Monday October 03, 2022

Civil violence

March 17, 2022

The Global South is divided over who bears the responsibility for the Ukraine tragedy in the Global North. Many blame Russia for its imperial overreach and attempts at subjugating Kyiv, others fault the United States and European allies for provoking Russia through the offensive expansion of Nato eastwards and the arming of Ukraine.

But if the historical record is anything to go by, neither power is innocent; both are to blame, albeit to varying degrees. Both have sacrificed Ukraine at the altar of a new Cold War.

Yet, Moscow and Washington continue to polarise and paralyse much of the international community three decades after the end of their Cold War; a war that proved devious and devastating to the developing world.

Indeed, ever since they took over from the diminished powers of old Europe, Washington and Moscow have been using the same British and French playbooks, waging imperial wars; covert wars, proxy wars, air wars, as well as information wars, cyberwars, and every other kind of war, including the threat of a nuclear war.

Yet sadly, Washington’s detractors have been quick to justify Russian violence by referring to America’s horrible wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc and its persistent support for Israel’s wars and occupation in the Middle East. And Moscow’s detractors have readily excused American overreach by pointing to Moscow’s bloody wars in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and so on.

But how is the bombing of Kharkiv and Aleppo any different from the bombing of say, Baghdad or Hanoi? And how are these hegemonic overreaches truly different from other 19th and 20th century imperial Russian, European and American wars, coups, invasions and occupations?

In truth, the ‘civilised North’ has long been especially violent; inward as well as outward; the more ‘civilised’ the more violent, even though violence is the opposite of civility.

The Global North has been marred in religious, nationalist and ideological wars for centuries, some lasting decades, others refought a second and a third time, culminating in two horrendous World Wars.

In addition to all the bloodshed and the mass slaughter of hundreds of millions of their own, they also managed to wage their private colonial wars, killing countless millions more in the south, while sadistically assaulting ancient civilisations, whether Indian, Chinese, Muslim or other.

And it was not only the great imperial powers of the time that caused all the horror and terror. The smaller colonial powers like the Belgian, Dutch and Portuguese were just as brutal and at times more savage. Even those who lost the European wars were adamant to take it out on their southern colonies in the hope of restoring their lost potency.

As the late American scholar Samuel Huntington made abundantly clear in his book, The Clash of Civilizations: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion … but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do”.

Excerpted: ‘From Kyiv to Kabul: The blessings of civilisation’. Courtesy: