“Religious” violence

My response agreeing with someone’s post on an Open University blog:

Every conflict which has escalated into terrorism has ultimately been resolved by listening.  “I think there has to be a political solution.  All wars have to end in some kind of political compromise.”  (Jeremy Corbyn)

I think you are right.  In this case it is not militant Islam that is the problem, that is the excuse.  It is the tool used by cowardly and genuinely evil people to get angry young men to commit murder and become suicide bombers.  It is the lazy branding used to explain the behaviour and ‘other’ those aligned with or sympathetic to their views.  But the claim that it is the cause or the causation is misinterpreting the situation; if it wasn’t religion making the divide it would be race or nationalism or political belief.

There were a lot of unhappy people in the Middle East cross with the Western world, united in a woolly concern about cultural imperialism or economics or tired of being sidelined or concerned about the future of the Middle East given an apparent bias in financial and political support to one particular country, or even a number of other things too.  And we weren’t listening, so the shouting got louder until a couple of buildings got destroyed in New York.  Given they were a global emblem of globalised capitalism I suspect we can take a guess at what the protest was about: cultural imperialism and the imposition of products, media output and values upon a number of closely-related societies who found those impositions increasingly intolerable.

And when protests are not heard, they get louder and louder until they go bang.

I am not aware of any great effort on the part of Western governments to say “Hmm.  There’s some unhappy people here.  Let’s find out what the problem is and come to an agreement.”  But there are many calling for airstrikes and selling weapons and destabilising governments and killing civilians.  And the protests are getting louder and more frequent.  The combined political view seems to be “The question is whether we can kill people who hate us at a faster rate than we make other people hate us by killing so many people.” (David Mitchell)

If there is a religion involved here, I fear it is the worship of Mammon or Plutus, or one of their many allies.

Why do otherwise sane people do this?

Do you mean the suicide bombers and murderers?  I think that is fairly easily answered; a lot has been researched and written in psychology and criminology about how people can be made to believe what our philosophy says is nonsense or wrong.

Do you mean those who recruit, indoctrinate, train, equip and despatch them?  The easiest ones to explain: power-hungry cowards who get a kick out of disruption.  ‘Psychopath’ and ‘sociopath’ probably cover it.  Every terror group needs those, as does most nations I suspect – I bet there’s plenty work in the various secret services.  It’s just these ones are the baddies and ours are the goodies.

Or do you mean the government leaders who believe airstrikes really are accurate, that military intelligence from foreign agents is never unreliable, that killing people because they hold a different passport is morally good, that killing people will make the related survivors more friendly, that using their land for our proxy wars won’t upset anyone?  The sort of people who proudly proclaim they would conduct the first strike to start a nuclear conflict?

We need to UNDERSTAND violent, militant Islamism – and writing if off as a form of insanity is simply an admission that we don’t understand it.

I agree.  Coming to the realisation that you have no option left to make your voice heard other than kill yourself and take others with you, is a very sane act.  When done in our name we consider it the highest form of self-sacrifice and heroism.  And it is done to make a point, whether it is holding out one’s hand in the flames when being burned at the stake for religious freedom, dousing one’s self in petrol and self-immolating for national freedom or any of the people who have died on hunger strike in prison.  These people are not killing themselves and others because they are insane.  They are trying to make a point, to be heard, a final desperate act in the hope their life can mean something by throwing it away.  Or rather they are the poor unwitting victims of the militant section of a much larger unhappy group of people.  It is that larger group who need to be heard.

But I don’t think we know who that group are.  And I’m not sure we’re even asking the question.

Optimistic about water wars

I have often heard it suggested or assumed that the next wars will be over water.  The International Water Management Institute is not so pessimistic.  Their article ‘Promoting cooperation through management of transboundary water resources‘ says:

Research is challenging the conventional wisdom that conflict over water leads to war.  The water wars hypothesis has its roots in earlier research carried out on a small number of transboundary rivers such as the Indus, Jordan and the Nile…because they had experienced water-related disputes.  Specific events cited as evidence include Israel’s bombing of Syria’s attempts to divert the Jordan’s headwater and military threats by Egypt against any country building dams in the upstream water of the Nile.  However, while some links made between conflict and water were valid, they did not necessarily represent the norm.

and

while it is true that there has been conflict related to water in a handful of international basins, in the rest of the world’s approximately 300 shared basins the record has been largely positive.

War is not inevitable.

This paper is an example of research into alternatives to international conflict over a specific resource resulting in evidence-based cases of violent conflict not being required to resole international problems regarding resource issues.  So if someone says to you “The next wars will be about water” you can now say “No, they won’t.  Water may be involved but we now know it is more likely to result in international co-operation.

Chilcot, briefly

At the most sympathetic interpretation, the second Gulf War was initiated on poor quality intelligence, incomplete intelligence, contrary to evidence-based failure to find WMDs, an overly-keen desire to initiate war, a premature decision to initiate war, a lack of collaborative decision making and not listening to objections and alternatives.

So, it should not have been initiated.

Tony Blair is a war-monger.

I don’t think we learned anything we did not know already.

