Special to The Japan Times

British historian Arnold Toynbee, while visiting Japan in the 1970s, said that mankind would eventually destroy the Earth and perish if it continued on its present path. Only religion and high levels of morality would prevent this doom, said Toynbee. I believe, however, that he was being too optimistic.

The human race is doomed because it is foolish. There is no guarantee that peace will prevail throughout the world in the 21st century. Instead, the new century may end up being the most dangerous period ever experienced.

Men have fought countless wars over their differences. They think nothing of killing each other to protect their interests and to make profits.

In the 20th century, there were two world wars. World War I saw all-out war between Nazi dictator and many other countries. The Germans, who were outnumbered by their enemies, lost the war, and the victors demanded an astronomical amount of reparations. Infuriated by what he viewed to be an unjust conclusion to World War I, a little over 20 years later Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered his Nazi armies to invade Poland in September 1939, igniting World War II.

Hitler subsequently declared war on a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and France. Italy, under Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was initially unprepared for war but entered the fighting on the German side in June 1940, after Germany invaded France. The German-Italian alliance was pitted against an allied force consisting of the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union. World War II ended in Europe after Mussolini was shot and killed by Italian communists and Hitler committed suicide, both in April 1945. About 16 million soldiers and up to 30 million civilians lost their lives in the war.

In Asia, Japan launched the Pacific War in December 1941 in the face of economic and political pressure from the U.S., Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China. Several years into the fierce fighting, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin held the Yalta Conference in February 1945 to make plans for destroying Japan. In July 1945, the leaders announced the Potsdam Declaration, which called for Japan’s unconditional surrender. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, inflicting heavy casualties. On Aug. 15, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered to the allied powers.

Wars reflect hatred and grudges between ethnic and religious groups. Throughout the world, there are 1.3 billion Muslims, 900 million Christians and large numbers of Jews and Buddhists, who have irreconcilable differences among them. I doubt if religion will save mankind from doom, as Toynbee said.

There are at least 11,417 nuclear bombs in existence, including 7,206 possessed by the U.S., 5,972 by Russia, 185 by Britain, 464 by France and 290 by China. There is no guarantee that these bombs will never be used. It is hard to imagine that mankind will develop higher morals or will stop fighting in the new century or new millennium, after fighting for 2 million years.

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