Part 2 — The Absolutely Essential Distinction: Wars of Aggression are not Equivalent to Wars of Self-defense
In part 1 it was stated that war is abhorrent. Most people undoubtedly would agree. However, an essential distinction must be made between/among the warring sides. Clearly, without the initiation of the violence, there would be no call for a violent self-defense. This is axiomatic and should be readily understandable to any mentally endowed person. That being the case, clearly blame, censure, and punishment should lie preponderantly with the initiator of the violence. If not for the violence of the initiator there would have been no requirement for a self-defense.
Now some might chime in to state that in lieu of violence there may still be legitimate reasons to initiate physical violence. For example, when resisting colonization, slavery, or state oppression. Yet these examples constitute violence: the violence of coercion. Thus any violence undertaken against colonization, slavery, or state oppression is, in fact, resistance to an initial existing state of violence. When no other options exist, wielding physical violence must be considered just in the case of resistance against oppressive structures. The precipitating violence in these instances is the structural, coercive violence of the oppressor. In such cases oppressed humans are faced with the prospect of living on their knees or standing up to fight.
I contend that violence borne of resistance is legitimate, and it has no equivalence to the initiating violence.
As a principle, resistance to oppression must be an inalienable right no matter what the type of resistance it may be. Blame for any violent resistance must never be laid on the oppressed but rather on the oppressor because oppression in itself is violent and when one suffers violence then violent resistance becomes justified as self-defense.
This is akin to “fighting fire with fire.” Uncontrolled fire can wreak great devastation, but few would object when a large fire is lit to snuff out what might be a more calamitous fire. Why, then, should people object when a violent resistance brings to an end a violent oppression? Peace can only reign when an oppression has been halted. Certainly, it would not be preferable for the violent oppression to continue in the face of pacifist resistance?
Oppressors naturally dislike physical resistance; they prefer pacifism as it will not cause them physical harm. The pacifist arsenal is devoid of fighting fire with fire. There are two possible outcomes at play here: it would seem that pacifists believe that they can overcome their oppression through moral suasion or that their devotion to principles demands submission — living on bended knee over fighting for their rights and freedom.
Obviously oppression is not defeated by pacifism, and neither is peace achieved by shilly shallying, apportioning blame to all parties, or admonishing all violent actors.
Merely Advocating Peace and Disarmament is Insufficient to Stop Wars
Weapons are tools of war. Weapons are not the reason or motivation for the fighting though. To halt wars, the motivation (as well as the means to carry out the motivation) must be identified, addressed, and resolved.
Waging war is a scam entwined with capitalism. It is a means to expand empire, seize more territory, control resources, and enrich capitalists and imperialists. Capitalists consider themselves supreme and entitled. They are entitled to live in 100-room mansions with a 20-car garage on a 200-hectare estate and feast on 10-course meals while the homeless and destitute sleep under bridges and obtain sustenance by dumpster diving.
Such is the soulless malevolence of those who seek profit from war. Their corruption for wealth, comfort, and power trammels morality. Their hedonism disregards the welfare and fate of other humans who they will force into bondage, submit to torture, and murder. It is on this foundation that capitalism institutionalized colonialism, slavery, and murder — even on the most massive scale of genocide — with nary a compunction.
The common man is a duped pawn in wars. The common man does not start the wars, but he fights and dies in them; the plunder goes to further enrich the 1%-ers who are ensconced light years from the theaters of death.
So then, what must be done to end wars?
Peace researcher Jan Oberg writes that just documenting what transpires during wars will not stop wars. How then to bring about a world without wars? On its face, the solution is patently obvious. Disarmament across the geo-political landscape is a sine qua non. However, that disarmament will not occur because of wishful thinking or merely stating a desire for it to happen.
Unfortunately, Oberg’s narrative on the war in Syria is not a path toward disarmament. If one sees a balance in an unbalanced situation or seeks to present balanced opinions to avoid seeming biased, or spread blame around to all parties in a war without distinguishing who is waging a war of aggression from a war of self-defense, then one is contributing to the fog of war. Aggressors must be identified and must be brought before international war crimes tribunals for prosecution. The laws are on the books, and precedents exist, but unless the nations of the world have the moral conviction and the courage to pursue and carry out prosecutions, then a legal deterrent to war is in abeyance.
