused to enlist in WWII
because they didn’t believe that war was right. If everybody in France, New Zealand,
Australia, and England did this during WWII, how would the Nazis have been
defeated and how would that stableness and safety be established? It is obvious that
the Nazis would carry on their hostile crusade and there would be no stability in the
countries opposed to them because of the increasing tension around the safety within
them. These reasons show that war has achieved plenty, and continues to do so.

This essay has argued the validness of war and how it is not, as Mr Archibald Baxter
stated, ‘deeply atrocious and unjust’. Although this essay has been consistently
critical of Sir Archibald Baxters statement, one must value other peoples judgements,
as they have a right to speak freely, and it is acknowledged that in the time that Sir
Archibald Baxter made this statement, the world was a dark and grave place.