Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 83

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War was a tricky subject at best. Nobody wanted to think about it, and certainly not a galactic scale. That was why they needed to think about it, because it was necessary to discuss those topics. Killing people to solve your disputes with them wasn’t the best way to solve your problems, except in the case of them trying to kill you. Even then, it would have been better to avoid people wanting to kill you at all. Still, Richard had experienced that people wanted to hurt or kill others sometimes for little or no reason, with no chance to talk things out. There had only been one real life-threatening situation he had gotten himself into that he thought his choices could have avoided.

In the situation with the Noxian Geran Oulbriph, Richard had chosen to fight there because it seemed like the best option. He could understand why people would fight, at least on a small scale, but he’d never thought about anything on a large scale, nor had he had the opportunity to participate in such. The largest scale conflict he had been involved with was the attack by the soldiers- working for the Brotherhood of All Knowledge, apparently. Well, that and sports in physical education classes, but he didn’t really count that. Regardless, he knew that people fought for survival, resources, and power, though there was really some overlap among those things, or the list could go more in depth.

Richard found his father, not a difficult task, and sat down with him. “I was working on some philosophy homework, on the topic of war, and questions related to it. I came to you to ask for a historical perspective on wars… but also your personal opinion.”

“Well, if you want my personal opinion… that’s easy to summarize. It’s basically always a bad idea to get into a war- even if it’s the least intolerable of the options, it’s still bad. There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the main point. Historically, well, you’ve listened to what I taught in class. I know, because I graded your papers. Of course, we haven’t covered anywhere close to everything, since that would take almost the entire length of actual galactic history to just briefly touch on all the important events.” He took a sip of his drink. “Every side in a war will justify its actions to itself, whether they are aggressor or somehow provoked the war. Rarely is a side purely innocent, but sometimes they just happen to have resources that others want that they seem unable to protect. In these cases, those attempting to take the resources might justify themselves by thinking they can make better use of the resources, or that someone else would have just taken them first. Those are the weakest excuses, of course. Sometimes, the resources are on a section of land or on a planet or in a system that the aggressor formerly controlled, and they justify their actions as it being a reclamation. As for whether this makes them right…” He shook his head, “Mostly, these are just excuses.”

Richard was nodding and taking notes, both physical and mental. Nothing said was entirely new to him, but it was nice to have everything put together. “What about actions taken during the war? Soldiers are killed, but beyond that innocents die, and things also get even worse than just deaths. That then provokes retaliation of a similar kind. Is the retaliation justified?”

“Well, I can say… sometimes, and sometimes not. Certain actions are inexcusable, no matter the circumstances, though not everyone would agree on what those actions are. I do believe that there is an absolute measure for that, but not that anyone necessarily has gotten it right. As for actions in war and retaliations, I have two wars to talk about in mind. One exemplifies an ambiguously justifiable circumstance to go to war, and retaliations that are also similarly justifiable. The second exemplifies a more unambiguous justification to go to war but also lack of such, and retaliations that are somewhat more ambiguous.” Richard’s father took a moment to stretch before continuing, “The first involves somewhere familiar to you, but yet I imagine you will find it quite unfamiliar. It takes place on Utopia, but before it was called that. In fact, this was not too long after the failed colonization plan.”

Richard nodded. “I remember learning about that. The first stage of terraforming worked perfectly, but the colonization itself failed. The first colonists died out when their technology failed and supplies failed to arrive.”

Gilbert shook his head. “That’s not quite what happened. Some people with key maintenance skills died, and when the planting machines and other farming equipment started failing, nobody could repair it. Some people knew or learned just enough to keep some of it going for a time, but they couldn’t learn more. The communications center was one of the first things to fail, preventing anyone from guiding people from off-planet. When supplies were delayed for months, and then with ships disappearing along the way, it became years without any communication and one of the biggest fiascos in planetary settlement in a long time. Those on planet were presumed dead, and because of the distance from any then-settled systems, nobody came to confirm. Meanwhile those on planet started learning to farm manually, though they didn’t have any real tools for that. There were limited materials for the replicators, and even if that weren’t the case they were eventually bound to fail. Even with all that, the terraforming had gone well, so it was not difficult to farm the fertile land. The land had more stages of terraforming to go under, and the fertile soil was rather shallow. Thus, after a decade crops started to grow less, and people spread out to cover more area. At that point, everyone realized nobody was coming to help them, so they did what they could. Generations passed, and a society at something like a medieval level formed, though there were groups of people who kept greater technology. They had gone well beyond the unified society they had at the start, and even that had factions. Now, they had different cities, villages, and even things that could barely be called nations. And, as is the case with any society involving more than one individual, and sometimes the case even then, conflict arose.” Gilbert nodded. “That is where the first of the wars comes in, though it might be on a smaller scale than you would imagine for something called a war.”

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