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The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Critique of Politics #5: War and Peace in the Epoch of Conflicts

The Critique of Politics #5: War and Peace in the Epoch of Conflicts
By Tim Krenz
February 4, 2019

Wars can start for many causes, even sometimes for very flimsy excuses, or by pure accidents and perfect political storms. Whatever the causes, wars bring serious, deadly consequences. Even if a nation or groups of people find themselves in technical conditions of peace—if the world ever can find a state of balance for a peaceful international and domestic order—the delicate fringe of terror will still overhang it. The existence and constant proliferation, and the viable use policies, of nuclear weapons threaten a self-destruction of the human species if, by deliberate act or accident, such weapons ever get used.

One miscalculation in political thinking, one willful and irresponsible decision by a leader, or one murderous urge by a maniac with a grudge that unleashes the nuclear genie from its bottle could end all human civilization. In the extreme use and massive uses of them, almost every single living plant and animal as we know them could cease to exist. With this ultimate and terminal end-state in an escalation of nuclear combat—by any combinations of those who possess them—the risk of war in our age of conflict eventually concerns every woman, man and child living and yet to come. Therefore, knowing this risk of catastrophe, this fifth critique of politics focuses on war and peace, and the nature of these dark and elusive monsters and angels of horrible fears and false hopes. We should know and talk about modern conflict intelligently because we have nothing at stake except everything on earth.

Author Graham Allison coined a catchy phrase two years ago with something known as the “Thucydides Trap,” whereby a rising power challenges a declining power. Allison, though, has only reinvented a strategic and historic wheel discovered 2,400 years ago by the ancient Greek writer and soldier, Thucydides. That writer, Thucydides, the father of strategy, summed up the reasons by which ancient Greece found itself in a war that lasted three decades, changing Greece's history in disastrous ways. It comes down to a simple thesis that because Athens grew ambitious to extend its power over others, Sparta became fearful of its competitor. Underlying the ambition and fear factors, we find a combination of both jealousy and greed.

If we examine motives throughout history since that war in late 5th Century B.C.E., the cause of most conflicts fall within this greed, ambition, jealousy, and fear cycle of human nature. Conflict and war itself goes beyond the nice categories of national interests and so-called “strategic calculus” (a non-sense buzz word of the self-appointed thinkers of strategy—like me!). Conflict, armed and otherwise, comes out of the very base human instincts, that when some player(s) on the political-economic scene become(s) ambitious and/or greedy, the others become fearful and/or jealous. This syndrome in a political-economic system stems from the deeply rooted flaws in the psyche of decision-makers. We cannot eliminate these defects. But, we can understand them and limit the damage they do to ourselves and others.

Consider the following example in the current war of a Western civilization with the extremists leaders of the radical Islamic states and para-military movements. Think about this, seriously. If looked at in the ambition-greed vs. jealousy-fear model, it fits as well as in almost every other armed conflict. Understanding the war in this way can sort through the propaganda, lies, distortions and half-truths of all sides. The Western nations (and China, Russia, and Japan, and now India) rely on oil to fuel their economies, and to maintain the comforts and securities provided by their civilization. Those nations have a greed for keeping what they have got and do not want to lose it and go backward. Oil, in large measure, provided the convenience of living better the past one hundred years.

To secure that oil, Western nations co-opted the elite rulers of the oil-producing nations to continue to supply that oil or maintain the security of its won (i.e. Soviet Union/Russia). That co-optation includes allowing them to suppress their poor people and the poor immigrants seeking employment. The West, etc. provides the money for the elites and for the security of their rule for Western access to the oil. Many of the co-opted oil-producing nations have Muslim majority populations, primarily in Southwest, Central and Southeast Asia. It also concerns regions on the periphery, like Syria, and Russia (which itself has a large Muslim population). Virtually none allow democracy or other basic human or natural rights or follow patterns of Western-like rule of law institutions. Because of the greed for the oil, the oil money, the security, and the ambition for power, we must admit that the West has imposed on a billion humans in Islamic countries a very oppressive condition. Few citizens or leaders in the West will admit this point publicly. Yet, the West needs the oil out of a greedy sense of securing their way of life, to the detriment of a whole lot of people.

Enter the leaders of the extremist, para-military Islamic organizations. For whatever other reasons they fight the West in a global campaign of guerrilla-terrorism, they use the claim of Western exploitation, past and present colonialism, and Western political and military policies as their primary weapon to recruit and deploy their followers in acts of violence. Do they hate the West for things other than economic—whether religious or social, or cultural reasons? Only they can answer that. However, we cannot deny their statements that they jealously guard their land, people, resources, and beliefs from the ambitions of the West who have thwarted their nationalist-like religious goals.

Those goals? To overthrow the elite overlords empowered by the West, and to drive the Western countries out of their area. Since this global conflicted between the Western civilization and the Islamic radicals started in Iran in 1978-79 (and the taking of US diplomatic hostages), it has consumed far more lives, property, money and safety than ever expected. People can try to look farther back into history to try and believe that it somehow means a war of good vs. evil since the advent of Islam in 622 A.C.E. Realistically, the current conflict has waged now for around four decades—between the West and revisionist Islam.

This sword, however, has two edges and it cuts both ways. Looked at from its opposite side, the radical Islamic paramilitaries and states challenge the Western interests in its own security, moral and physical. The enemies of the West act with an amount of greed and ambition in their own right, to deprive the Western powers of their personal and material civilization. Without judgment on either side, where both legitimately protect themselves, the West reacts with its own brand of fear and jealousy.

Both sides use greed, ambition, jealousy and fear to wage the open and hidden wars between them.. Unless we look at it intelligently, logically, in order to find solutions, it could go on for a much longer time. This war will inevitably draw in more of the world, and it could escalate. With eight of the nine nuclear powers now directly or indirectly involved in the Indian Ocean Basin, it could end badly. Enter China as a rising power with the same competitive interests, and the greed-ambition, jealousy-fear model engages another tripwire. We live in the epoch of modern conflict: A world divided by people's greed for more or fear of losing what they have. But we may have common point for conflict resolution to get beyond this epoch, and to survive as a species here on the planet and a home we call Earth.

The next critique of politics will examine this point of departure, and explain more how understanding and acting beyond these human instincts for these self-destructive attitudes can lead to a better peace. If we do not, in the end, we will only destroy all of the future, not just an enemy, but ourselves as well.


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