The world's history offers infinite examples of wars that were considered perfectly justified by those who provoked them. The roots of war are so old that even the ancient voices of the first epic poems carry the echoes of an arrogant certainty in the faith of the gods of triumph and defeat. War has an age-old prestige of heroic feats supported and lauded by the arts, literature, and religion. With its prestige war weights heavily over the ancestral memories of the peoples and resounds in the voice of the leaders who know full well that with their firepower and financial resources they can proclaim war as just, necessary, and even inevitable.

Always are for war those who through experience and tradition are convinced of the virtues of pillaging and violence. They are followed mostly by those who tend to hold naively too much confidence in the authority — only delegated by the people — of the commanding voices. A dialogue between those who command and those who must obey is not supposed to happen. Neither is to be expected any expression of dissidence.

Willingly or not the citizens go to war, apparently unable to control the maneuvers, threats deployments, and schemes of their leaders, whom they perceive to be more untouchable than ever. Behind closed doors, those in power — safely shielded by their authority—decide the destinies of millions of people. People who have little to gain, if any, from a war conceived as a necessary economic risk in many desks where the real power is held. Although sycophants and politicians might say different, as they idealized war and its consequences, there has not been one war — not one skirmish — that has not been justified by the appropriation of another's wealth; be it a territory, the control of a region, or political influence. Whether a nation truly benefits from winning a war is not up for discussion: if peace and prosperity seem to follow victory, then citizens, ironically, feel grateful to those leaders who proposed war in the first place.

The Hispanic world knows all too well the indecencies and violations of wars that have been fought to ensure economic and political power — and were believed to be necessary for national security. It would be wise to consider today what this new war implies — that in the light of history — what is really proposed. Although history never repeats itself exactly, it would be a good idea to keep history in mind and turn our eyes, from time to time, to the actions that in other in other times, under other circumstances, and with other protagonists could serve as a lesson to posterity.

Remember, for instance, the wars fought against Mexico and Spain, countries whose language and religion were seen as foreign, and thus dangerous. These countries paid with blood, territory, and people their being perceived as being an obstacle to a nation that thought necessary for its own development and future security the territorial expansion and the full control of a region that considered its own. One would hope that in these times of threatening fists and accusing finger pointing, that history has not been written in vain. •

Santiago Daydi-Tolson is a native of Chile and professor of Spanish at UTSA.

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