There’s also no discussion going on about alternatives – which is what I have been feeling and saying for years.  Stop looking for reasons to go to war – which is what happened here – but instead look for evidence-based, properly-researched, alternatives.

Finding and documenting empirical evidence for peace

Utilitarianism is the aim of choosing ones actions (be they of individuals or governments) such that the most happiness is achieved for the most people.  However, empirical evidence is required to quantify the results of the various possible actions.  Also, definitions are required for ‘happiness’ and scales are required to quantify the measures.  This was the aim of 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham when considering such things as social policy for punishing criminals.

I suppose what I want to achieve is to gather together empirical data for the cost and implications of different approaches to preventing international violent conflict as well as for conducting international violent conflict, such that the various options can be considered in a measurable way.  Utilitarianism is a way of doing this by—at the risk of oversimplification—using the formula:

happiness = pleasure - pain

I am thinking more along the lines of:

peace = positive outcome expected - negative implications

where ‘violent conflict’ is quantified and included with the investment cost to form the ‘negative implications’.  Those wanting to start a war must be claiming a positive outcome, so that can be quantified too.

This should help eliminate, or at least help counter, “for our security” and “because they are a threat” and other such woolly thinking from the decision making, at least publicly.  It is also more human than my original idea which was purely cost-based.

What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

I was privately asked by someone on The Student Room forum the following question:

Your sig has intrigued me for a while (Studying to support my peace activism), and if you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering if you could expand further upon your views especially with respect to current issues involving ISIS? What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

Bear in mind I still consider myself a student of peace studies and my opinions are not as well-informed as I want them to be.

Firstly, I don’t think we should have got ourselves in this position.  I was one of those who thought the Second Gulf War was going to be a stupid mistake.  Arranging for the disposal of Gadaffi was another.

Change should not be brought about on a national scale so quickly; people can’t adjust and accommodate it.  A transition from a tyranny or autocracy to democracy takes generations and we have plenty of evidence—especially in Africa—to show this.  It is necessary to educate the majority of the population in justice and political theory and let them experience it for themselves before they will be the force that demands it and supports it.

However, having made the mistake and created government-less states, we should have imposed one.  We could either have used the colonial model which we know how to do (and would be unpopular) or invented a completely new model such as a UN Peacekeeping Government formed from a committee of the security council and stable Middle East representatives with a 20 year plan.  Use the experience of the Marshall Plan as a model.  Putting in a puppet government was doomed to failure, as it always has been throughout history.

But most of all, don’t intentionally topple a government without a plan for what happens next. That was just irresponsible stupidity.

However, that’s not where we’re at.  We didn’t do go in with a proper plan and so it went belly up.  What a surprise.  (I’ve only got 15+ years of project management and I could see it was not planned properly.)

So, instead of a stable government we have a guerilla force taking territory.  They cannot be fought by airstrikes or conventional warfare.  Every war that stopped came to end because the fighting stopped and talking started.  That talking should have begun in September 2001 by the USA saying “What on Earth did we do to make you so angry?” rather than saying “A bit of shock and awe will make them behave“.  The days of gunboat diplomacy are long over.  Another 2,000 words are needed to explain what I mean but essentially the USA should have engaged with Middle East countries and opened up communication to understand differences.  Hopeful, they would have acknowledged that cultural imperialism really is just as bad, if not worse, than military imperialism.  At least the Romans would let you run your own country and not force you to learn Latin, buy their products and worship their gods.  The USA has no idea (and no experience) of how to run an empire so their attempt at capitalist cultural imperialism is causing this global hatred that is surprising them so much.

But that communication didn’t happen, so now we have huge areas of angry people.  Is it legitimate they are angry?  Subjected to cultural imperialism and imposed American business who have a bad reputation, especially with regard to mineral rights, overseas human exploitation and not caring about the local environment overseas.  Then having their governments toppled with the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the process.  Yeah, I think they might be entitled to be grumpy.  Like most terrorists, they are trying to be heard but nobody is listening.

When the listening starts, the fighting can stop.  Not talking, listening.

Now for some old, and new, saws:

  • Peace cannot be kept by force.  It can only be achieved by understanding.
  • War doesn’t fix war.  It’s not wrong if someone gives up — he’s not actually losing, he’s saving people’s lives.
  • All wars have to end in some kind of political compromise.
  • To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

I am aware I haven’t answered your question yet.

What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

Bear in mind you are asking me for the solution to a problem that Putin, Cameron, Assad, Merkel, Obama and others have not solved.  They have rather more resources and advisers than I have.

Either:

  1. flood the entire area with hundreds of thousands if not millions of peacekeepers (think of what we did in Northern Ireland street corners, but for the entire IS territory) (I wish we had done that when Yugoslavia had started to collapse);
  2. try and kill everyone in the entire IS territory, or all the males at least, until the remaining women beg their remaining menfolk to surrender (I think history will call that a genocide) which seems to be the current plan;
  3. call a cease-fire and open communication to come up with a negotiated settlement.  This will be a toughie since the UN does not want to recognise the Islamic State organisation as a legitimate state.

(Oh, and we move Heaven and Earth to re-take the the oil fields and stop buying the fecking oil off them, FFS.)

