There is no pax Americana

Bringing down stable governments of countries and failing to put something in its place is the principal cause of the terrorism and conflict going on in the world at the moment.

When the Romans invaded, they took control, dictating foreign policy, providing defence in exchange for a promise to not rebel and pay tribune.  In so doing peace reigned over the Roman Empire at the cost of freedoms at a national level. This was the pax Romana.

The Islamic Golden Age, inspired by the philosophy that “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr“, in which huge advances were made in medicine, mathematics, culture and science, was also a period of peace, sometimes called the pax Islamica.

A thousand years later the Mongols conquered much of Asia and held it to produce the Pax Mongolica.

The Ottoman Empire in turn provided peace to its citizens in the pax Ottomana.

A similar arrangement to the Roman Empire was achieved by the British Empire to produce the pax Britanicca.

Chinese empires have come and gone and provided their own periods of internal peace, as have many other cultures.

The concept of “empire” has come to be seen as purely a bad thing since the mid 20th century as countries gained their independence, partly through economic consequences of the World War 2, partly through improved communication and education and partly through the disruptive influences of the Cold War.  In place of an imposed external governing body, freedom for those of a territory has been granted, often with disastrous consequences.  The lesson that could and should have been learned from those experiences are that independence should be done slowly, replacing institutions and structures with new ones, a part at a time.  It is frustrating, but far more stable. [Note to self: specific examples needed.]  A clean break leaves a county with no stable government and civil war and decades of turmoil is the usual result.

But the desire to ignore the beneficial benefits of a benign empire has resulted in much chaos, death, suffering and desire for revenge of late years.  The removal of stable governments from countries like Iraq and Libya without replacing it with something else that works has been far worse than what most empires have done in the past.

It would have been cheaper and less destructive (but probably no more productive in the long term) to simply assassinate those leaders that were considered undesirable.  At least there would not be hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians and a world-wide problem with revenge terrorism.

The idea the USA has been the global policeman producing a pax Americana is a fallacy.  They are not spreading peace: just fear and hate, chaos and disorder.

Instead of toppling a regime, take it over and change it from within, fools.  Learn from thousands of years of history.

“What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Another answer to a query from an aspiring author.

RJ: “What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Are the British Isles part of Europe, or some independent islands in the North Atlantic? What looks like a geography question is really a socio-economic question: do we want to be part of of Europe?

Firstly, what do we mean by “Europe”. Currently, that appears to be something called the “European Union”.

After a century of fighting Germany in ever expanding wars, in 1951 France formed the European Coal and Steel Community with them plus Belgium, Italy and others to pave the way for international co-operation that would make future central European war both unnecessary and undesirable.  And right there is a great example of an alternative to war being implemented.

This expanded in scope to include atomic energy and governance to produce, in 1957, the Economic European Union or EEC. For many years we debated in Britain: should we join the EEC? It was a difficult question because of the fear of loss of sovereignty.

The original French vision had been to create a single Europe with one government, one defence force, one agricultural policy and so on. This vision was quashed back in the 1950s by the founding countries as they feared the consequences of it and it seems they still don’t want it. It may have meant the loss of cultural heritage, loss of control, failure to recognise differences in values and loss of identity.

These concerns are what put us off: would be be forced to eat garlic sausage and other foreign muck, like snails?

In 1973, we took the plunge and joined. We immediately stopped driving on the left, started speaking French, began eating frog’s legs and stopped buying beer in pints. Well, maybe not. But there were changes, especially around trade, travel and the legal system.

This became the European Union in 1993 when we signed the Maastricht Treaty. Amazingly, this got little press at the time but it is one of the most significant events in British history. We also do not notice the changes it brought about.

Anyway, the European Union is the current name of this ever expanding organisation (although some surprising previous members have left, such as Algeria and Greenland). It expands both geographically and in scope and so is ever changing. And nobody enjoys change.

But after 40 years of membership we still drive on the left, don’t like garlic sausage, still can’t speak anything other than English and measure distances in miles.

So back to the question. “Do we want to be part of of Europe?

We’ve identified “Europe”, but who are “we”? Ireland wants in. Scotland, traditionally allied with France against England, wants in while nearly being out of the UK. Wales can’t make its mind up. And England? Who knows?

All you need to do is predict the future, and the answer to the in/out question will be clear.

Online queries from an aspiring author

RJ: “I just want to open a discussion here (definitely not criticizing) but don’t you think it’s our job as a first world country to protect the innocent and defend what’s right even if it is overseas, and surely that sometimes must mean going to war? Just curious to hear another point of view on the subject.”

