This two-part article offers a pro-peace perspective on the present war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
First some principles to stimulate another discourse, another way of thinking that is not militarist – and then some concrete proposals – 27 in all for your deliberation, discussion with friends and perhaps to share through your social and other media.
Neither war nor doing nothing
The principle of ”An eye for an eye will one day make the whole world blind” – said Mohandas K. Gandhi who was born on October 2 145 years ago. Since then, human civilisation has not advanced much when it comes to handling conflict.
Let’s recognise that it is a difficult situation – the Middle East is in a mess and the West is deeply co-responsible if you look at the last roughly 100 years – Sykes-Picot, Balfour, coup d’etats, occupations, bombings, bases, oil greed etc.
So, there are no easy solutions.
However, three simple principles will help us all:
A) Be aware of the West’s co-responsibility,
B) Don’t make everything even worse – and
C) Remember that violence begets hate, wish for revenge and more violence – blowbacks.
Unfortunately, A to C is totally ignored by the bombing nations – the US, France, Britain, Belgium and my native Denmark together with some small Arab states which paradoxically have financed ISIS – Al-Qaeda in Iraq – for years.
It is easy to be for war. The intellectually lazy are in the sense that before they arrive at war as a solution, they have seldom contemplated or tried civilian means. It is also fairly easy to cry ‘Down with all wars and weapons! – but good peace hearts alone also won’t solve the problems we are facing.
What the pro- and anti-war people have in common is a focus on war as such. We need to move that focus and ask: What are the alternatives to war and militarist pseudo solutions?
Most people don’t seem to know what the UN Charter states in its preamble – that humanity shall ”save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” – i.e. abolish war entirely.
That is the vision: What are the alternatives to war? And how can humans learn to deal in civilised ways with the – unavoidable – conflicts any and every human system will always display?
That is what peace researchers grapple with who take their profession and academic responsibility serious. TFF is one of them – pro-peace and not just anti-violence.
It speaks volumes about the (Western) world that war-related research is the largest single research field with billions of dollars at its disposal, that there are military academies everywhere and countless books, films, entertainment etc. about war.
Now, ask yourself and your country: How much research, how many academies and how many books, films and teaching programs are there for non-violence, forgiveness, reconciliation etc., i.e. for the UN norm of peace by peaceful means?
The proposals that follow are not prioritised – each has some importance and some can be combined – linear thinking won’t work anyhow.
Toward a new way of thinking and a less militarised world
Learn something from earlier wars. They have not been that successful and most of the assumptions they were based on turned out to be wrong.
We are back in Iraq because of the invasion, occupation and mis-management of the entire country by woefully ignorant foreigners.
Recognise that terrorism cannot be eradicated by killing terrorists – as little as you can rid the world of criminality by killing criminals. Try to understand the underlying driving forces and why people become terrorists.
Make a comprehensive conflict analysis or diagnosis and look at the problem(s) to be solved more than on some particular actors.
Shape you own policy creatively and draw upon values that characterise your own democratic society.
If it is wrong to kill your neighbour why is it OK to kill thousands for some ‘national interest’?
Secondly, the foreign policy of a small state cannot consist in setting up a telephone answering machine only responding to calls from Washington or Brussels with the message: We’ll be there when you want us to! (Denmark’s foreign policy in a nutshell).
Think in accordance with the UN Charter (read it if you haven’t). It states with abundant clarity that all civilian means shall have been tried and found to have yielded no result before military means are introduced.
Don’t act in panic – take a longer time perspective and define the participants to a conflict broadly (there are no conflict with only two parties). In that longer perspective,include the role of the West, colonial legacy, arms trade as a problem, etc.
Use empathy – ask yourself how your opponent is likely to perceive your actions; don’t be fooled by your wishful thinking: If we do this to them, they will probably obey and do what we tell them to do! Think through several moves and counter-moves, not just one round.
