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Claus Kold: Ukraine – The Need for A Global Peace Culture

Claus Kold
TFF Associate

July 4, 2022

All wars are different from other wars and, thus, it is impossible to use the experiences of one war to predict the course, end, and consequences of the next. Yet, some wars and peace conferences are more important than others because they fundamentally change history.

The war in Ukraine is a proxy war between Russia and NATO/USA, in which the USA openly says that the aim is to exhaust Russia. This raises several questions:

If that is the purpose of the USA/NATO, then what will be the reaction of an existentially threatened and nuclear-armed Russia?

One may further ask whether, in the light of nuclear war, there is something untouched ‘outside’ that will not be affected by the consequences of a nuclear war: a first destruction, after which the survivors will face global nuclear winter, with famine and mass death.

If there is no ‘outside’ in a nuclear war, it will involve the survival of all humanity. With that perspective, one could rightly ask why that doesn’t involve all states in a peace conference?
And following the same logic, one may ask whether the demands of Russia, China and the United States for a ‘sphere of interest’ and a ‘security zone’ are based on outdated thinking that belongs to the time of the conventional war?

The conflict and war in Ukraine is so complex and probably a tipping point for future global development that there is a need for a new kind of peace congress with the breakthroughs that characterized previous peace congresses.

It can safely be argued that it is time for humanity to jointly establish a global sustainable nuclear-weapon-free security order: a culture of peace.


Wars in Europe

The European wars can be divided into several periods which are linked to the form of government, the purpose and ethics of the war, the organisation and use of weapons of the military, the conduct of the war in terms of speed and spread. To a rather large extent, there is a research-based consensus about this periodisation.

The period are the Hoplite Wars of the Greek city-states from 700 up to about 300 BC; the Roman Wars from approximately 300 BC to 500 AD; the Knight Crusades between 1000 – 1300; the Religious Wars from about 1300 up to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; then comes the Dynastic Limited Wars until the Total Wars of the nation-states in 1789. They continued until 1945. After 1945 and until 1989, the European continent is spared direct war but is subjected to Cold War. The wars after 1945 in the Global South first saw Wars of Liberation followed by Civil Wars to settle internal political systems and power structures in the period from approximately 1980 to 1990. Up through the 1990s, a new type of war emerged, which has sometimes been called the ‘New Wars’.

If we look at the number, scope and intensity of the wars, Quincy Wright shows us this development:

Periods: Wars / battles
1480-1499: 9
1500-1599: 87
1600-1699: 239
1700-1799: 781
1800-1899: 651
1900-1940: 892

As Wright points out, there was a significant increase in the number of wars in the 17th century, and a good question would be: Why?

My bid will be that this change occurred as a result of a comprehensive shift in the period’s philosophical thinking about God, physics, and life. A shift from a religious-organic understanding of the world to a speculative physical-mechanical understanding of the world.

With the development of subatomic research, which paradoxically underlies both nuclear weapons and a completely new paradigm for the understanding of matter and consciousness, it has become evident that humanity is facing a turning point that involves a new understanding of the consequences of the mechanisation and militarisation of our ideas, language, actions, and societal structures, and that this necessarily points toward a global culture in which new de-militarised ethics, ideas, language, actions, politics, and economy for peace exist in their own right. That is not the case today.

Predictability, physical-mechanical theories of war

In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, Carl von Clausewitz described war as the continuation of politics by other means. He divided the war into three phases: the ‘explosive’, ‘virtual’ and the ‘moderate’ war. von Clausewitz based his ‘science of war’ on Newton’s physical-mechanical concepts such as ‘friction’, ‘balance’, ‘displacement’, ‘Schwerpunkt’, etc. In his mechanical thinking, war is basic and constant whereas peace is an empty concept and only a kind of ‘pauses’ or ‘power vacuums’ between wars.

After World War II, theories about international relations were dominated by two schools: liberalism and realism – both with sub-schools. Both schools and their sub-schools were based on Newton, Kant, Smith and von Clausewitz’s physical-mechanical science of war.

Liberalism started as a political revolt against the wars of absolutism, and against mercantilism, which was described by the first liberals as a ‘war economy.’ Following this, Kant put forward the thesis that democratic states would not go to war against each other. The two main projects of the liberal philosophy can therefore be said to be ‘eternal peace’ between democratic states and ‘the prosperity of all’ in a free market.

