The "paradox of war": in reality, it was Poland that started a world war ...

(To David Rossi)

World War II? The Poles blew it up in 1939: Austrians and Czechoslovakians had not succeeded between 1936 and 1939. Thus, to avoid misunderstandings with the fiery Poles, the Soviets in the early Eighties preferred to avoid repeating the experiences of East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968, three stories of "brother socialist" countries that let themselves be invaded.

What are we talking about? Easy: of the so-called "Paradox of war", that is, the fact that in reality the war is never caused by the attacker, but always by the defender. But let's go in order ...

The word war is often applied to all the conflicts of men between themselves or between men and the nature that surrounds them, but in reality the real war, from the times of the Neolithic hunters and gatherers to today is only the conflict between communities, almost always represented by those marvelous constructions to which men themselves have delegated the monopoly of the use of force: the States.

When a war breaks out, rich and poor, residents and foreigners, learned and ignorant, soldiers and civilians accuse each other, convinced that the cause is the aggression, ambition, greed or deception of the other: how Agata Christie would have said, they observe each other and think: “One of us is actually the murderer”.

Often, we are inclined to judge wars as squabbles between people: who started first?

Emblematic is the case of the two world wars: obviously, you will say, Germany started both! But are we really sure?

Let's try, briefly, to rewind the tape of the complex alliance games that set off the Great War. On July 28, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia. Between 3 and 4 August Germany declares war on Belgium, France and Russia, but not on Great Britain, which on the 1939th declares war on the Wilhelminian Empire itself. London and Paris respond to the declaration of war on the Russian Empire after a week. In short, a tangle from which the “clear” responsibilities of Austrians and Germans seem to emerge. Things are simpler in September XNUMX: Hitler's Germany attacks Poland, to which after a few days London and Paris respond with their declaration of war in Berlin. More obvious than that… The culprit is Germany, which holds the smoking gun in both cases.

In reality, as in Ten Little Indians, one of the immortal masterpieces of the great British writer that we have just mentioned, we are often deceived as to who really is the trigger, which triggers war.

Let's be clear: we are not talking about "root causes", because the search for them deceives us and forces us to go backwards ... up to Adam and Eve and forces us to rely on a series of causes and effects that are actually lacking of decisive relationships!

To say that the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had deep roots is like saying that it was determined by the defeat of Teutoburg. But everything in between was not the product of an ineluctable fate: therefore, it does not help us understand.

Let's limit ourselves to the outbreak of hostilities, that is, the zero day of a war. L'attacker - not to be confused with trigger, that is, with the one who starts a war between states - moves his forces around and within the territory ofattacked. Has a war broken out? But not even for a dream: if for convenience, fear or gullibility he does not order a counterattack, does not try to repel the troops, but rather facilitates their passage, the war simply does not occur.

So let's clear the field of misunderstandings: the aggressor is not the one who starts a war, but the one who defends himself. Yes, because to have a war it takes a party with which to enter into conflict. If Austria in 1936 facilitates the passage of German troops, if Czechoslovakia in 1938-39 allows itself to be cut to pieces by the Germans and in 1968 it allows the invasion of the Soviets, if Ukraine in March 2014 does not oppose the Russians while occupy Crimea, we are no longer facing wars but territorial annexations. Whether they are illegal or legal, illegitimate or legitimate, carried out with violence or peacefully, it does not matter: there is not one side that at least tries to oppose the will of the other, so a war is not triggered. That, then, a state of international tension or between the two countries arises, this relates to a possible future war: the annexation of a territory took place without starting a war between states. Whether it is the Hundred Years War, which lasted for almost five generations, or the war between the British Empire and Zanzibar, which lasted an hour, it does not matter: there must be two entities in their sphere of the monopoly on the use of force because there is a war and of these two subjects the one who responds to the aggressive action must, at the very least, order a reaction.

In short, it is Serbia in 1914 and Poland in 1939 that, by deciding not to give in in the face of aggression, start the two world wars: if you defend yourself and don't let yourself be dismembered, then a war begins. On the other hand, if you do not react to the aggression, it does not mean that you legitimize or legalize it, but undoubtedly you do not start a war. Is this enough to make you meritorious? Absolutely no! Indeed, as we said at the beginning, the task of the state in its territory consists in the exercise of the monopoly of force: since you cease this function, letting another state exercise it in whole or in part of your territory, it constitutes very serious failure on the part of a state towards the community that had entrusted itself to us.

As Agata Christie herself would have said, "God leaves the work of condemnation and punishment to us mortals". Even defending oneself through war is left to us: there are no shortcuts.

Photo: Bundesarchiv