Don’t get carried away by the military power/superiority you may possess – at the end of the day wars are only won and conflicts solved exclusively by the intellect and bymoral superiority. Hubris is a very very dangerous partner in all international – and human – relations.
Try to understand what ISIS is, where its hate and brutality comes from – don’t see them as just mad men who must be killed. To understand is not the same as defending someone. The West has a certain responsibility for ISIS’s existence – while the Caliphate and the brutality with which it is established may be repulsive, it has historical roots both in Islam and in the West’s high-handed treatment of the region.
To go to war is the single most important decision any government can make. Ensure that you have superb expertise – many and diverse – giving their advise in proportion to that importance.
Be sure also that you have parliamentarians who are knowledgeable about international affairs in a broad sense and don’t just follow someone else’s opinion or orders.
Instead of bombing IS – Part Two
Part B – Concrete Proposals
This two-part PressInfo offers a pro-peace perspective on the present war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
First some principles to stimulate another discourse, another way of thinking that is not militarist – and then the concrete proposals below – 27 in all for your deliberation, discussion with friends and perhaps to share through your social and other media.
The proposals are not numbered – there is no linearity, some of it can be done simultaneously.
How to make bombing and wars irrelevant
Stop the financing of ISIS – sadly it is non-democratic allies of the West – Saudi-Arabia, Qatar, UAE etc – that seem to pay its bills. Joe Biden apologised – for being truthful.
Allegedly, ISIS has an income of US$ 3 million per day from oil resources they now control. Oil fields should have been protected at an early stage. Fire your intelligence service leaders if they did not see this coming.
Instead of starting out with war, declare yourself willing to talk with some representatives of ISIS and other conflict parties. Some of them have been trained by the U.S. so they are obviously possible to talk with. And if not, you take it from there.
Recognise – even apologise – for wrong deeds and mistakes and brutalities you have yourself committed. In the case of Iraq this is particularly relevant because the invasion, occupation and 13 years of world history’s most brutal sanctions have killed about 1 million innocent Iraqis and made 4 millions to flee their homes.
Danish poet and philosopher Piet Hein has said it beautifully: ”The nobel art of losing face may one day save the human race and turn into eternal merit what weaker minds would call a disgrace.” Don’t be that weaker mind – because, if so, you will over time become a mirror image of those terrorists you are fighting – a disgrace.
Deploy a robust, impartial, globally composed UN-led forcenot to fight ISIS offensively but to defensively protect people, camps, town and villages, oil fields, infrastructure, etc -something like the safe zones in Bosnia-Hercegovina but with the difference that that force is big enough and get the funds that would be needed to make it work.
Safe zones would also enable – at least somewhat – thehumanitarian aid that must come in. Humanitarian aid is important but also because it gives us a more positive image than bombs.
Co-operate with Iran and Russia – without them no political solution can be found at all. So, stop intimidating both and develop a mature relationship with both instead of the counterproductive sanctions, confrontational tone and bombing threats.
Learn that we must stop all arms trade to conflict regions!!All these conflicts would never have become this protracted and nasty had you not pumped in weapons to both governments and murky forces for billions and billions of dollars over the years.
Profiteering arms traders must be seen as war criminals – whether merchants and government leaders – and must be held accountable as much as war criminals who use these weapons.
Stop talking about moderate terrorists. It’s a contradiction in terms. Terrorism means killing or harming people who arenot party to a conflict in order to achieve a political goal, i.e. civilians. States too are terrorists when they do and so are small groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, Al-Nusra and all the rest. Nothing to build upon!
Learn from the woefully wrongheaded conflict ”management” of Syria. The clandestine arming of SFA, the Syrian Free Army, and the fake ”Friends of Syria” was utterly counterproductive quackery conflict-management.
So was the use of only sticks and no carrots vis-a-vis the Bashar al-Assad government in a situation that was alsocaused by structural issues and multi-year environmental factors.