The consequence is that the liberal individual, the liberal economy, and the liberal democracy acquired a kind of global drive: if liberal states do not go to war with each other, then all states must become liberal. UN peacekeeping operations are based on this liberal peace thesis.

But liberalism is based on Newton’s mechanical physics. The liberal idea of an economic space, a ‘laissez-faire’ characterized by economic laws of nature was rooted in Newton’s description of falling bodies, and the laws that could be deduced from it. Smith, who, like John Locke, referred to Newton, was also inspired by Quesnay’s idea of ‘closed biological circuits’. Quesnay was a physician and belonged to the French physiocratic school.

Realism argues that states and wars are to be understood only as a part of the international system of states and that this system operates according to its own laws: states collide like atoms, ‘balancing’ their power against each other in an international ‘space’ where a ‘power vacuum’ can arise.

The idea of a ‘balance of power’ is taken from Adam Smith’s concept of the market’s ‘laissez-faire’, in which free competition unfolds. And again, Smith’s idea of ‘laissez-faire’ comes from Newton and Quesnay.

Extensive research shows that from the 17th century to the end of the 20th century, classical physics dominated other areas of theory such as psychology, sociology, international relations, economics and the science of war, etc. For intellectual and political reasons, the founders of the social sciences, such as Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Smith, Comte, Marshall, Pareto, and others, borrowed from physics in their thinking and modelling about states, international relations, conflicts and wars.

In this manner, they formulated theories and models assuming that life is based on dead and completely passive atoms; that all that lives – from the smallest organism to humans – are mechanical machines made of meat. These are assumptions that cannot explain life, consciousness, memory, concepts, language, culture and society. These assumptions are today deeply and profoundly embedded in our language, legislation, economics, research, media, politics, international relations, defence systems and in the protocols that govern peace negotiations.

Why is this important? Because the whole construction is of fundamentally dubious character: it concludes from Newton’s speculative physics of passive and massive atoms (physical laws) to culturally and historically based decisions in complex global security politics (political norms, decisions and programs), and it creates an illusion of scientific reason and predictability and thus binds international relations and conflict resolution to a physical-mechanical paradigm without any concepts of ethics and subjectivity.

In this thinking, war is constant, inevitable and it has a language, while peace is only an empty concept, a pause without a language, institutions and protocols.

These hegemonic ideas, languages, institutions and protocols thus block necessary breakthroughs in peace processes, organisations and developments that could resolve the current conflicts in Ukraine and the overwhelming global challenges of the future.

Wars and Congresses

The Westphalian Peace Conferences ended the Thirty Years’ War (1616-1648), which consisted of a series of wars that drew most European powers into the maelstrom. The peace treaty was shaped by five years of ongoing negotiations led by Hugo Grotius.

The conference’s leadership, course, and results stand as a landmark breakthrough between unstoppable wars that previously rested on religious ideas and rules of ‘Just Wars’ (Jus ad Bellum), and future wars that were to rest on new rules, (Jus in Bello). The secularisation of war meant that the predictability, effectiveness, control and legality of war had to be scientifically justified.

Quite in the spirit of the times, the ‘science of war’ became based on Newton’s ideas in classical mechanical physics.

The Westphalian peace contributed to the gradual development of populations with national languages, identities and traditions. These delimited states existed in a state system in which the individual state had the right to wage symmetrical wars against their neighbouring states, and not least that they had the right to internally suppress internal cultural, religious, social and political uprisings.

The wars became ‘Trinitarian’ because they consisted of a strict division between the government, the military and the civilian population. In the first period, these wars consisted of the dynastic states’ ‘Limited Wars’ until the transition to the ‘Total Wars’ of the nation-states took place in 1789. These ‘Total Wars’ ran until 1945.

With the defeat of Napoleon’s France I at Waterloo (1815), and later, after the battles at Magenta and Solferino (both 1859), it became increasingly clear just how bloody the citizen-manned and industrialized war had become. New rules on diplomacy, the declarations of wars, and further regulations on hostilities were needed and developed.

The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) was held in the light of the defeat of Napoleon I’s France, and in June 1815 the Treaty was signed. At the subsequent conference in Paris, the great powers agreed to resolve conflicts through joint discussions at a series of subsequent conferences in Aachen, Karlovy Vary, Opava, Ljubljana and Verona.

