“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living.” (Omar Bradley)
Fighting for peace is an oxymoron. Parties must stop fighting to bring about peace. Warfare doesn’t work. There may be victors but there are no winners. A war on terror is a nonsense. War is waged against people, not concepts. Belief can’t be destroyed by physical force. People will die for strong beliefs.
IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesch, The Caliphate – call them what you will – the extremist religious group that is currently top of the terror list has not come about by accident nor is it likely to be removed by bullets and bombs. Some will say that it is not truly a group bound by religion and for some of its members that may be true. However, I would argue that overwhelmingly, ISIS members do have a particular religious belief that, whilst it may seem unpalatable and abominable to the rest of us, even most other Muslims, it is very real to ISIS and the driving force behind their commitment.
Increasingly, the response of Western governments and major sectors of their populations is to intensify military action to destroy ISIS. Already, since the killings in Paris, we have seen a dramatic increase in the involvement of France, Britain, Russia, the USA and most recently, Germany.
This increased militarism is more frightening than ISIS. It takes us many steps closer to a third World War. Already we have seen the dangers of having USA warplanes in similar airspace to that of Russia. Turkey has shot down one Russian fighter plane resulting in the death of one of its crew and Vladimir Putin has vowed that Turkey will suffer, in return. The despicable but politically legitimate government of Assad, in Syria, is supported by Russia who are using the mission against ISIS to cover attacks on rebels who oppose the Assad regime. At the same time, the USA support these rebels because Assad is known to be responsible for mass killings of his own people.
The wider picture involves formal or informal Middle Eastern alliances involving Iran, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. It is a volatile political mix that sees allegiances change sometimes very suddenly and which precipitates some strange bed-fellows.
Within that melee, Al-Qaeda and various other extremist groups and warlords are also operational, sometimes notionally on one side, sometimes on the other and, mostly, simply as opportunists, taking advantage of the instability for their own gain.
Lost to Western leaders, it seems, is the lesson that ought to have been learned from the illegal war on Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein. The war created a political and military vacuum. It fermented tensions and resentment with the exclusion of previous Hussein supporters in the new government and administration. In a nation already harbouring strong division between Sunni and Shiite religious groupings, this provided an environment ripe for exploitation.
Putin, a man seemingly determined to restore Russia to the significance it held prior to and during the Soviet era, provides repeated machismo demonstrations of power and aggression. He, too, seems to have forgotten the lessons that should have been learned from the loss of >20 million Russian lives in WWII and more recently the disaster that was the invasion of Afghanistan.
Israeli leaders are now committing atrocities on Palestinians not unlike those that their relatives and ancestors suffered at the hands of the Third Reich in WWII. Did they learn nothing from that experience as victims? Did they learn nothing form their experience as dispossessed refugees? How is it that after suffering as they did, when Palestinians were forcibly dispossessed of their own land in order to provide a space for Jews to create the State of Israel, they responded and continue to response with repression and violence? That approach and attitude only led them into new wars, this time with their neighbours. Despite this, they appear to have learned nothing and continue provocative, illegal and senseless persecution of those whose land they occupy.
Japan, suffered what might be considered the most horrendous and heinous crime of WWII. After hostilities ended, it enjoyed a Constitution forbidding military engagement outside its territory and enjoyed decades of peace and an amazing recovery from the ravages of WWII on its people. Yet it has now overturned that Constitutional limitation and begun “strutting its stuff” again on the World stage – inevitably antagonising its long-standing opponent, China.
The Germans, predominant in the two World Wars, are once again entering the fray and exerting their military muscle. One would have thought that their people would have learned from the needless and massive destruction and loss of life in those previous wars. One would also have thought that Britain and France would be reticent to risk, once more, the horrors of the two World Wars yet they, too, have adopted an aggressive and active military stance in the Iraq/Syrian conflict represented as a “war on terror”.
These examples and the troubles of Northern Ireland, the Falkland war, Vietnam, Southern Yemen, Rwanda, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, Bosnia, the Six day war, et al. should surely be evidence enough of the failure of “might” to produce lasting peace.
“Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?” (Holly Near)
Madness! This constant resort to military might is complete madness! It makes one wonder whether we have any intelligent leaders in our world at all. It would seem that we are cursed with dictators, rigid and inflexible monarchies, narcissistic presidents and prime-ministers, wealth hungry villains or insane ideologues. Sadder even than that, is that so many of the populace in what are seen to be relatively peaceful, fair and democratic nations, are actually voting for and even urging their leaders on to violent action. Citizens in the richest and most technologically advanced countries of the World are forming their own extremist cults. These groups recruit & engender prejudice, hatred and discrimination against those of difference. Religion, race, nationality or even simple appearance or dress are all fair game to these groups as excuses for ridicule, abuse and outright aggression. I challenge anyone to explain to me how this is rational, desirable, or likely to improve our World situation.
The occasional leader that stands out from the crowd has usually been denied any real power and often spent years under persecution or imprisonment. Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela come to mind immediately but there others. In the Middle East they are usually falsely accused by a corrupt and authoritarian, usually military backed opponent, and after mock show trials are executed, often along with any influential supporters. Similarly, citizens that oppose violence and military excursions are often derided as being weak, cowardly, or even in sympathy with the violence of the extremists.
It seems that the dictum of “might is right”, is once again the pre-eminent underpinning philosophy held by the majority of our, world “leaders”.
Yet, what history shows us with certainty, is that MIGHT IS NOT RIGHT. What we know is that non-violence, dialogue, coming together, and inclusivity are the ways forward. Constantine, Ghandi, King, Mandela, Su Kyi, and others, throughout history have shown us what will succeed. It has nothing to do with increasing violence and everything to do with considering all sides, involving all concerned, and finding compromise that is equitable in providing some benefits for all, even if that also requires some willingness to give, from all.
In my opinion, to fight for peace is not only an oxymoron in text but an inevitable failure in reality.
I suggest to our leaders, to the cults, to the individuals who wish revenger or retaliation, to those who cannot see that hate destroys its benefactor rather than those at whom it is directed – to all who have not learned from history, that they seek to model, rather than impose, the behaviour they would welcome.
I suggest that they pause and think hard and long before responding to aggression with aggression. I suggest that each of them take time out to put themselves in the shoes of the other party. I suggest that they consider the why’s and how’s of the events, contexts, cultures and circumstances that underpin particular grievances or perceived grievances. I suggest that each consider the impact of aggression on non-aggressors, on the environment, on the innocent, on wildlife and on progress to a more desirable, equitable and supportive world for us all.
There are no winners from war. “Victory” for a flag, for a god, for a religion, for a nation, is hollow if, to achieve it, requires destruction, killing, brutality, aggression. These elements destroy those who perpetrate them and, inevitably, in the absence of a now defeated “enemy” will ensure that those victors then begin to create new enemies among their own. Violence, it is well proven, is a cycle which is self-perpetuating and self-destructive.
Instead, I’d urge that we follow the example of those who seek to accept difference and attempt to bring people together so that all benefit from the synergy of diverse race, religion, culture, skills, perspective and experience. This is a beautiful planet. It can readily sustain us all, and more. All that’s necessary for peace is for us to look outward rather than inward; to be prepared to reconsider and accept that we don’t have a monopoly on what is best or “right”; that we are all human and capable of positive or negative behaviour. Doesn’t it make sense to choose the positive?