The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 6, 2013

Steve Cottrell, guest columnist: Radical differences will plague generations

By Steve Cottrell
Special to The Globe

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The recent Boston Marathon bombings caused me to suddenly realize a cultural difference (as opposed to a religious difference) that will continue to be a problem as we suffer through the continuing conflicts that we have endured since the 9/11 massacre.

This particular problem I’m concerned with relates to how different cultures conduct warfare.

Of course, war has always plagued humanity — we are our own worst enemies — since the dawn of history.

However, in primitive and ancient times, warfare was particularly brutal and merciless. You can check the historical record of those times or even consult the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, the Torah of the Jewish religion, or the Sunnah of Islam, and you will find that back then it was common to slaughter your foe’s family members (non-combatants) in war.

For example, in the Old Testament, Joshua’s great victory at Jericho is praised frequently from enthusiastic ministers across the nation. However, if you bother to read the account in the Bible as to how the Jewish army followed up their famous victory after the walls of the city came tumbling down, you will find that Joshua’s troops not only slew their foe’s soldiers, but they slaughtered every living creature within Jericho, including women, children, babies and even animals.

This was, in fact, a common and accepted method of operation by many armies in those cruel and backward days of ignorant and evil day-to-day life.

In our present time, Western civilization has mercifully advanced to the point that we no longer practice wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians in war except in cases of what we coldly call “collateral damage,” which unfortunately occurs by mistake all too often. However, in the meantime, other parts of the undeveloped world, particularly in the Middle East, the old, brutal ancient methods of warfare continue. Take the the countless civilians slaughtered in Syria’s civil war, for example. When you think about it, it’s amazing there’s any population left in the Middle East after their constant butchery of each other for thousands of years.

Here’s my main point: In our present war, our opponents still believe in the ancient method of warfare. They still believe that to destroy the women and children of your foe is a perfectly acceptable way of harming your enemy in war. Therefore, to cause a a little 8-year-old boy to die and to blow off the legs of young women attending a sporting event is just as much a part of conducting a war as engaging in a gun battle with 9,000 police and SWAT team personnel.

This radical difference between our two cultures will plague us for generations. And so, my friends, the world continues to suffer.

Steve Cottrell lives in Carthage.