WORLDWIDE WARS AND ANTI-MILITARY OPTIONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
By Johannes M. Becker
[This address by Johannes M. Becker, coordinator of the Center for Conflict Research at the University of Marburg on the 10th anniversary of the IMI (Institute for Militarism Information), March 5, 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.imi.online.de/2002.php3?id=1350
Dear Friends of Peace,
I thank you, firstly, for the honor of speaking to you on this special occasion.
While many things may not be new to you, the synopsis may be new. What should be our special quality and focus as peace researchers and as the peace movement?
IST POINT: THE WARS OF THE 21ST CENTURY WILL BE MARKED…
firstly, by US unilateralism. This unilateralism has persisted since the end of East-West confrontation and must be discussed further;
secondly, by distribution battles over dwindling raw materials;
thirdly, by the growing gulf between poor and rich and the new role of Islam in this context.
In this connection with the growing polarization of poor and rich, I’d like to emphasize that the University of Hamburg study group on causes of war discovered that between 80 and 90 percent of the causes of all wars since 1945 consisted in the unequal distribution of wealth on earth, not in religious or ethnic problems. This is a very important aspect.
2ND POINT: THE ROLE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION…
as an economic global player is currently unsettled. If the constitution is ratified [the constitution was rejected by France and the Netherlands, translator’s note], the EU will enter into a military-political competition with the US – a fatal development.
The alternatives are manifest. A week ago, Tobias Pfluger invited me to a EU military conference in Brussels. The few delegates and Europe experts were not interested in an alternative role played by the European Union. The EU is no longer merely an economic organization but at the beginning of the 21st century an instrument of half a million producers and consumers on a relatively equal level. The EU cannot be compared with the US where a third of the whole population does not participate in the economic, political and cultural life.
This EU should not move at the same level with the US by rearming with rapid striking forces, military carriers and battle groups. The EU should see its chance of becoming a new model in exchange policy with the rest of the world. If the study group on causes of war concluded that 80 to 90 percent of the causes of conflict lie in the unequal distribution of raw materials, the European Union must ask itself whether or not political organization must be a priority and why the model of the US and Nato in rearming should be copied. I find this model totally misguided and completely uneconomical.
3. THE BANALIZATION OF THE MILITARY…
runs very smoothly in the US and all the states of the EU. The counteracting forces seem marginalized. A new picture of war has seized the thinking of people. I will return to this.
In 2005, we held a conference in Marburg on the theme “Banal Militarism” or in the gerund “The Banalization of the Military.” “Our army” is already a Freudian premise. The German army is in six, seven or eight conflicts according to one’s calculation. What should be discussed? There will be discussion whether the mission in A should be extended, whether the Bundestag should be controlled by laws and whether the German army can be mobilized for the soccer world cup. That is the banalization of the military.
The continuation of the political in the military and the banalization of the military have colonized our minds. Arguments about “exact bombardments” are offered. In the example of Iran, the US and Nato openly discuss whether or not Iran can be bombed surgically. The theory of war is made acceptable with zero deaths. Wars have been waged with almost no deaths. The US lost 153 personnel in the Yugoslavian war that is incorrectly called the Kosovo war. That is nothing compared to the Second World War when the US lost a six-digit number of men or the Vietnam War in which the US lost 65,000. However war has not become more humane. The war casualties on the opposing side were simply suppressed. In 1991, 150,000 died in Iraq, in 1999, 20,000 died in Yugoslavia on the opposite side of the US troops, in 2001, 20,000 also died in Afghanistan and another 20,000 in the Iraq war in 2003. Nevertheless war comes into mass consciousness as a normal means of politics through banalization of the military.
4. THE US SINCE 9-11…
has declared “war against international terror and terrorism.” No one knows exactly what that is. No one can define it. People still do not know how the attacks in New York were perpetrated or what role the CIA or the other 27 secret services of the US played.
The debate around prevention and preemption results from this “war against international terrorism.” At the moment, the US resolves to wage war in every part of the earth wherever its interests can be defended preemptively. Alongside an enormous uncertainty about the international situation, Russia sees itself legitimated to act militarily in Tschechnya. Politics altogether gets out of control.
5. NEW SCAPEGOATS
After the turn of 1989-91, many people expected what Bill Clinton called the “peace dividend.” The enemy that supposedly threatened us for forty years has atomized. This is not our theme today. Did the Soviet Union really threaten us? At that time, the questions were: Why is Germany spending 30 to 40 billion euro for an army? Why do the Brits, French, Spaniards, and Italians need great armies?
This “peace dividend” was not realized. We witnessed a quantitative disarmament and a qualitative rearmament. To anchor this in the mass consciousness, new scapegoats had to be constructed. These scapegoats must be built in foreign and domestic policy.
