War Is Not Good For You

Back in the 1960s, peace activists sported a bumper sticker that
read: "War is not good for children and other living creatures." In a
way, that sums up Barry S. Levy and Victor W.

Back in the 1960s, peace activists sported a bumper sticker that
read: "War is not good for children and other living creatures." In a
way, that sums up Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel's Warand Public Health,
where 46 experts on everything from epidemiology to international law
weigh in on the authors' central premise: "War and militarism have
catastrophic effects on human health and well being."

Levy and Sidel, both former presidents of the American Public Health
Association, and distinguished researchers and practitioners in their
fields, make the point that wars ultimately always come home. Young
women and men are the most obvious casualties, shattered in body and
mind on the battlefield. But war's devastation includes the terrible
things wrought by organized violence on the populations and
infrastructures where wars are fought.

The authors consider the shock and awe of battle as just the
beginning of war-inflicted damage. War means that nations divert their
resources from things like education and health to smart bombs and high
tech drones. War means choosing mayhem over economic development,
exposing the most vulnerable in our society to disease and privation and
the systematic destruction of the environment. "War threatens much of
the fabric of our civilization," write Levy and Sidel.

Thinking of war as a public health issue allows the authors to break
the subject into digestible pieces: consequences, types of weapons,
vulnerable populations, specific wars, and prevention. Each major
section is divided into chapters, spanning everything from "The
Epidemiology of War" to "The Role of Health Professionals in
Postconflict Situations."

According to a recent estimate by sociologist Chalmers Johnson, if
all U.S. military-related spending were added together, it would come to
about $1 trillion a year. Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz
posits that the lifetime costs of treating veterans of Afghanistan and
Iraq will top $3 trillion. At the same time, according to the U.S.
Census, 50.7 million people in the U.S. are currently without health
care. Such are the tradeoffs the authors and contributors to War and Public Health find unacceptable.

The book is more than an expose, however. Levy and Sidel argue that
public health officials should be as involved in preventing war as they
be in stopping an epidemic.

Should the reader not know how to take action, the book includes an
appendix with the names and contact information for virtually every
international organization addressing war and peace.

"War is hell," remarked Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. And
so it is. But the authors of this well-written and accessible book argue
that wars are not inevitable, and that time and again human beings have
demonstrated a capacity to avoid them. On one hand, War and Public Health
is an important and valuable effort to expose the consequences of war.
On the other, it serves as a practical guide for creating a world where
war is an anachronism and health is a human right.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 Foreign Policy In Focus