Winds of War — A Global Issue
  • opinion James E. Jennings (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Inter Press Service

Today, many people around the world are increasingly affected by ongoing conflicts or live in societies so troubled that they welcome war as a solution to their problems.

The news on a single day in June 2024 was not reassuring: the US and NATO agreed to liberate Ukraine and attack Russia, Israel ignored US demands to end the genocidal war in Gaza, and Hezbollah bombed northern Israel for the umpteenth time, leading to Israeli retaliation.

Yemen has exchanged missile attacks with U.S. warships in the Red Sea, while Israel and Iran have fired hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles at each other.

Meanwhile, China announced that it would respond with a strong military response to any attempt to grant sovereignty to Taiwan.Just a few days later, on July 4, Russia and China convened a group of Eurasian allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, Kazakhstan, to set out a policy of resisting Western domination of the global economy.

Equally worrying, Japan and the Philippines have just launched a defense alliance that is reminiscent of Japan’s security regional posture in World War II. All these moves show that the great powers are very much prepared for war.

Elsewhere, major regional wars are underway in Sudan and Congo, Haiti is in bloody chaos, as are several other West African countries, including Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, which recently formed the Sahel Alliance to counter the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

From Myanmar and Bangladesh to Europe and Latin America, countries are on the brink of political destabilization, and the U.S. is experiencing alarming political divisions. What is the problem?

The real problem in America and the West is cultural fatigue and a lack of clear focus on the way forward, as we saw in both the World Wars and the Cold War. World War I slogans like “the war to end all wars” would be unacceptable today.

In both cases, we don’t achieve the “making the world safe for democracy” goal of the two world wars, nor the Cold War slogan “Better dead than red.” Instead, we get the feeling, “more war?” Not very inspiring.

Ostriches are known for burying their heads in the sand when they feel threatened, and with war simmering all around, Americans may be practicing the same tactic. There was an uneasy moment during D-Day ceremonies in Normandy on June 6, marking the 80th anniversary of the Allied attack on Nazi defenses during World War II.

In her prayer, U.S. Army Chaplain Karen Meeker thanked those who sacrificed their lives and celebrated the surviving heroes at the ceremony, but she also used an ominous phrase: “As war clouds gather…” Does she know something we civilians don’t? Probably. And it’s disturbing. War clouds are indeed gathering. All we have to do is pay attention to the news, listen to statements from the key leaders of many of the world’s great powers, and read the headlines. It’s hard to miss the central theme: the world is becoming increasingly ungovernable.

At a conference in Tallinn, Estonia, in May, Yale University historian Timothy Snyder suggested that the current situation reminds us of Europe in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. This is what everyone should fear. His warning means that we may be in for a growing generalized conflict unless something extraordinary happens to stop it.

Among today’s most pressing issues are the ongoing genocidal war in Gaza, the bloody and never-ending Russia-Ukraine war, and regional wars in Sudan, Congo and Myanmar.

The widening economic gap between East and West and the poverty gap between North and South seem intractable. If these conflicts escalate, world civilization will suffer greatly.

Maybe that’s why the tough-guy image cultivated by more combative presidents like Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt remains so appealing today, along with fictional figures like the larger-than-life “John Wayne.” But things are never that simple, and there is always a price to pay.

Roosevelt’s son Quentin died in the war his father passionately advocated for, with the Greek historian Herodotus recording the wise but painful observation that “in times of peace sons bury their fathers, in times of war fathers bury their sons.”

So what should be done? Perhaps the US can start by ending its support for the bloodthirsty killing of defenseless civilians in Gaza. President Biden just needs to have the courage to say “no” to his allies and show he means it. How about sitting down with our adversaries and talking about Taiwan vs. China, Iran vs. Israel and the US?

This simple tactic has worked before. Why not at least try to start a meaningful peace process in Sudan and Congo? It may take time, but peace is always better than war.

In the decades before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, at conferences of U.S. Scholars of Peace that we held in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan, we asserted the principle that dialogue is essential or conflict is inevitable.

Why not give it a try? It might work.

James E. JenningsHe holds a PhD and is president of Conscience International and executive director of US Academics for Peace.

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© Inter Press Services (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service


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