1. In what way does our country have the right to assume sovereignty over another country? Isn’t that the old colonial / great power attitude that we get criticised for? Perhaps we should stop making the assumption that we have the right to impose our will over other countries just because we can.

2. Does “defend what’s right even if it is overseas” mean protecting our financial interests such as access to mineral resources? Should we be allowed to replace a government of another country to suit our economic needs? Many think that was the reason for two Gulf Wars and behind the Arab Spring. These incidents have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians – if that is our fault, are you OK with that?

3. “surely that sometimes must mean going to war” I don’t think so and so do may others. Just because we can fire missiles and drop bombs on people to change the opinions of their leaders, I don’t think it is right that we should.

There is a common assumption that because there has been wars, that war is the solution to problems. If you have a dispute with a neighbour, is the solution to fight it out in the street? There are alternatives to war including education, sanctions, charity, freedom of movement, lowering trade barriers and listening.

War is easy and sexy and makes people rich. It is also ugly, random, lazy, cruel and no longer necessary. It is an anachronism.

RJ: “I see what you mean! sorry if it seems rude I’m just curious”

No, you were not rude at all and I am sorry if I came across in a way other than responding to your query.

I got to a point a few years ago of thinking “Nearly a hundred years ago we had The War to End All Wars and yet we’re still having them. Why?” And the more I thought about it, and the more I read, the more I discovered it is down to ignorance, laziness and greed.

Imagine you are a male Prime Minister. Let’s pick one at random like Tony Blair. The President of the USA calls you and says his advisers have a fool-proof plan for a quick and clean war that can be called a “liberation of oppressed people by a tyrant”. It will result in you looking like a serious statesman on the world stage, you’ll go down in history as a war-leader and there’s a promise of some valuable non-executive directorships in armaments companies plus very well-paying consultancy work that would come your way if you play along. All you have to do is get someone to “sex up” some stories about weapons of mass destruction and missiles – stuff that could never be dis-proven. Bish bosh it’ll all be over in a few days and you’ll be a rich hero.

Or, you can say “Can’t we just negotiate with this tyrant, use sanctions, make it impossible for him to travel and generally make his life a misery. If he isn’t toppled by his own government, then we’ll quietly offer him a pension to retire to Saudi Arabia (like Idi Amin).

You are an alpha-male who has got to the top by showing off and being The Man, all powerful and macho and most definitely A Man of Action. Which would you do?

I cannot stop the Tutsis being massacred by the Hutus, nor can I stop ISIS. Other people have skills and knowledge in those areas that I will never have.

But I have an idea or two for stopping artificial wars that result in 600,000 civilian deaths just to eliminate one man.

And if I come across as passionate about the subject, it’s because I am. I do not want artificial wars being started in my name, using my tax money.

RJ: “I can agree to that, but what you’ve got to understand is I am doing this because I want to be writer and although I’d like my writing to be read and enjoyed a fantasy novel is meant for enjoyment purposes. What I’m saying is my intentions in life are not to change the world, just to keep it entertained for a short while. So I’m sorry if I seem obtuse at times it’s not that I either agree or disagree I just find it interesting to hear people’s views and sometimes when doing that it’s also interesting to hear what they think of other people’s views on the same subject. Sorry if this is infuriating at times 🙂 “

How does one prevent war?

From a discussion about life goals:

How does one prevent war?

Stop others starting them by demonstrating they are not the most cost-effective solution and creating an environment where it is not in the starter’s best interests.

define:pacifism

What is pacifism? It gets a bad press, especially in comments online. The assumptions are that pacifists are cowards, will allow evil, will permit abuse. It might be your definition, it ain’t mine. Maybe I’m not one.

A Google search for define:pacifism gives us:

the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

That doesn’t work for me. A military invasion warrants a military response, hard and sharpish.

An ally being invaded warrants military defence, hard and sharpish.

What I do not like, is, specifically, our democratic government killing the civilians of another country and considering that an acceptable consequence of using an armed response.

I do not like our democratic government using an armed response as a first response. Other viable means should be explored first.

My mission is to learn what viable alternatives to war there are, and how to educate politicians and their advisers how to use them.

I do not believe pacifism = surrender.

Not taking sides can be the side that really matters

Nick Taylor, CEO for Warrington’s Foundation for Peace, recently posted an article on LinkedIn saying they don’t take sides and that’s how they work. He asks:

Violent conflict is increasing, the first time since the second world war, and yet many of us are immune to the news feeds and the horrors that are taking place in front of our eyes. So what can you do to help? What do you think of our position? Do you think the side of ‘peace’ we take is right and will make a real and lasting difference? Join in the debate and let me know your thoughts.

