Tue, 25 Feb 2003

War plan unifies world's people to save humanity

Ignas Kleden, Sociologist, The Center for East Indonesian Affairs (CEIA) Jakarta

In 1937, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "War is a contagion whether it be declared or undeclared. It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original scene of hostilities. If civilization is to survive, the principles of the Prince of Peace must be restored. Trust between nations must be revived." (Roosevelt, "Speech recommending a quarantine of aggressor nations", Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 5, 1937).

Two world wars have been more than enough for civilization and mankind. One holocaust is certainly much more horrible than hundreds of nightmares. Any imminent danger of another world war -- even in its virtual nature -- gives the whole world a deep feeling of fear and concern.

This is all the more so because human capacity for total devastation turns out to be incomparably greater than the human ability to build cultures and civilizations. The philosophers of "the critical school" might call it dialectics of enlightenment in that rationality provides human beings with contradicting capacities of construction and destruction, of building and destroying, of the love to serve life and the inclination to produce death.

The ability to destroy has become so fantastic since nuclear weapons have become available. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became a perpetual gravestone for those who fell victim to the manmade disaster in order that other people should not die in the same way.

Hence the plan of President George W. Bush to take possible military action against Iraq has become a worldwide concern. In only a few days millions of people forgot or ignored their nationality, social class, religion and political affiliation, and joined street demonstrations, while marching hand in hand bravely for world peace.

Sydney, Jakarta, Rome, Paris, Munich, London and Brussels have become so close with one another as if an old saying of Karl Marx has come true in its paraphrase: People of the world unite, you have nothing to lose except another war!

All the rallies seemed to sing the same refrain: No war, and if necessary, peaceful disarmament. And on the banks of the river Tigris many Americans gathered to make up a human shield to protect citizens of Iraq against America's sophisticated weaponry and merciless killing machines.

This appears to be an omen of our time that a war plan becomes not a matter of course any longer, even among the allied states and nations within NATO. Germany and France have gone their own way in saying no to war, while the United States and United Kingdom are still trying their best to persuade their allies of the necessity of military action against Iraq.

Outside NATO 114 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have taken a clear stand against war and an equally clear stand for peaceful disarmament. The global protest against war seems to have spurred the UK government to have second thoughts on the issue.

Never before in world history have so many people from so many nations become united in such a short time in standing together against a prospective war. It might be also for the first time that a war to be waged by a superpower is faced with global "civil disobedience" the world over.

There is really hope that the human wish for peace, harmony and love can overcome the devastating power of modern weapons. The world's will to survive has become extremely assertive at a time when the imminent danger of annihilation seems to result not from a natural catastrophe, but from a well-planned design to kill.

It is a new lesson for the world that one cannot always attain all political and economic aims by frightening others. The only ones who are fearful are those who cannot or do not want to overcome their own fear. As Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

In Jakarta and other large cities in Indonesia, people have stopped quarreling about religious differences and ethnic conflicts. The leaders of each religion are getting together to look for a way out of a possible war.

They go to Rome to talk to the Pope, and they visit Brussels to raise concerns with the European Parliament. Indonesian civil society is also united in a solid concerted effort to step up public appeal for avoiding war. Statements made in opposition to war are being published in the media, while discussions and dialogs are being held and antiwar concerts are being performed.

It has become a shared consciousness that war is the worst possible thing that human beings can produce. The end of the cold war provided us with a new lesson that the ancient bellum parandum (preparedness for war) as a precondition to establish peace has become entirely dated and does not hold true anymore.

The latest developments in international reactions give us more wisdom: Ruling out the possibility of any war is the real condition for long-lasting peace.

We have also learned that war is not only a matter of marshaling military forces and preparing weapons. War is a human affair which needs human support, political back-up and moral justification in order to realize it.

All these conditions seem to be obviously lacking in the plan to attack Iraq. In contrast, there is a lot more human support and engagement for peace, an international stand for avoiding war and moral justification for peaceful disarmament.

We are lucky to witness that human hearts and minds, human reasoning and feelings are still intact, playing a decisive role in the international crisis of a possible war. Hopefully the peace we know today will not only mean an absence of war, but also the elimination of as many human irrationalities and insensitivities as possible.

If human life is to be secured avoiding war is necessary, but it is by no means sufficient. Something else should be undertaken to enable human life to develop its potential to the greatest possible extent.

Life is so valuable and yet it remains so highly fragile that it should be supported and saved by conscious intervention. Human dignity thus requires at least two prerequisites to be fulfilled: It has to be human and it also has to be dignified.

War is so horrible because it easily ends the achievement of human spirit. And yet for the human spirit to be productive and creative it needs some freedom, although it is mostly faced with an eternal manmade constraint, namely injustice, at both the national and international levels.

In a sense, injustice means nothing more than taking away the freedom of others for the sake of one's own freedom. Without the realization of more justice we can never be sure whether men and women will always be free or whether the world can remain peaceful.

The possible war against freedom and peace has turned out to be effective enough to unite people from all nations and from all walks of life. We will have to wait and see whether another plan against injustice would be equally appealing and would have the same unifying force.