All nations must become and remain disarmed of weapons for the purpose of waging war, or all nations must have the right to become equally, even nuclear, armed. If one nation should achieve an overwhelming advantage in weaponry, then there exists little deterrence to rein in a rogue military power from attacking militarily disadvantaged nations. Weakly armed nations require recourse to independent international courts or must develop a sufficiently powerful self-defense to deter attack.
If impartial and empowered international tribunals were convened in all cases of war, if international authorities were to issue stern warnings at first signs of the launching of a possible aggression, or if all nations were endowed with sufficient deterrence capability, then launching a war would be an expedition into the absurd. The profit motivation would have evaporated. Consequently, if international law itself was an effective deterrence, then continuing the outrageous expense of military spending would be folly. Disarmament and retrofiting the military-industrial complex would be the logical course of action.
An end to war demands a fully verifiable dismantling of military industries by all nations and a standing down of all military service personnel.
A raison d’être of the United Nations was to prevent the scourge of war. Obviously the UN has been an abysmal failure in this regard.
The UN itself enables the launching of aggressive war. Its set-up granted extraordinary veto power to five permanent Security Council members. Thus a permanent Security Council member gone rogue would be difficult to bring to justice.
So who will bring powerfully aligned aggressors to justice? Barack Obama, Tony Blair, George Bush (father and son), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and various Israelis are conspicuous, irrefutable examples of war criminals whose apparent untouchable status flouts international law. Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan are devastated, and no one has been prosecuted for their destruction. Who brought Israel to justice after repeatedly destroying Beirut and Gaza? Who has been identified by international institutions as accountable under international law for the violence being waged by outside actors against Syria and Yemen?
Since the aggressors are easily identifiable, the fact that none have been brought to account for their crimes belies that justice is for all; especially, the machinery of justice grinds to a halt for criminal western politicians. The erstwhile lawyer Barack Obama even posited a preposterous “don’t look back, move forward” rationale that would seemingly preclude prosecution for all criminals, not just war criminals.
The present system does not lend itself to overcome this deficit of justice. Pseudo-democracy in the US offers a rotating cycle of presidents-cum-war criminals. The establishment and its elitist politicians are beyond the reach of justice. Yes, sentences can be rendered, as in the Nicaragua v. United States (1986) case where the World Court found the US culpable for de facto terrorism in the mining of Nicaraguan waters. However, US impunity being what it is, the US dismissed the judgment.
The Call for a Revolution
Disarmament is not the end-all-and-be-all of ending war. Disarmament per se is insufficient to bring about peace. Disarmament does not deal with the scourge of institutionalized violence: the violence of class and the violence that causes penury. Disarmament must be one plank of the revolution. For this the masses of humanity must band together and unshackle themselves. As colleague BJ Sabri and I wrote:
History is replete with examples that power resides with the masses. Despite all the differences and embracing all the diversity among peoples, there is an undeniable unifying fact that underneath everything we are all one humanity. Since divide and conquer does not serve the interests of the masses but serves to enrich the capitalists, imperialists, and elitists through immiseration of the masses, the only moral and logical option is for the masses to solidarize and resist. To effectively resist, it is incumbent that people make an effort to know and understand what is happening and why. With epistemological empowerment, humanity can recognize and reject propaganda and disinformation. For the purposes of an effective resistance to warmongers, the Left bears a great responsibility to be informed and make prudent, well thought-out and enlightened statements based in morality that serve the masses of humanity. Then perhaps, most importantly, the enlightened masses can stand together to reject the scourge which has for too long plagued humanity, the scourge of initiating violence and war.
What is required is a revolution. How to bring about the revolution is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to state that the capitalist system requires labor and it requires consumption. People must deprive the capitalist system of these requisites. Without them, the capitalist system will starve on the vine. For the masses to remove themselves from the system requires a solidarity, mutual aid, sharing, caring, and defending every member of the resistance to capitalism. Capitalism is a system of military-industrial-governmental conglomerates. When capitalism falls, then genuine disarmament can begin. With class abolished, arms abolished, war also is destined to become a chimera of the past.
Capitalism is the wellspring of launching wars of aggression. That wellspring attracts those who covet lucre and power above all else. Gaining a numerical and technological advantage in weaponry and tactics greases the wheels to launch wars that momentarily sate the insatiable greed at the core of capitalism. Since the great majority of people desire to live in a world of peace, where neediness is no more, it is a moral imperative that humanity abolishes capitalism. Then the war crimes tribunals and disarmament can proceed. For all that to transpire though, the revolution must first begin.