Resolving Conflicts, Avoiding War

iraq

In most discussions on ongoing conflicts and wars, generally more attention is given to military aspects and to examining which side is likely to be victorious. However from the point of view of reducing human distress what is most important is to resolve all conflicts and end or avoid all wars with a justice-based approach.

Many conflicts involving enormous distress have dragged on for too long, with the main conflict often leading to or branching into several other conflicts as well. One example of this are the USA led invasions of Iraq which led to several other deadly conflicts in the country and the wider region, with deaths and destruction continuing for years.

While wars should be avoided completely in these difficult times when already there is a survival crisis caused by very serious environment problems, to the extent that wars already exist, the main focus should be to  end them as early as possible and end them in such ways that possibilities of durable peace and goodwill can be created.

However in the ongoing most serious and dangerous war of Ukraine, there appears to be all the risk of a serious escalation while hardly any efforts are visible just now to end the war as early as possible. The conditions of durable peace and goodwill in the region are even less visible.

It is widely realized that to end this war a strong desire for ending this war among USA led western countries is very important, but this has not been visible yet despite the evident high costs of this war. Shifting costs in terms of loss of human lives to proxy countries is an increasing trend which is used by big powers like the USA for avoiding domestic pressure to end war at an early stage. Deep and real commitment to peace is visible only in a small section of civil society in western countries. In fact the desire for peace exists in a much larger section of society and among common people but remains stifled due to several factors.

Moreover even several influential persons who are on the side of early peace and conflict resolution have been increasingly presenting their arguments in terms of why a victory for Ukraine is difficult or unlikely, and more recently that its counter-offensive is not succeeding. This raises the question—what if Ukraine was somehow in a position of wining?  In that case, would even some of the voices of peace have joined the shrill cries for more aggression against Russia? Clearly the commitment to peace must be much deeper and go beyond the narrow military prospects.

There is no reason for Ukraine and Russia to fight such a destructive war and the two neighbors could have gone on living in peace with each other if more distant forces with their own predetermined disruptive agenda had not interfered. This war is almost entirely related to wider big power rivalries, more particularly the USA’s cynical, narrow and selfish pursuit of world dominance regardless of very adverse consequences for others. For the same reason the chances of early end of war, or of ending the war on a note of durable peace and goodwill are very remote, while the chances of the war getting prolonged and shifting to more dangerous levels are higher.

Similarly the much-talked about prospects of the USA initiating a war against China should be seen as an entirely avoidable sharp escalation of dangers in a world which is already facing very serious risks. It is possible to resolve Taiwan related issues in a very peaceful way, but if Taiwan becomes a pawn in violent rivalry between big powers then it will be very difficult to avoid very huge destruction. The main problem is created by the needlessly and excessively hostile attitudes of the two big rival powers (USA and China), with the USA being the most aggressive.

The fact that five big military powers accounting for over 95% of nuclear weapons of the world have veto powers in the UNO makes it difficult for the UNO to play the role of an effective preventer of the most dangerous wars, while no other international agency exists for this. In any case the UNO suffers from other weaknesses as well, making it difficult for this to become a force of high ethics and morality. It has often failed to function in unbiased ways and in ways most in keeping with reducing distress and enhancing human welfare, while several of its agencies have been penetrated by big business interests.

The commitment to avoiding future wars as far as possible and ending existing wars as early as possible should be seen within a wider commitment to peace and justice and peace with justice. In the middle of increasing distress and gloom, new hope can be found by all people devoted to peace with justice to create a worldwide strong movement of people based on a carefully crafted agenda which can still save the life-nurturing conditions of our planet while reducing distress and increasing welfare of people and future generations. It is difficult but it is possible. A way forward for this is to integrate in careful and creative ways the principles of justice, equality, peace  and protection of environment as well as diverse forms of life (briefly, the JEPP path). These basic precepts should provide the guidelines for resolving various conflicts to secure durable results of peace and increased welfare of people. While the people mobilized in this way would have their hands full with work on several fronts, one of their most important and persistent priorities would be to work for stopping wars and genocides. Such a peace movement with mass support and rational, evidence-based, careful decision making can still be a source of hope. If the UNO can have some basic reforms then this too can again become a source of real hope. It is very important to mobilize all sources of hope in the middle of the increasing dangers and irrationalities of our deeply troubled world.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.

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