26 March 2019
By Any Means Necessary
Violence seems to be the natural state of mind for humans. The mentality of “by any means necessary” is a natural thought process for mankind meaning that humanity will want to win no matter what the consequences are. War often resorts to humans wanting to win by any means necessary. This often causes war crimes which are defined by Merriam-Webster as “a crime (such as genocide or maltreatment of prisoners) committed during or in connection with war.” These war crimes being agreed upon by the international community have happened since the inception of war and continue to happen today, but why? With the knowledge of war crimes being inhumane the world still commits them. Lord of the Flies by William Golding explores these questions greatly without giving an absolute answer to any of them. The events in the book draw interesting comparisons to the real world, specifically the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War is a terrible conflict mainly fought by the United States and Northern Vietnam. The war lasted from November 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975. During the war, both sides started to get more savage in their approach to winning, but as the scales started tipping more and more into Northern Vietnam’s favor, the United States started to adopt the ¨by any means necessary¨ state of mind. This caused the war to be much more violent than it was at the start and also began to destroy civilian lives at a much quicker rate than it had in the beginning. One of the most devastating operations was titled Operation Ranch Hand. “During the Vietnam War, the U.S military engaged in an aggressive program of chemical warfare codenamed Operation Ranch Hand.” As stated by history.com, the U.S. sprayed twenty million gallons of herbicides between the years of 1961 and 1971. This very deadly warfare method lead to countless deaths in Vietnam. The particular chemical spread that will be focused on is Agent Orange. Agent Orange was one of the many chemicals used during the war. It was the most widely used of the chemicals accounting for two-thirds of all the chemicals used during the war. This is a very destructive chemical that caused untold damages to the country and its people. The ¨by any means necessary¨ approach caused this to happen. If the United States’ military thought of the consequences of their actions, this would have not happened. This did not even win them the war. Millions murdered for nothing just because the U.S. thought that this strategy would win them the war. This is similar to the approach Jack took at the end of Lord of the Flies.
Lord of the Flies is a story about a group of boys that crash land on an island. They range from 7 to mid-teens years of age. They have to try to save themselves and survive on the island, so their natural first idea is to decide on who should lead them. They have two choices between Ralph and Jack and Ralph wins, becoming the leader of the boys. From this point forward, Jack makes small comments and actions about how he should have been the leader and that Ralph is not fit to be a leader. When the opportunity comes for him to leave Ralph’s group and take some people with him effectively having a coup, he takes it. He succeeds and starts his own tribe separate from Ralph’s. Fights happen between the group and some switch sides which eventually leads Ralph to be by himself. He is being hunted by Jack and his savages and is managing to avoid them and stay alive. So Jack believing that Ralph is worth everything decides to set the forest on fire. Ralph puts it perfectly by saying, “Now the fire was nearer; those volleying shots were great limbs, trunks even, bursting. The fools! The fools! The fire must be almost at the fruit trees--what would they eat tomorrow?” (Golding 154) He decides that the best way to get Ralph is to burn everything that they have and destroy it all to get him. He believes that he must get Ralph by any means necessary. This approach is similar to the United States’ during the Vietnam War. This demonstrates that it is a natural way of thinking for humans. When at war man must succeed by any means necessary. If done in a war by the U.S. military who has plenty of people keeping it in check does it and a Savage who has nobody to keep him in check does it, then it is clearly an ideology that is natural for the civilized and the savage.
Stated by the Washington Post waterboarding “is an enhanced interrogation technique that simulates the feeling of being drowned. CIA medical staff determined that the process was dangerous enough that they required resuscitation and medical equipment to be placed in interrogation rooms where waterboarding took place. On at least one occasion, a detainee required resuscitation.” This is a technique that the U.S. has used in the past. This technique shows a complete and total lack of care and respect for the victim. As long as the U.S. gets what they want from the individual and leave with what they want, they do not care how the victim feels. Taking the victims to the point of needing resuscitation is dangerous and treats the victim as of their life and pain do not matter to the U.S.
In the third paragraph when I mentioned that some people switched from Ralph’s side to Jack’s, I was referring to two characters named Sam and Eric. They are twins who were on Ralph’s side the entire time, but when they were separated from him they were tortured by Jack and his tribe. They tortured them for information and forced them to join Jack. Sam and Eric say "--they made us. They hurt us--" (Golding 147). This shows Jack’s complete and total disregard to the people he is torturing. He does not care and does inhumane actions because of this lack of care which is similar to the U.S. and waterboarding its victims. The torturing of victims by Jack and the U.S. leads me to believe that the natural thought of humans is to get their task done by any means necessary.
Jack and the U.S. act similarly when in states of war. They lose all care for their actions impact as long as their goal is achieved. Jack tortured Sam and Eric and burned down the forest to get to Ralph. The U.S. waterboards its victims and releases chemicals to win a war or get information. These two entities tell me that they will win by any means necessary. One being a kid and the other being an entire military operation show me that no matter how many people are in charge or how old they are that the natural state of mind for humanity is to win no matter the repercussions.
Golding, William. Lord of the flies. Penguin Books, 2006
Editors, History.com. “Agent Orange.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2 Aug. 2011,
Golding, William. Lord of The Flies. yoanaj, www.yoanaj.co.il/uploadimages/userfiles/352.pdf.
“War Crime.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war