13. Support international institutions for conflict resolution
There is no justification for Bush’s war in Iraq. There is no justification for the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. There is no justification for the Janjaweed militia’s terrorism toward the people of the Darfur region. There is no justification for the North Korean artillery aimed at Seoul. There is no justification for almost every case of military intervention or threat that is currently occurring in our world.
There was no justification for the Indonesian military’s rape and repression of the people of East Timor. There was no justification for the Serbian military’s rape and repression of the Muslim people of Bosnia or of Kosovo. There was no justification for the Rwandan genocide. There was no justification for Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran. There was no justification for the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. There was no justification for the U.S. war on Viet Nam. There was no justification for almost every case of military intervention or threat that has ever occurred in the history of our world.
There were – and there are – excuses, reasons, and causes for all of these conflicts. But all are useless; all are inhumane; and almost all are unjust.
History is not an excuse; the dead are dead; we cannot change that fact. The living are our responsibility. To kill more people in the name of ancient wrong is against our law. To kill for revenge will simply maintain the ancient cycles.
Hegemony is not a reason; it is a social disease. It is – or will be – consigned to history’s dustbin. To plunder is to injure the helpless. To pillage is to invite invasion in the future. To dominate is to model a self-corrupting psychosis. To occupy is to engender a rational hatred.
The overwhelming majority of the population of the world are workers. Despite Marx and Engels, the small-business entrepreneur who works in his/her own shop is a worker; the farmer/peasant who works the land – land owner or not – is an agricultural worker. Workers of all kinds want to create value through their work; they want to make use of their product, whether directly or through trade; and they want to be left alone by parasitic, predatory groups of non-working “owners,” thieves, and bullies. This is a simple, universal, and eternal truth.
The history of our world is replete with examples of expropriation, abuse, assault, and murder in the name of superiority or of ancient wrong or – simply – of greed. Upon occasion the prey – us – have united long enough to stop or to repel these predators – these criminals. Our own Revolutionary War has some characteristics of this sort. The French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, of course, are the more obvious ‘modern’ examples of domestic rebellions against the predatory classes.
As to invasions and occupations, our living generations have witnessed the overthrows of almost all of the invaders and occupiers of the last hundred years. Our immediate predecessors saw the end of empires that had lasted two to three hundred years. The trend is accelerating. The U.S. occupation of Iraq should end in a mere five years, if we can elect people to Congress who will carry out the will of our nation. At the least this would eliminate the most egregious remaining insult to world order and justice.
But, going forward, there is still the persistent need to prevent these outrages. There are already institutions that can serve this purpose: the U.N. and the World Court. Twice in the 20th century – both times after World Wars – nations have tried to construct a system of discussion, review, and control to try to reduce the use of the war option. Both tries have failed, but in the second case the organization has, at least, not been abandoned.
To recommit to the ideals and to the system of the United Nations, of course, is anathema to the patriot – ‘patriot’ in the true sense of the word. As I see it, though, it is time to move beyond patriotism in some well-defined areas of international interaction. Nations and national identity are not inconsequential, but it seems true to me that the world has developed technologically to a point where we need to have more of a ‘worldview’ in a literal sense.
Just as the U.S. Constitution creates a federation of states, which have surrendered some specific rights and duties to the superior power of the federal entity; we have reached a juncture where we need a federation of nations – the U.N. – that has more authority and capability in certain issues: 1) war and 2) emergency services.
Of course, the details of such increased authority will have to be negotiated, but some revision in principles can be promulgated now. First, there must be strengthened rules about the use of military power. The only legitimate use is the right of self-defense, and the definition should be narrowed. Second, it will clearly require something like our Bill of Rights that prevents abuse of the minority by the majority. Third, there would need to be increased support for a significant U.N. military force. Fourth, this force must have rigid rules for conduct and for deployment, plus accountability for infractions of these rules. Fifth, there should be continual review of actual and potential weapons and other military systems with some kinds of limits on quantity and lethality. Sixth, in this regard there needs to be strong inspection authority to monitor and to control these systems.
Moreover, in the same sense as our Constitution mandates, there will then be a need for a system of adjudication and litigation between nations. Of course, there exists a model for this in the so-called World Court. It seems obvious that, if nations can surrender some of their freedom of operation in order to reduce war, then a method is required to resolve potential conflict. It also seems obvious that the U.S. must participate.
As in the case of a strengthened U.N., such a reduction of national independence will require guarantees of fairness and methods of appeal; but the issue will need strict boundaries, too. Matters subject to indictment or litigation will have to be strictly delimited. And there will have to remain a right of nation(s) to nullify a court’s decision. Of course, this could mean war in some case, but the issues will have been publicized and debated in the context of court deliberations. Then the U.N. per se will have court proceedings as a basis for potential action, too.
To kill in the name of present wrong is a difficult and contentious argument. To kill an occupier; to kill a violent rapist; to kill a killer; to kill in self-defense is logical at least. But why should this even be necessary in the most egregious case of invasion and occupation? In this case, why should the community of nations allow such an event? Simply put, a moral, an historical, and a reasonable authority does not allow such actions. It is time in our world – it is past the time – to recommit to this authority.