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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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Critique of Politics #6: War and Peace in an Age of Liberty

Critique of Politics #6: War and Peace in an Age of Liberty
By Tim Krenz
For: Hometown Gazette
April 4, 2019

As many definitions exist for the terms “war” and “peace” as for the concept of liberty. In this follow up to the “Critique of Politics #5: War and Peace in the Epoch of Conflicts,” it seems proper to begin with a definition of our terms of reference.

In the first decades of the 19th Century, a brilliant Prussian political theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, a general who fought against Napoleon, declared in his book On War, that “war is a continuation of politics [or, elsewhere, “policy”] by other means.” In that unfinished book, he also described war as “an act of violence” that compels one enemy to abide by the will of the other one. Almost all modern political scientists and leaders use these definitions as a chapter and verse recitation in their writing and thinking on strategy and armed conflict. By contrast, in some lack of intrinsic value, and a poor imagination, these same type of commentators use a default definition of peace as only the absence of wars, or the intervals between them.

Restricted or outmoded definitions can block proper decision-making and/or, by implication, eliminate rationality from the policies used to achieve the goals of nation-states. Limited, or outdated, terms can lead to poor choices; those choices getting made between a narrower range of options. In situations where war and peace tense in balance one way or another, in the age of nuclear weapons (or other mass destructive technologies), a bad choice could lead to the extinction of civilization. History orders that a better strategy at anything, politics or business included, comes with a range of options wider and greater than the choices allowed an opponent.

With all the modern acceptance of Clausewitz's definitions, thinkers and leaders should remember that he died before he thoroughly edited and finished his monumental work, which he wanted to do in extensive revisions. As a result, On War itself has very little refinement throughout most of it, contains superlative ambiguities, and some disquieting contradictions. Even so, it rightly stands as a work of some brilliance on the philosophy and logic of politics, policy, strategy, and warfare. In the context of its modern analysis, the book applies mostly to the Pre-Nuclear Age, to his time of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era. At that time, war had become the creature of the state, used for reasons of state, and benefiting or endangering the nation-states as they existed. In that horrible era of continuous upheaval and war, weapons consisted of gunpowder, steal, flesh (both men and animals), and intellect.

For the past century to our own time, two world conflicts and the frigid distrust of Cold War enmity had made war a “total” proposition, as foreseen by Clausewitz, when nation-states put absolutely ALL of their resources and efforts into fighting it. And much of what Clausewitz said of warfare in the early Industrial Age applies fundamentally to the doctrine and strategy of nuclear weapons. The logic of politics, the reasons of policy, his observations on human nature, and the philosophies on conflict—mostly remained relevant and will inform every generation of strategists and for the emerging and undiscovered technologies. Used twice in combat, in August 1945, nuclear weapons added a restraining horror to the use of war for reasons of nation-state policies. Social scientists added a new concept when they realized that using nuclear weapons would destroy both the aggressor and the responding party in what they termed Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.).

In deciding on war as a political tool to compel an opponent to submit, leaders since the invention of nuclear weapons keep wars small, limited, marginal in gains, but heavy in innocent victims who do not care about theory but suffer the reality of state-endorsed killing and destruction. On the other hand, since no one can win a modern, total war, nation-states use the ambiguities around “less than total war” as a way to increase their advantage over opponents, in ever more subtle and deceptive ways. In the realms of Cyber Warfare, bio-weapons, or Artificially Intelligent weapons, nation-states might fight wars and end them before the other side even knew it fought or lost key battles. In these cases, war as defined by the continuation of politics by others means holds increasing relevance. And still, as a definition of policy, goals, objectives, and even actors, this definition limits thinking. All of this, of course, will only benefit nation-states endanger common people. The victims of war do not care about definitions unless it lessens the sufferings and moral and human cost of conflict.

When the world has traditional nation-state wars, civil wars, and even the propaganda wars (against drugs, crime, poverty, terrorism, culture, climate change, etc., etc.)—all creatures of the nation-state—the new and updated definition of war becomes more necessary. From here, we can proceed. As emphasized in Critique #5, almost all human conflict (wars) come(s) from some wicked natures of human greed, fear, ambition, or jealousy. Period. How does the conflict interact? Whether battling for land, food, fuel, water, ideology, philosophies/religion, or pride—all described as “interests”—war happens when powers compete with each other for dominance. For only by dominance can one side serve itself and force the other to choose to continue or quit. These interested powers, from nation-states to gangs to networks to terrorist to freedom fighters, all face in the end the stark choice: annihilation in resistance or slavery by submission. And since governments of nation-states hold the monopoly on the use of violence and coercion, in essence the nation-state determines these choices and results.

In the age of weapons that would, could, and might wipe out human civilization as we know it, the concept of war, total war, or escalating conflict, or even accidents of the instinct (by fear, greed, ambition or jealousy), ALL needs to end. No one person has ever made this work, because, sadly, they relied on the nation-state to make it happen. The result of their efforts ended only with larger, more monopolized nation-states and their arbitrary use of violence and coercion. What can we do?

To lessen the incidence and results of war in the Nuclear Age, we must wither away and end the powers of the nation-state. If nation-states, and the wealthy who rule them for their own gain, benefit from conflict then we must not have them anymore. A tall order? Yes. Feasible? Absolutely. How?

First, we can keep our patriotism and our concept of countries intact. On the other hand, we must curtail the absolute power of the nation-state and its monopoly of money and violent coercion against the interest of its own citizens. Second, democracy and the power to rule and apply laws must devolve and decentralized to the common denominator where people live. Smaller political units, based on grounded consent and assent to shared interest at local areas allows civilization to function, without chaos, but without the harming effects of nation-state coercion and violence. Third, self-responsibility for the body politic and to take personal action to guarantee the peaceful actions of society (including contracts, safety-nets, etc.) must permeate the spirit of everyone: Only we can prevent conflict by our thought and actions for right and against wrongs. Fourth, a true free-market of ideas and commerce, without the coercion of the nation-state for the benefit of the super-wealthy, protect peace and common interests. It does so by the assertion and consent of those allowed to govern themselves where possible. It also governs the group's interest when such group decision-making becomes necessary.

With this process of withering the powers of the nation-state, war becomes less likely. Sadly, few people have the imagination or the courage to face the work of liberty. If so, we have little hope.


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