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Western Civilization at a Crossroads

by Dieter Lutz Thursday, Apr. 03, 2003 at 2:27 AM
mbatko@lycos.com mbatko@lycos.com

"Peace is not everything but without peace everything is nothing" (Willy Brandt 1982).. "The civilization project aims at abolishing war as an institution.. Justice and the strength of the law should replace..right of the stronger." Translated from German

"Peace is not everything but without peace everything is nothing" (Willy Brandt 1982).. "The civilization project aims at abolishing war as an institution and at the elimination of force as a social and intergovernmental way of association. Justice and the strength of the law should replace power interests and the right of the stronger."

Western Civilization at a Crossroads

Peace through Offensive War

By Dieter S. Lutz

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, 1/2003. Dieter S. Lutz who died much too early at 54 was the director of the Hamburg Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy.]

“Peace is not everything but without peace everything is nothing.” This saying of the Nobel peace prize winner and former chancellor Willy Brandt from 1982 was proclaimed at the end of a cultural-historical and political development when the term peace was given very different meanings and evaluations. Today the term “peace” is claimed positively as a goal of political action worldwide by nearly all political systems and groups.

Peace can be described as the civilization project of the West or of the one world generally since the Charter of the United Nations passed on June 25, 1945. The preamble and Art.1 par. 1 of the UN Charter: “We the people of the United Nations are firmly resolved to preserve future generations from the scourge of war… set the following goals… to safeguard world peace and international security and to make effective collective measures to this end to counter offensive acts and other breaches of the peace, settle international conflicts or situations that could lead to a breach of the peace through peaceful means according to the principles of justice and international law.” In other words, the civilization project aims at abolishing war as an institution and at the elimination of force as a social and intergovernmental way of association. Justice and the strength of the law should replace power interests and the right of the stronger.

Peace Euphoria at the End of the East-West Conflict

Whether and how far the project was realized in the times of the East-West conflict may be left undecided. In the opinion of many, the deterrence system and the Cold War in the decades after 1945 opposed disarmament and the formation of an effective security order as well as the realization of a lasting and just order of peace. The hope of people, indeed the promise of politics at the time of the East-West opposition, was not only abolishing war but solving the other great existential problems like hunger, mass poverty, environmental pollution and climate change if only the deterrence system and the danger of nuclear war were removed. Overcoming the East-West conflict was always both part of the civilization project and the presupposition of its perfection.

The expectations accompanying the end of the East-West conflict in 1989 were quite euphoric. The “Charter of Paris” (1990) exclaims for example: “Europe is liberated from the inheritance of the past… Now the time has come to fulfill the hopes and expectations of our people cherished for decades.”

Disappointed Hopes

Today twelve years after the Paris Charter, euphoria and hopes seem vanished. The great civilization project itself – it seems – falls increasingly in forgetfulness. The power-obsessed victors of the East-West conflict are even turning the project into its opposite. “A decade after the end of the great worldwide East-West conflict”, Ernst-Otto Czempiel said, “politics appears unexpectedly depressing and ominous… Violence, it seems, is intent on removing all those fetters set in the past by the system of western-liberal norms and values, by historical reason and by the relation of costs and results.” Under the title “On the Present Situation: Current Developments and Recommendations”, the latest “2002 Expert Opinion on Peace” of five leading German peace researchers declared: “A political change is clear. Military force should be de-stigmatized and brought back into the arsenal of conventional foreign policy instruments. The law and order core of the UN and its greatest achievement, the prohibition of violence of states, is neutralized when the strongest state strives to remove dangerous regimes through war.”

The “strongest state” in the quotation of the expert opinion on peace refers to the only remaining “super-power”, the “hyper-power” US. The US that increasingly breaks the consensus of the past after the revolutionary upheavals of 1989/90 leaves the community of states and nations and runs the risk – even unintentionally – of decaying to a greater risk for world peace than countries like Iraq presently indexed as “rogue states”.

A Model with Increasingly Shady Sides

Europe rightly sees the US as a model. The US has attained what is still in the future for other continents including Europe: a federative system, a federal constitution, a common language, a uniform legal area, a single currency, a common army and no war (in the literal sense) on its own soil! But can Europe really accept it when its model ignores decisions of the International Tribunal in the Haage, refuses debts to the United Nations (in billions of Euros) or only pays them hesitantly later, recklessly consumes non-renewable raw materials like no other country and pollutes the environment like no one else? Can Europe really be silent when the US unlike the “rest” of the civilized world did not sign or attempts to torpedo treaties like the land mines treaty, the agreement on the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the agreement on prohibiting tests of nuclear weapons?