In foreign policy, the Milosevic government in Yugoslavia that still described itself as communist was the first scapegoat. With its “policy of the 3rd war” and its principle of self-government, Yugoslavia became the scapegoat at the beginning of the 1990s. Then it was Iraq; the Baath party called itself socialist. Iraq was followed by “rogue states” like North Korea, Libya and Cuba. Now there is the great scapegoat of Islam and Islamism. Islam has become the supportive scapegoat even though no one knows what Islam really is.
Now there is also a domestic political scapegoat. To wage wars, the country must be secured domestically. The republic must be as calm as we wee it today. The domestic scapegoat is decried as the “social hammock” in Germany. Long-term unemployed, immigrants and political refugees are marginalized. I will return to this in discussing exit strategies. The dominant policy divides social classes by emphasizing “social parasites” and preventing defensive social battles and solidarity. The marginalization attempts against foreigner groups accomplish this.
6. THE NEW OFFENSIVE WARS CANNOT BE WON!
Contrary to everything written by the media, the Yugoslavian war is a disaster. The aggressive states cannot withdraw their troops today but must leave them there for ten or twenty years. What have they achieved?
Almost everything you read about the situation in Afghanistan is a lie. Afghanistan is a brothel. The situation as presented to us in the middle class media has nothing to do with reality. That the situation of women has improved as FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung) writes is nonsense. The warlords are stronger than in the pre-war time. The situation of women is still miserable, the situation at the universities is unbearable and the opium production flourishes. In Marburg, we have a colleague, Matin Baraki, an Afghan who traveled there last year and tells us what the situation really is.
What do our people read about the Iraq war? They read that two bombs blew up in Bagdad. Two weeks ago, the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung newspaper published a statistic. There were 25,000 attacks last December. That is the reality of the third disaster. The conclusion is that offensive wars cannot be waged any more. The question is what consequences this could and should have for people who think more or less rationally.
7. THE GREAT HOPE COMES FROM LATIN AMERICA
For me, the great hope comes from Latin America. In Latin America, Cuba has made itself capable of surviving in the last 15 years. In Cuba, there was the so-called special period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a very difficult period with broad deep poverty. The government drew conclusions with the fatal consequence that more poor and rich exist in Cuba than in the past. However there was no alternative. Cuba built a mass tourism and brought joint ventures but Cuba has survived. Despite this 15-year phase of drastic poverty, not a single school or a single hospital in Cuba was closed. For me, that is the model for developing countries, the model for 80 percent on this globe.
Why does my hope come from Latin America? Because there are now a few copies of Cuba. One possible copy is in Venezuela and another is in Bolivia. In other lands like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, at least the phase of military dictatorships and sheer brute force against our positions has ended. Nationally oriented governments have begun successively withdrawing the wealth of their countries from the influence of the US.
Unilateralism, the US-dominated logic of politics, is really on the defensive. The US cannot intervene – even with 200,000 soldiers in the Middle East. As a note, everything you read about Venezuela in the middle class press, that the dictator Chavez is a military putshist and so forth, has little to do with reality. Chavez is obviously a very multi-layered person. Chavez is currently arming the population with a million rifles. Does a dictator do that? One need not be a major to have doubts about the propaganda.
8. CONTROVERSIAL POINTS OF THE WORLDWIDE PEACE MOVEMENT
The first controversial point is in the assessment of the role of the US and national imperialism, e.g. the slogans anti-Americanism, anti-Germanism etc.
A second controversial point in the peace movement is in the assessment of European Union militarization. In Marburg, the IALANA jurists against nuclear and chemical rearmament have vehemently argued with my position and IMI positions. IALANA insists the process in the European Union must be structured and influenced. However mere rejection of militarization is not enough.
A third controversial point in the peace movement is analysis of supranational organizations. We judge the OSZE (Organization of European Security and Cooperation, formerly KSZE) by its potential. How do we judge the UN and its potential? What does it mean to say the monopoly of force must lie in the US, that we must defend the UN Charter and reform the UN? What does this mean? Every person has a different idea of the reform of the UN. We in Germany agree reform of the UN cannot mean that Germany receives a permanent seat on the Security Council. However that is now mainstream in the heads of people.
A fourth controversial point in the peace movement is the evaluation of globalization. Globalization has more than negative aspects in the third and first worlds. Globalization is a multi-layered theme.
I already discussed the fifth contested point. We are not always agreed on judging liberation movements in the so-called “third world,” the developing countries, now in the very concrete example of Venezuela and Chavez. Still the question of judging Latin America is completely marginalized. Can you transport yourself back into the seventies when we had a rebellion in Chile or in the 80s in El Salvador and Nicaragua? Who discusses Latin America in our movements?