After World War I, the League of Nations was supposed to ensure peace and promote international cooperation, but failed. After World War II, the United Nations replaced the League of Nations. The UN is similar to the League of Nations, but the UN is enriched by a Charter with greater impact and a declaration of Human Rights.

With the UN, another breakthrough occurred: planning for war to expand the state borders became illegal. The era of Grotius was over.

These peace congresses and peace conferences all marked the transition to something new: new thinking, new types of states, new rights, new economies, new technologies, new ways of living, new identities. Thus, there is a comprehensive experience from a large number of peace conferences that ended wars and profoundly changed history.

Today, humanity has again come to a new situation in which we have to enter into a new type of conference that could process new concepts, new types of peace mediations, new types of social orders: A global but diversified culture of peace.

Wars and peace after 1945

In the UN Charter, no provisions are found that give the Security Council a mandate for war; on the contrary, the Charter declares in its Preface that the UN’s task is to “save future generations from the scourge of war”. This does not provide the slightest logical evidence that UN-Peacekeeping operations are wars.

From 1945 to 1989, the European continent was spared of war, but subject to the Cold War. However, the wars continued in the Global South – first as Wars of Liberation, then as Civil Wars over form of government and economy in the period from approximately 1975 to 1990.

Several of the Civil Wars took the form of proxy wars between the United States and the Soviet Union, such as in Asia, where the United States and the Soviet Union intervened on either side of the ideological-political-economic dividing line between liberal market economies and socialist planned economies.

This happened, for instance, in Vietnam where the United States operated on the basis of a ‘domino theory’: if one state was ‘overthrown’ and became socialist, the other states in the area would also be ‘lost’. These proxy wars had the character of both symmetrical fighting and asymmetrical guerrilla fighting and were mainly about the form of territory and government. They ebbed out as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

However, up through the 90s, a new type of war appeared, which Mary Kaldor called ‘New Wars’. New Wars do not have the purpose of the proxy war for territory, and thus do not trigger the ‘realistic’ school, but rather have ‘life forms’ as their central purpose, which triggers the ‘liberal peace thesis’, as the ‘life forms’ behind the New Wars have some similarities with locally bound, traditional and autocratic forms of government which liberalism set out to defeat in the 16th Century.

The Cold War between the Soviet Union and USA/NATO was a clear ideological-political-economic symmetrical conflict that triggered the ‘Realistic’ school. In the period between 1991 and 2010, the relationship between USA/NATO and Russia was in many aspects dominated by the liberal peace thesis. From 1991 until today, Russia has had a free market, its citizens have been able to travel freely in the world, just as there was extensive access to the internet and information. In addition, more parties have been elected into the Duma than into the US two-party system.

The war between Ukraine and Russia, however, seems to be a new kind of proxy war.

First, the previous proxy wars unfolded outside respective Russia and the United States’ security zones, and thus outside nuclear relevance. The new type of proxy war in Ukraine is unfolding within Russia’s security zone, which could activate Russia’s last ring of defence – it’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. Secondly, the new proxy element is that Russia seems to use Ukraine to put its foot down in relation to the liberalist democratic peace project that targets both Ukraine and Russia – in terms of governance, and locally bound national identities.

So, in these days, it seems as if the Realist school is returning to again becoming the raison d’etre behind the USA/NATO policy towards Russia and China.

This historical shifting interplay between periods dominated by the liberal peace thesis’ policy, where the US seeks politically to strengthen other states, followed by a period dominated by the Realist thinking, which perceives the democratic and economic strengthening of other states as a threat as it builds new hegemons, is an interaction that will necessarily lead to higher and higher tensions and to higher and higher armour levels.

Humanity needs to find a way out of this perpetual war situation. To do so, we need to take a deep look at the basic ideas that fuel our security thinking: we need to confront our ideas as to what life is, who we are and how we communicate and act. In other words, we need to take a deep look at the grammar of our basic ideas and realise how these ideas influence our capacity for peace mediation – or the lack of it.

Negotiation versus mediation

Since the First World War, 5 generations have developed in conflict and peace research, all of which have been developed on the basis of previous and current wars.

A central problem in this development is that if the theoretical schools of the social sciences – including international relations – are based on the basic idea of passive atoms and mechanical causality, then so is the theoretical schools of peace research and conflict resolution.