Nowhere in the world does such a friendly relation exist between two regions with high sympathy values and economic efficiency as between Europe and Germany on one side and the United States of America on the other side. At the same time, Europe and America are increasingly taking separate ways. “It is time”, as Robert Kagan from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington said, “to put an end to the illusion that Europeans and Americans live in one and the same world or share a common worldview.”

The spirits are divided again and again in foreign policy. National authority, “Second to None!” or bluntly since the end of the East-West conflict “America First” are goals and values that only a state with the will to hegemony or imperial rule adopts first intermittently and then more frequently and finally as a rule beyond international law to the burden of its own allies in Europe if necessary. Capacity for global intervention and “power projection” are foreign policy and interest policy orientations constituting the nature of a military superpower and alien to most European states. The consequences in the last years extended from the Helms-Burton law/ Libertad Act against international law and gigantic armament expenditures to nearly absolute dominance in a multitude of international organizations has little in common with civil precaution and preventative peace policy that are urgently necessary in European conflict situations – whether Bosnia or Kosovo, whether Cyprus or Macedonia, whether Kaukasus, Tschechnya or other areas of crisis and war.

The Civilization Wheel Turns Backward

The dreadful crimes of September 11, 2001 did not first prompt the US to desist from the common civilization project. Europe wanted (and wants) the project on the backdrop of its historical experiences before and after the Second World War. In contrast, the US with regard to deterrence and the danger of nuclear war relied on the supposed position of relative weakness, literally deterrence-conditioned vulnerability. In Robert Kagan’s words, “When the US was weak, it followed the strategy of the weak. Now since it is powerful, it acts like a powerful state… The military strength of the United States encouraged this inclination to play out its strength.”

From the vantage point of a series of European states, the historical upheaval of 1989/90 offered the chance of centuries of connecting the lessons and insights from the past with the new dangers and threats of very advanced and highly developed states and societies including worldwide terrorism. However the dominant power of the victorious “West” was not interested in this chance. Unused the chance could pass into its opposite. Mistakes and errors began to turn back the civilization wheel itself after a short first period at the beginning of the 90s when euphoria and whining mixed. NATO, the “most powerful military alliance of all times” in its self-image, guided by the hegemon US, slowly began to snap at its civil rival, the OSZE and (with some delay) drove back the United Nations. War prevention as a doctrine was abandoned. Defensive energies were or are turned into operational armies. Since then, enforcement of interests, expansion of the spectrum of interests and extension of military interests and actions are propagated instead of balancing of interests. The strength of the law, the core element of the civilization project, was distorted into the opposite in the 1999 Kosovo war by the right of the supposedly stronger. The first decisive step on the way of strategy change, from deterrence to preventive war, was announced in the “National Security Strategy of the United States of America” of September 17, 2002. “We will not let our enemies strike first.”

The Ominous Wrong Way of the US

Steps on this way are found in a series of government documents and speeches of US presidents and other representatives of the administration including the “Transformation Study Report prepared for the Secretary of Defence” (April 27, 2001) and the “Annual Report to the President and the Congress, 2002” by the Secretary of Defence describing the transformational goals of the Pentagon. Concrete political measures and far-reaching strategic decisions are also steps like on one side the devaluation of arms control, the cancellation of the ABM treaty on June 14, 2002 or the rejection of the verification protocol for strengthening the bio-weapons treaty and on the other side resolution of new weapons programs including procurement of missile defence systems and comprehensive modernization of nuclear strike forces. The enormous increases in the Pentagon’s defence budget must not be forgotten. In the fiscal year 2003, expenditures will amount to 6 billion – the highest military budget of all times and half of all world military spending of 190 states combined. The threat of US president George W. Bush “Whoever is not for us is against us” or US Defence secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld seeing the challenge of the new century in defending the nation “against the unknown, uncertain, invisible and unexpected” should be seen on this background.

Whoever thinks, speaks and acts this way provokes what he wants to guard against: a constantly turning arms carousel and a never-ending series of wars. Europe and particularly Germany should not participate in either. Germany in particular should hold unswervingly to the civilization project, seek new alliance partners and not relax in any way in dissuading the US from its catastrophic wrong course. http://www.mbtranslations.com/

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