9. ON THE GERMAN PEACE MOVEMENT
In my opinion, the German peace movement altogether has accepted or swallowed the paradigm shift in security policy from a more civilian logic of Germany in the 50s, 60s and 70s to the military logic. The military logic is accepted and cannot be resisted.
Schroeder did not say in the Iraq war: We are against war and against the action of the military. He said: Not now and not on the side of the US. He spoke of a “German way.” In other words, Germany will act as an imperial actor as my great teacher Czempiel says in Marburg: in “defending German interests at Hindukusch”! (He did not say imperialist because that would be too Marxist). That is the slogan of dominant politics and is only questioned by a few.
All this is swallowed in this land by the mass consciousness. We in the peace movement cannot take to the streets against miserable work. The role of the German Greens and social democrats in breaking the backbone of the peace movement could be the subject of another address.
10. THE CONNECTION OF SOCIAL CUTS AND FOREIGN POLICY AGGRESSION
I believe the peace movement, peace research and movement research ignore the influence of social- and economic policy on the state of the country.
On one hand, the intervention activity of Germany, the EU and Nato has increased and on the other hand, the republic is calm.
The chancellor of the social democratic-Green government called the essential theme of his first term “de-tabooing the military.” Half of his party resigned but nothing changed. There is no appreciable anti-militarist movement on the other side.
For example, there were 150,000 people in Koln at an Anti-Social Dumping demo two years ago. I had the only peace flag amid the thousands of union banners. There was no bridge between the domestic- and foreign policy scapegoats.
I believe these factors are responsible for the calm of this republic. This calm gets on my nerves.
Firstly, people are naturally alarmed by mass unemployment. In reality, we have eight million unemployed, not five million. All these fears – lack of perspective of youth, fears of the future and fears of impoverishment – have a real background. The people are not merely imagining something. This influences the climate in this republic.
The climate in France is completely different. When people in France are asked what most oppresses them, they emphasize their unhurt bodily existence. They are fearful someone will take away their purse. Very different fundamental anxieties concerning life perspectives prevail in Germany.
Now I come to the other two hard facts that produce this calm republic.
Secondly, people in Germany have accepted individual assignments of guilt. The eight million unemployed have accepted self-stigmatization. From our analyses, we know that 7.5 of the eight million unemployed want to work or must work.
I will banalize this as follows: Should I postpone my graduation? Should I have children so early in my university study? Shouldn’t I apply for continuing education? Must I go abroad at such and such a time? Why did I become a spokesperson in our firm? And many others.
This individual assignment of blame makes solidarity impossible. This is a great problem. A few weeks ago in Marburg, AJLE (Study group of young teachers and educators) invited 100 unemployed teachers to begin a political action against their situation. Of the hundred, three came. A majority of the others were ashamed. Atomization and pulverization occurred, not solidarity of the underprivileged.
A last point should be added beside this stigmatization that people believe they are responsible themselves for their situation and therefore can do nothing (“I have no right to demand”).
The people believe nothing can be shared in this land and that our treasuries are empty. The public treasuries are empty. That is a multi-faceted problem. Still I am a member of a little organization with 600 economists, the so-called “Memo-group” of the University of Bremen around Jorg Huffschmid that publishes a memorandum every year. For 2005, the memo group calculated that the state let slip 130 billion euros to which it was entitled in tax revenue without changing the political system. In 2005, we had a budget deficit of 40 billion. The state had to pay 40-50 billion in debt service. But the state could have recovered the 130.
Let me add a trivial detail. I hope no one is here from Stuttgart. I have Daimler stocks, I admit reluctantly. (My father gave them to me and I still have them) I receive a dividend check every year from “my” company. Two weeks ago I read in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung newspaper: Daimler had a profit of 4.7 billion but once again pays no taxes this year. The company said it would probably pay taxes next year. Daimler is one of 50-60 companies in Germany responsible for the 130 billion.
Let me summarize. These last three points are very important to me. Why doesn’t our movement reach the hearts and minds of people in Germany that is interventionist and in the European Union that is interventionist? Firstly, there is objective and very cruel mass unemployment. Secondly, people have accepted individual assignment of responsibility. Thirdly, they believe nothing can be redistributed in this land.
The anti-militarist movement is called to continuous enlightenment about the connections of foreign and domestic policy. Our movement must not be discouraged or succumb to the charm of power. All rotten compromises should be rejected. With its different branches, the peace movement must listen again to each other.
My last sentence: Be IMI: Instinctively Mainstream Ignoring!