Ukraine War: Think Deeper Or We All Lose
Any fool can start a war; starting peace requires neutral professional expertise and empathy
Whatever other reasons that a war is raging in Ukraine, one major reason is that we live in times characterised by the increasingly dangerous - perhaps fatal - combination of intellectual-moral disarmament and military rearmament. Militarism is now the main factor holding the West N.A.T.O/E.U. world together. It’s a religion and N.A.T.O its church.
In different ways, militarists argue that their side was historically innocent and are justified to do what they do now; N.A.T.O’s Jens Stoltenberg even states that N.A.T.O is not a party to the conflict. Secondly, they argue that they must win, meaning others must lose. The latter too is an intellectual fallacy because it is fairly obvious that all parties could also win, all parties could also lose.
Those who have studied conflicts and wars know that, over time, warring parties tend to become mirror images of each other and argue alike - just with the roles reversed - and make the same fatal miscalculations and logical fallacies.
For the Ukrainians, Ukraine must win - win back all its territory and get protected by N.A.T.O in the future. For Russia, Russia must win - win national security by controlling Crimea and the Donbas of Ukraine and secure that Ukraine never becomes a full N.A.T.O member. For N.A.T.O /E.U, N.A.T.O must win - in the sense of getting Russia out, Ukraine into N.A.T.O and Russia, once and for all, weakened so a) it can never again transgress its borders and b) is destroyed economically if not also dissolved as a state à la Yugoslavia.
These are the parties’ completely unrealistic ideal or maximalist goals - illusions - at the war level and the government level. But what about the level of the underlying conflicts - and the peoples’ level?
Totally obsessed by weapons and the war, neither the media nor politicians seem to have the slightest focus on, or understanding of, the underlying conflicts, the root causes of the violence that plays out in Ukraine. The do not understand that the solution - not the win - has to do with an understanding of these root causes; they behave like an quack doctor who diagnoses a patient by asking where the pain is and then applies pain boosters or killers never searching the relevant question: Why the pain and where the pain and what’s the cure?
This obsession - together with the three main parties’ goals and dreams/illusions - make for a very long and utterly destructive war which everybody will lose, not the least the people in Ukraine but also in Western Europe and Russia.
The moment decision-makers and the media would educate themselves and leave behind conflict and peace illiteracy, the focus could move to root causes: What were the conflicts that stood between the parties - the problems which they could not handle peacefully but took to violence about - politically, psychologically and militarily?
And that is the moment when, in the best of cases, we open a new road to intelligent conflict-handling, to a negotiated solution and a sustainable peace. The think-alike militarists on all sides believe that peace will come when somebody wins militarily.
But like the mentioned doctor who never opened a textbook in medicine can’t recreate health, this thinking cannot re-create peace. Peace never grows out of the battlefield. Any fool can start a war; starting peace requires neutral professional expertise and empathy.
If one or more of the parties stop and begin to think - there can be hope that the war will end and the deep conflicts will be addressed - and peaceful coexistence finally becomes a possibility.
Essentially, Ukraine is about the world’s classical dilemma: the mind bogglingly immature Realpolitik paradigm with national military ’security’ based on conventional and nuclear long-range offensive deterrence weapons. Invariably, it will lead to war - which calls for more weapons and leads deeper down in the intellectual and moral quicksand. And eventually someone presses the wrongest of all buttons.
The world of security politics is run by peace-illiterate elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC. The world’s military expenditures have never been so high as today. The pace of N.A.T.O countries' re-armament (already 12 times bigger than Russia’s before the Ukraine war) has never been so fast. A major war in Europe and the use of nuclear weapons have never been so probable. Civil society is being starved.
If this weapons-obsessed thinking could bring world peace, it would have happened decades ago.
The civilisational truth is that the enemy is us. Governments have let militarism loose instead of respecting the world’s finest norm in the UN Charter’s Art 1 - that peace shall be created by peaceful means. Ask how many military institutes, academies, think tanks, government units, research facilities and associations there are in the world compared with those for peace. No minister or statesman has peace advisers.
The discourse on peace - in research, politics and media - has disappeared. If we never stop to think more deeply we shall all lose - dying as patients of society’s cancer called militarism.
Let’s use the N.A.T.O-Russia conflict playing out so tragically in Ukraine to stop and think. Let’s make it the last war before it makes humanity the last.
Jan Oberg, PhD, is the Director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF, in Sweden. Views expressed are the writer’s own.