Last week, my local library threw a children's party to celebrate Dr. Seuss's 108th birthday. My 3-year-old son, an American, played with an adorable Irani girl, while another father wearing a Jewish yarmulke walked in with his toddler son. As our children played together, a dispute arose over a toy. After a few tense moments, they realized that if each was patient, then each would have a fair turn, and no one would be slighted. I couldn't help but smile -- if only our world leaders could learn the art of human interaction and dialogue as an alternative to fighting.
Ernest Hemingway, widely regarded as the author of one of history's greatest wartime novels, once wrote, "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and the dead." Hemingway wrote these words after having suffered through both WWI and WWII. Considering the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, WWIII now seems a more inevitable reality than ever. And like its predecessor wars, WWIII will not only involve the unjustified instigator and justified defender, but countless innocents. And regardless of which nation is deemed the unjustified instigator -- the world will suffer another lost generation.
When our arrogance makes us ignorant to the horror that is war -- WWIII will have begun. Recall with humility, then, that WWI and WWII killed 20 million and 60 million respectively -- roughly 3 percent of the then world population -- and wounded many millions more. Recall then, that plants still do not grow -- some 75 years later -- at ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even ignoring the incomparably more damage nuclear weaponry causes, know then that 3 percent of the world's population today means at least 210 million people -- nearly triple that of Iran and Israel's combined populations.
Decades earlier, President Kennedy famously said, "Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind." And everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Regan endorsed this perspective. This mature thinking and noble approach to international conflict helped both the United States and Soviet Union successfully avoid nuclear war for decades -- ultimately reaching a peaceful mutual resolution. Critics contend that this peace was only successfully achieved after the Soviet Union's economic collapse, and neither Israel nor Iran would find such an end amenable.
Humoring this contention, however, the proper comparison is not one of economic strength versus economic collapse. Rather, the comparison is between existence and worldwide annihilation -- and no sane individual would prefer the latter option to merely rebuilding an economic infrastructure. Indeed, when asked what weapons might be used in WWIII, Einstein thoughtfully replied that though he was unsure, he was quite certain that WWIV would be fought with sticks and stones.
No doubt recognizing the irreparable harms a nuclear war would cause, President Obama, too, delivered this same message on March 5 when he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu -- diplomacy with one another, not destruction of one another, must be our guiding principle. After all, if children celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday can appreciate this, then hopefully, our world leaders can as well.