Personally, I’d go for the third option and go into negotiations wielding a humongous military threat: we’ll recognise you as a state IF you agree to democracy within 10 years, complete cease fire, votes for all, compliance with international human rights, education to age 16 for all, a government model based on the historic moderate Caliphates not a militaristic Islamist state, etc. and we will fund the replacement of the destroyed infrastructure.  If they refuse say we re-start the assassinations and large scale bombing.

They will accept – they will have to because it gives them what they want.  But it will collapse within weeks into in-fighting (civil war is inevitable, it always happens in these situations – warriors are not politicians [with the remarkable exception of Fidel Castro, of course]).  That is the opportunity to ‘assist’ and bring stability by starting to apply option one.  In those areas where stability can be brought either impose a government or, if possible, re-instate the previous local government under international direction and supervision.

Effectively, create a state similar to Iran, then work on making it more moderate by keeping communication open, re-establishing trade and tourism (“peace through tourism”) and keep the big fist in plain view.

If they want recognition as a state give it, but on terms the rest of the world find acceptable.  That’s the deal: the only alternative is assassinations, massive military invasion, total destruction, war trials and an imposed government.  Complete destruction and replacement.

As for justice for the killings – forget it.  Go for a ‘peace and reconciliation’ exercise like that which worked in South Africa and trade justice for peace.  It is controversial but has worked many times.

(I expect a few quiet assassinations accidents might occur when names and locations of certain unpleasant individuals are leaked to Mossad, Putin and the like.)

Bear in mind, this is off the top of my head and not backed up by teams of advisers and academics.

And you will also note I am not an absolute pacifist (although I respect and support those who are.  But if war is required, plan it properly, execute it efficiently and have a proper plan for what is to follow.  War solves nothing, it only destroys.  Peace has to be built.

Re: I feel depressed because of war 2

I get so sad , and also can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t ignore the fact that they are suffering.

The solution to feeling sad is action.

How are you going to stop war in the world?  You can’t it’s impossible.  You can stay as positive as you want its not going to stop war.

There have been, over the past few centuries, many treaties which have defined and redefined what is and is not permitted in a war.  We’ve moved on a long way from the massive horrific hack-people-to-death battles of the middle ages that in a couple of days could kill a significant percentage of a country’s men.

  • All sorts of tactics and weapons have been banned because of their cruelty or long term effects.
  • Rules have come in about targeting civilians and what is permitted by those in uniform and what is forbidden by those who are not.
  • The law has changed around much of the world regarding conscription; it is no longer legal to force someone to fight and kill others if it is against their conscience to kill.

So, there have been many changes made to violent conflict.

There have also been changes to prevent conflict, such as:

  • The formation of the EU which arose from a treaty designed to prevent another war between France, Italy and German.
  • International courts have been set up on every continent to prosecute those who break these treaties and laws.
  • The League of Nations and then the United Nations were formed to provide somewhere for communication to occur so war can be avoided.

So, there have been changes made to prevent conflict.  These have all happened because people have been active and made them happen.

I don’t think violent conflict will ever be eliminated. But we can continue to prevent it, reduce it, constrain it and clean up after it to minimise its impact.

Re: I feel depressed because of war

A discussion on the forum of The Student Room started like this:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60094763] I can’t stop thinking about what children must be going through in their war-torn countries and witnessing their parents shot and stuff. All these graphical images/videos on Facebook and it all makes me sad  🙁 They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time they don’t deserve to go through all this. I can’t stop over-thinking and getting all sad and stuff. I try to avoid news and facebook and sh*t but that’s not helping :/ [/QUOTE]


There are things one can do.  Here is the reply from yours truly:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095245] It’s impossible for the an average person to change the world. [/QUOTE]
It is that belief that makes you feel depressed about it. But that belief is not entirely accurate. Every change that has ever occurred started with someone thinking “I want to do something about this“.

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095325] No, I’m not going to sit back and watch people die [/QUOTE]
Good. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

You could support Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières. They help the victims of war (amongst others) and, given they’ve just had two hospitals destroyed by airstrikes lately, they could do with some support. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the USA had said “Oops. We’re not taking responsibility, but how much $$$ do you need to replace that hospital?“)

You might want to learn more about The Movement for the Abolition of War. They are an organisation of volunteers with a huge dream trying to make a huge difference. Their web site has links to lots of similar organisations.

War Resisters’ International are a pacifist activist group. Perhaps you would be proud to be a War Resister. They are active in all sorts of areas to try to prevent violence and promote peaceful alternatives.

You may be more interested in the Peace Pledge Union. Would you sign a peace pledge to ‘renounce war and never again to support another‘?

If you want to not pay for war, there is a Peace Tax bill going before the government next year, which, if accepted, would mean you can say you want your tax money that would have gone on military activity (about 10%) to go on peace-making work instead. Conscience Taxes for Peace not War are leading on this. Writing to your MP to say you support this would help. There’s a news article about the bill here.

Conscience and Peace Tax International is UK based but campaigns globally for the right to legally object to paying for armaments or war preparation.

There are numerous religions groups too, if you are that way inclined, not just Anglican but especially the Quakers.

Do any of those float your boat?

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.