The first and second generations of conflict and peace research (1918-1965) conducted a ‘state-centric’ research, where the research’s most significant contribution came from organizational studies, rational choice and zero-sum approaches. The third generation (1965-1985) in conflict and peace research focused on civil society. The fourth generation of conflict and peace research (1985-2000) developed a complex model of how to link civil society conflicts to the state and how to link conflicts in individual states to the international level of conflict. The ongoing fifth generation of conflict and peace research is working on how to connect mediation dialogues with discourse theories and critical theory with new civil society and state constructions.

The problem with the first traditional physical-mechanical power-based direct negotiation between the warring parties, without a mediator’s control of the mediation process, is that – beside reproducing the basic paradigm – it also reproduces the exclusive, violent discourses and practices that created the conflict in the first place. Thus, as the negotiators understand the conflict through the old definitions, they carry violence and war into the negotiating room – and so maintain a perpetual war.

Consequently, when mediation theory uses dialogues with discourse theories involved, it must base its thinking on ideas that are actually open to life, consciousness, subjectivity and ethics, and not use processes and language that basically excludes the most central factors of mediation processes.

The departure of such ideas and language can be found in quantum physics and not in classical physics.

Quantum physics actually opens for an individual freedom of choice – contrary to the determinism of mechanical thinking – seeing that the human brain is a quantum brain in which causal linear and paradoxical processes can take place at the same time. This quantum aspect also opens for consciousness to be a holistic ‘part of’ other consciousnesses, and so opens for ‘learning’, ‘understanding’ and ‘empathy’.

In contrast, a mechanical understanding of the brain can not accept and include such thinking and excludes both processes and words that support such thinking.

With today’s political nuclear weapons, the fight for compromise of the conventional negotiation builds on old concepts and institutions and needs to be developed in favour of a new paradigm with its own concepts, language and processes such as peace mediation, where all parties are respected, responsible in the conflict, where all parties are consulted and where all parties come out of the conflict unscathed, richer and wiser.


A series of UN-led mediation conferences

One way into a concrete mediation process could be for the UN to immediately undertake to lead in a way that takes into account the current global agitation – the ARI model does this.

ARI stands for an Antagonistic, Reflexive and Integrative Approach. ARI works primarily through meetings and diplomacy to quell the excitement of the mutually broken relationships, the violence and the threats of defeat and annihilation; then by connecting the parties through a ‘reflective’ framework, and from there the parties can be led on to a discursive framework where decisions about the future course, relationships, frameworks and content can be freely made.

In such a mediation process, there is a need to clarify the framework (ideas, opinions, actions and institutions) that civil society (Track III), state institutions and NGOs (Track II) and states, international relations (Track I) today take for granted since the factors are part of national bodily routines, symbolism and language.

The discursive mediation phase therefore begins by problematising (and reflecting on) the given framework with the aim of opening up new considerations about how they could be changed by possible alternatives and which new non-violent paths can transform the conflicts.

From this point, a peace mediation starts out with exclusive starting points in the new framework and celebrates dominance-free participation and diversity. By not using the ideas, words and protocols of the negotiation, steps are taken away from the physical-mechanical paradigm. By developing and only using new common and accepted ideas in the mediation process, a new common security language can be created, including a ‘fusion of horizons’, a common global project.

Properness, Non-violence and Breakthroughs

Rather than contributing to an endless and hopeless escalation in the direction of nuclear war, states – NATO states in particular – must:

  1. Use existing legislation in NATO, the EU and the UN as soon as possible in a constructive effort for peace: meetings, diplomacy and mediation (Properness);
  2. Work for the establishment of a ceasefire by the UN Secretary-General through a collection of neutral states, which deploy an UN-led peace operation – without asking the Security Council – consisting of neutral country soldiers in white vehicles, uniforms and blue helmets (Non-violence);
  3. Ask the UN Secretary-General to initiate the participation of all states in a series of mediation conferences as soon as possible – again without asking the Security Council. These conferences, with the participation of all world leaders, will support the ceasefire in Ukraine by taking place inside Ukraine. The form should be a critical discursive mediation process emphasising humanity’s new situation in a new paradigm of peace (Breakthroughs).
  4. If the super and/or great powers do not show up, the UN Secretary-General could call on the world population to start a global strike against war that shall continue until they do show up.

The author
Claus Kold has been a TFF Associate since 2004.
Read on the link on his name above. Here his CV and here his homepage.

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