Wednesday February 01, 2023

Real problem

March 18, 2022

War is armed combat between political communities with the aim of inflicting serious injury or death on multiple, non-specified individuals. War is slaughter. War is a highly contagious disease, spreading germs the way a common cold causes its human host to sneeze. Among the many war germs are hatred, fear, dehumanization, tribalism, glorification of violence, and legitimization of murder. Without sufficient therapy, each war leads to the next.

For the recent slaughter outbreak in Ukraine, contact tracing is easy. A partial remission began in Europe in 1953, but the germs festered in a US-Soviet nuclear arms standoff. An international disarmament movement addressed the infection. The greatest breakthrough was empowering General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1988, to withdraw the Soviet Union from the Cold War and call for a “nuclear-free and nonviolent world.” Rejecting Dr Gorbachev’s prescription, the US war syndicate’s European command, known as Nato, expanded its military presence eastward to the borders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Ukraine was slaughter-free from 1953-2014. The killing resumed in response to disagreement over whether the national government should be more aligned with Russia or Nato/European Union. In early 2022, Russian president Vladmir Putin intensified the conflict by sending more troops into Ukraine.

Conflict is inevitable, violence is not. The Russian-Nato-Ukrainian-Belarusian conflict is complex. The root problem, though, is that so many participants are infected with the essential war germ: the belief that killing is 1) a legitimate way to resolve conflict and 2) the only viable method of national defense. The little voice in your head saying, “Someone needs to bomb Putin’s tanks” or “If I were there, I’d be shooting Russians” – that’s the war germ.

I contend that if the goal was to minimize human suffering, the violent response to Putin’s violent invasion has proved counterproductive. Thousands of Ukrainian and Russian fighters have died. The frustrated Russian invaders have turned to indiscriminate urban bombing. Civilian deaths are mounting. Millions have fled their homes. Meanwhile, individual Europeans and North Americans hurry to join the mutual slaughter. Prominent voices plead for Nato aircraft to enter the fray. They sympathize with Ukrainians, yet call for increased suffering. They don’t know what else to do.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler sent German forces into Denmark. Understanding that military resistance was futile, the Danes – without nonviolence training – opted for protest, noncooperation, and sabotage. Their cities weren’t destroyed. Casualties were relatively minimal. The Danes endured five years of humiliating German occupation. They survived. Imagine the Ukrainians doing likewise. Indeed, protest rallies have begun in Russian-occupied cities. It might violate your sense of justice and honor – there’s the war germ again – but perhaps nonviolent resistance to foreign occupation is better than mutual slaughter and whatever follows.

Excerpted: ‘The Root Problem is War Not Putin’.