These are my thoughts.

I’m already a convert to that way of thinking. Revenge creates more revenge. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same.

Mind you, not taking sides and tackling the violence with peaceful means is slow, it is hard work, it is a long slog, it is not glamorous, it does not win votes and does not result in valuable non-executive directorships in weapons manufacturers. It also reduces widows, orphans and embittered young men but also reduces opportunities for global corporations to implement ‘economic developments’ for the benefit of their shareholders. Before we know where we are we’ll be talking about open communication, understanding, cautious respect, individual empowerment and sustainable local economies.

So, can’t we just send in some more airstrikes? (I don’t mind who just so long as it is someone else.) They make better TV news than peace talks. I know they’ll mean another generation or two of easily-recruited martyrs, but I’m sure yet more airstrikes can deal with them. If we bomb them enough (whoever ‘them’ might be next week), they’ll thank us eventually.

Forgive the above sarcasm, but current and recent foreign policies of “bomb / drone / airstrike / missile them into submission to gain peace” is blatantly insane, ignorant and short-sighted.

War ends when the remaining survivors prefer peace. The sooner we get there, the better. But adding more guns and explosives to the conflict surely cannot be the way to get to that point, can it?

For humanity’s sake all this killing needs to slow down, calm down, and pause long enough for some listening to happen. Or genocide. It’s one or the other.

The major casualties of war are civilians

“Armies are now so protected and their weapons so effective that the major casualties of war are civilians.”

Dave Turner, Open University tutor and course leader of criminology at the University of Gloucestershire.

By all means continue to fret for “our boys out there” and the body bags they come home in.

But spare some time to fret for yourself and the civilians our brave boys are killing and maiming and orphaning and widowing in our name.

Depending on whose figures you use, the 2nd Gulf War resulted in between 15 and 30 civilian deaths for each US soldier killed.

“Because of new body armour and advances in military medicine, for example, the ratio of combat-zone deaths to those wounded has dropped from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the numbers of those killed as a percentage of overall casualties is lower.”

Christian Science Monitor, 29/8/2006

That’s good news, it really is.  But civilians don’t get any body armour.  And when they are being targeted by drones where the operator is in another continent, they won’t be getting any first aid from their attackers, never mind military medicine.

Not starting the 2nd Gulf War would not have just saved nearly 5,000 US troops, it would have prevented hundreds of thousands of orphans too.

Coalition & allied forces killed: 25,286
Coalition & allied forces wounded: > 117,961
Iraqi combatants and insurgents killed: 34,144 – 37,344

Still, Saddam got strung up, so it was all worth it in the end, wasn’t it?

So that really was the best way to topple his regime, wasn’t it?

And in case you’re not bothered about the human cost, here’s what Wikipedia has about the financial cost:

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.[361] Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion[362] to $6 trillion,[363] including interest rates, by 2053.

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that six billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general’s report mentioned that “‘Severe inefficiencies and poor management’ by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used”, said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. “The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner.”[364] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent “the largest theft of funds in national history.”[365]

Wouldn’t it have been better to ring up Saddam Hussein and say “Here’s $1,000,000,000 up front and $100,000,000 per year for life on the condition you clear off and don’t come back” ?

According to the UK National Audit Office, the UK spent £850 billion on the bank crises in 2009 alone.

Bullet tracing – tracer bullets

There’s an interesting comment by DLee4144 on the Jeff Danziger cartoon of 18th December 2012:

It’s totally true that guns don’t kill people, or at least rarely – about the only way you can kill someone with a gun is to beat them to death with it.

There is no point in outlawing guns.  They are out there, there are millions, they are made of metal and will last for a thousand years if they are kept oiled.  Failing that, I could find materials in my basement that would produce a workable gun, and it doesn’t take much knowledge of the subject to figure out how to do it.

BULLETS on the other hand, are time consuming to make and require specific equipment.  Production of enough to do serious damage would require planning and patience that are not characteristic of those who shoot up elementary schools.  And, working on such a project might attract the attention of someone sane.

Bullets can be individually stamped, and their sale can be registered and entered into a computer base.  They can be tracked from production to use, so that every bullet can be traced back to the person who purchased it.  This way, a guy who wants to buy a couple boxes of bullets to go shoot deer, or the woman who wants a box to keep with the gun in her bedside drawer, won’t set off any warning bells.  But the guy who is buying an arsenal will attract attention before he finds a more lethal way to do it.

Now there’s an interesting idea: unique identification of bullets.  That would be inconvenient for all sorts of gun-related bad behaviour.  Including mercenary activity.