Our World the Perpetual Battlefield

War and Peace

If you have been following international news recently, you are no doubt aware that the world has been an eventful place to say the least. These past few weeks alone saw the emergence of the world’s 193rd countryHuman Rights Watch’s call for the prosecution of George W. Bush on war crimes, and the discovery of US black sites in Somalia. As I followed these stories and the world's reponse to them, I couldn't help but feel as though every action and interaction on the international level was specifically being discussed in the context of war. This sense was spurred by the immediate labeling of the Republic of South Sudan as our "new ally," and furthered as a I delved back into the actions of the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11. I am not even sure where to begin on what is happening in Somalia. The humanity of these situations has been overpowered by the sense that we are involved in a perpetual war for which military strategy becomes central to all decision making. 

I was ultimately led to this question:

Do we look at the world as a battlefield because it is one, or is the world a battlefield because that is how we choose to view it?

There are surely ramifications to viewing the world as a real-life game of Risk as opposed to a global community of peoples. In doing so we remove humanity from the decision making process. Our global interactions are measured in the realm of military strategy rather than societal considerations. As I state in the description of this blog, "we as an international community all too often lose sight of what ought to inform our actions and interactions: our shared humanity." 

It would be naïve to assume that simply choosing to view the world in a different light would eliminate the existence of war and violent conflict. However, it is arguably just as naïve to assume that our consistent viewing the world in this way does not also perpetuate violence. If violence is what we are looking for, violence is what we will find.

If we only see the Republic of South Sudan as a strategic ally in the “War on Terror”, their existence will always be linked to current or potential violence. They will only ever be seen as a part of what America’s Unified Combatant Plan labels USAFRICOM; nothing more than a region in a military command territory. As a result, we will concern ourselves not with what independence from the North means for them as a society, but what it means to us strategically.

A further consequence of embedding ourselves in the context of war is the potential for the immediacy of war to be the dominant informer of our actions. This can be seen no more clearly than in the case of America’s “War on Terror” and the implementation of policies related to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (What many, including myself would refer to as torture). When we understand the world as only a battlefield, it is easy to see what led the Bush Administration to take the Clinton policies of extraordinary rendition and morph them into the expansion of secret prisons and the belief that “detainees” somehow have different rights than “prisoners”.

Further, this view of the world as a battlefield is what leads us down paths that bend and break our moral compass. Things which outside the context of war are unacceptable become unavoidable “necessary evils”. All of a sudden almost the entirety of America, conservative and liberal alike, ascribes to the notion that the ticking time bomb scenario is a reality. That in such cases torture is not only defensible, but a viable option in the name of national security. Our nation’s highly esteemed morality is brought down in one fell swoop by fear and reruns of 24. We create for ourselves a story of what it means to live in a world where everything is war, and every political decision we make must be thought of within the context of battle.

Chris Hedges, in his book "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning" spends time talking about the myth of war. He argues that we create this myth of war simply as a time for courage and heros. We paint the picture of victorious warriors, overlooking the devastation and ugliness war causes. Eventually, we become victims of these myths; unable to look beyond them, or more importantly, behind them to see what was before we created them. The world is thus permantly a battlefield, and never a community. It is merely as a collection states, divided along the lines of enemies and allies. We can see it no other way.

In the end, the question remains...Do we see the world as a battlefield because it is one, or is it a battlefield because that is how we choose to view it?

George W. Bush, Somalia, Sudan, Torture