Ephesians 2:14a makes a staggering claim: For [Christ] is our peace. Why is that staggering? Because when has man ever known real peace?
The cost of war in human life is mind-numbing. In World War I alone, the cost was almost eight and a half million. But that almost pales in significance to World War II, the most costly of all, in which the total number of fatalities, including battle deaths and civilians of all countries, is estimated to have been fifty-five million, plus another six million in the Holocaust.
The monetary cost of WW II is also staggering. It can only be roughly estimated at one trillion dollars. To put a trillion in perspective, if you typed a trillion dollar signs on your typewriter, it would take about 3,500 to fill a sheet of paper and then 285,714,286 sheets of paper to hold them all. How long would that take? If you could type non-stop, if would take you about 50 years to type a trillion dollar signs.
True peace has always appeared to be an elusive dream. Men have talked about it, coveted it, and striven for it for millennia. According to the Canadian Army Journal, a former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, aided by historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India came up with some startling facts and figures. Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace. During this period there have been 14,531 wars, large and small, in which 3,640,000,000 people have been killed. The monetary value of the destruction would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles in width and about 33 feet thick.
Similar calculations were made by Gustave Valbert in the The Moscow Gazette in 1861, but he added that from the year 1500 BC to AD 1860 (3,360 years) more than 8,000 treaties of peace, each meant to remain in force forever, were concluded. The average time they remained in force was two years.
Since 1919 alone, the nations of Europe have signed more than 200 peace treaties, each of which in turn was broken. Since the signing of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, which ended World War I, for every year of war there have been only two minutes of peace. In that same year, in an address to the United States Senate, President Woodrow Wilson made the ridiculous statement, “The League of Nations [the predecessor of the United Nations] is the only hope of mankind.” Interestingly enough, many are still saying that today.
Even more foolish was the statement the Prime Minister of England, Neville Chamberlain, made in September 1938 after meeting with Hitler in Munich and then returning home, “I believe it is peace for our time . . . peace with honor.” He had just signed the Munich Pact, which gave most of Western Czechoslovakia to Germany in exchange for Hitler’s promise not to take the rest and hopefully avert war. Of course, less than six months later, he did take the rest, followed by Poland a few months later, which forced Chamberlain’s resignation, made Churchill Prime Minister, and ignited World War II. The foolishness of that statement has been repeatedly demonstrated ever since, and political liberalism is still making the same disastrous mistake today.
Much wiser was a statement made by Summer Wells, US diplomat and one-time U.S. Undersecretary of State under FDR and obviously a student of history. He wrote: “History does not record any example of a military alliance between great nations which has endured. The result of such alliances has invariably been that the partners have jockeyed for individual influence and for selfish advantage. At best they have given rise to only a temporary and precarious balance of power.”
I have yet to find a better example of the truth of that statement than the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed on the night of August 23, 1939, which agreed that neither country would launch war on the other. It shocked the world because Adolf Hitler had clearly outlined in Mein Kampf that conquering the Soviet Union was the key to ruling Europe, which was always his goal. The sole purpose of that pact was to give him free reign to invade Poland, which he did nine days later on September 1. But less than two years after that, on June 22, 1941, Hitler broke that pact and invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, the largest attack in the history of warfare, with three and a half million men advancing along a thousand mile front.
Is peace truly possible? We’ll continue next time.
NOTE: Our next installment will be delayed until May 21st.