Most of the parties who met in the – predictably failed Geneva talks – should not have been there and the Syrian civil society with its visions, grievances and peace-making capacities should.
The only actor worth supporting in all the non-violent ways is civil society, i.e. 98% of the people in any conflict area who have never touched a weapon. Civil society is everybody else but the state and government – citizens and e.g. associations of human rights, peace, women, educators, cultural workers, teachers etc…
If you want a democratic peace, they should be in focus, be invited to consultations and negotiations – not only the war lords, mass murderers and diplomats who in 90% or more of the cases have caused the conflicts.
Military means may certainly be necessary under special circumstances but only as the last resort. Coalitions of the Killing operating without UN mandate has no place in conflict resolution, problem-solving and peace-building. If the military is used it must be for defined purposes and with a clear exit strategy and as a means to secure the road toward a negotiated solution.
The great mistake of the War on Terror is that its basic idea is to liquidate terrorists and thereby rid the world of terrorism. This is intellectual nonsense resulting in moreterrorism/ists as well as a tragic responsibility for mass killings of innocent people.
Open your country to the conflict parties and host consultations, facilitate meetings, mediate and promote negotiations. The world is tragically ill-prepared for civilian peace-making so educate professionals to do such work – exactly as you train soldiers to perform their role.
See to it that you have truly independent research institutesthat work with civilian conflict-resolution – institutes that can provide peace-making proposals instead of today’s typical institute and think tanks which deliver reports and arguments that legitimate the policies operated by governments.
And take care that your mind and your experts are not seduced any MIMAC – a Military-Industrial-Media-
Make extensive use of hearings in say, your national parliament, in the EU parliament and in the UN Assembly. Invite representatives of all conflicting parties to tell the world about two things: What do they fear and what do they want in the future?
To listen carefully to these vices would make media images much less black-and-white and increase the likelihood that intelligent policies were shaped in respect for all and for complexity. If truth is the first casualty in war, as they say,complexity and problem understanding is the second and third. All three would become less manifest throughlistening to all the conflicting parties (and here embassies are seldom useful).
Demand that your media balances the coverage of violence with coverage of underlying conflicts and always provide space and time for critical questions. Make use of the rich materials on war and peace on the Internet instead of using exclusively Western news bureaus and mainstream mediawhich, regrettably, lacks filters to catch propaganda, deception, false stories and psychological influence efforts which precede most wars.
Think about the Middle East – or wherever the conflict takes place – in innovative ways and be aware of the role of your own culture and country in the history of the conflicts and wars.
Don’t think too much in terms of states – they are getting less and less important in a globalising world – but think in creative structures such as federations, confederations, autonomies, protectorates, shares territories, home rule, cantonisation.
When thinking of the future of the Middle East think of establishing organisations such as the OSCE and EU – but more decentralised – in the region. Shape the co-operative structures and the positive visions out of which peace can be imagined – and think in processes rather than end results.
Think of all the positive things we can achieve with peace. Estimate the human and economic burdens generations ahead will have to carry because of your direct, indirect, cultural, economic, gender-based violence.
Violence closes doors to the future, nonviolence holds the potential to open doors to the future and conflict-resolution is about seeing better futures – much more so than trying to change the past. Catchword: Mutual benefits, trust-building and reconciliation embedded in new co-operative structures.
In the case of the Middle East: Work for what the UN has decided long ago: that the region shall be a zone free from weapons of mass destruction.
Work to establish a moratorium on violence and warfare (easier when the arms trade has stopped) and establish a structure of negotiation for a 3-5 years period – with all relevant parties at government and civil society level, led by the UN, the Arab League, BRICS and similar actors – but notby the US or other NATO countries because they are not and cannot be seen by the parties in the region as impartial which is essential for a successful mediation.
With increasing globaliation and civilisation, war is no longer an option. Most wars and violence will disappear the day people begin to think and educate themselves in using all the more intelligent, rational and humane means.
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