The Oxymoron of Peace


“Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.”

Robert C. Koehler writes at Common Dreams:

“At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant.”

Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . .”

I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.

As Savio notes in an essay called “Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,”: “The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities.”

And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. “. . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions.”

Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe’s near self-annihilation — didn’t cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn’t set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn’t cut deeper than national interest.

And global peace built on a foundation of nation-states is an oxymoron. As historian Michael Howard noted in his book The Lessons of History (quoted by Barbara Ehrenreich in Blood Rites): “From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war.”

All of which leads me to the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive warplane ever built, or not quite built. The aircraft, designed by Lockheed, is now seven years behind schedule, but the Pentagon had planned to display its new baby this week at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. This debut has now been called off because the engine of one of the planes caught fire on a runway in Florida in June, and officials feared the problem was systemic.

In other words, it could happen again. It could happen at the airshow, with the jet’s prospective customers — Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and eight other U.S. allies — in attendance. Grounding it was a business decision. Indeed, it was a decision made at the delicate intersection of business and war.

“The setbacks follow a series of technical problems and development delays that have affected the F-35, one of the world’s most ambitious weapons programs, with estimated development costs of around $400 billion,” Nicola Clark and Christopher Drew wrote this week in the New York Times. “Analysts said the timing of the problems, just as Lockheed Martin was hoping to demonstrate the plane to prospective export buyers here, could not have been worse.”

What I found interesting — well, overwhelmingly depressing, actually — was the fact that this story ran in the Times’ International Business section. When Savio writes, “Attempts to create regional or international alliances to bring stability have always been stymied by national interests,” this may be what he’s talking about. National interests are business interests. In the mainstream media, this is simply a given.

And the ongoing setbacks and escalating cost don’t matter. The F-35 project is still going forward, even though, as Kate Brannen wrote recently in Foreign Policy, “over the course of the aircrafts’ lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion.”

The warplane’s supply of funding is inexhaustible, apparently. Congress is behind it all the way. And it’s hardly news. “Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place,” Brannen wrote.

Austerity is for losers. There’s always money to wage war and build weapons, indeed, to continue developing weapons, generation after generation after generation. The contractors are adept at playing the game. Jobs link arms with fear and patriotism and the next war is always inevitable. And it’s always necessary, because we’ve created a world of perpetual — and well-armed — instability.

The problem with the United Nations is that it’s a unity of entities defined by their hatred of one another and committed to the perpetuation of “the scourge of war.” We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism and the single, unacknowledged agreement binding nation-states to each other: the inevitability of war.

15 Comments on "The Oxymoron of Peace"

  1. ‘We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism…’

    Don’t by this treacherous, money grubbing, rubbish:

  2. Liam_McGonagle | Jul 18, 2014 at 9:50 am |

    I don’t want peace. I want victory. Absolute victory. As in the complete and total anihilation of my enemies.

    And the fact this has never occurred in all of recorded human history only enhances the mystique of this phantasy.

    • Damien Quinn | Jul 18, 2014 at 9:56 am |

      An impossible dream, the intrinsic duality of our psyche would compel us to create an enemy where none was forthcoming. The last man on a barren earth would sit in his bunker, feverishly scanning the horizon for the first signs of the inevitable counter attack.

    • Simon Valentine | Jul 18, 2014 at 11:59 am |

      you seem to have forgotten that i’ve made it my job to give that to you yesterday

  3. ‘… and to reject the notion that the guilt of the individual who engages in the activities of war can be transferred to the state who sanctions their actions.’

    What, you mean we should retire The Nuremberg Defense for our proudly decorated economic slaves aka “Heroes”?

    I hope Abby Martin is reading this. Bravo Quinn 🙂

    • Damien Quinn | Jul 18, 2014 at 10:00 am |

      I hope poor Abby doesn’t find out you called her a hooe! There really is no need for name calling.

      • Well, she did once name me a moron:

        ‘@beingsshepherd Isn’t it a fucking miracle how TV just writes itself? #moron
        01:45 AM – 05 Dec 12’

  4. I’ll have peace with a side of oxymoron. And a side of spam.

    To heck with Abby Martin. Anyone who uses a number sign (now called a hash tag for some inexplicable reason) as part of an insult shows a smallness of mind themselves. Frankly I wish she’d just go away. She’s not nearly what she seems to think she is.

    A little humility would go a long way with her.

  5. Simon Valentine | Jul 18, 2014 at 11:57 am |

    a few ways to read that. the last paragraph only suffices a type or order of war as involves derivatives of order involving knowledge and command.

    “who” is a noun not often bijected in each way its idea allows;
    for example “Entity are the entities that hate each other and make war inevitable though?”, as an inquisitive tense, could be interpreted as “is Jupiter truly the greatest God?” … going back then … “who is Jupiter?” a single pharaoh-head? a group of persons? an owl? a myth?

    instead consider that war always is and that lacking comprehension or contradiction by/for/of/towards that fact is associated with war – there is also the/a matter of whether or not war is contained within the entity that contains the entities that are “who”, “persons”, or indeed whatever nouns one is studying. the entity war is immortal – [where] does it permeate? order? command?

    does not the sheen of a pearl war with the light? does not the mirror blind its foes? the purported division of the living and the cosmic – is it a battle or a war? false? derivative of ill-necessitated order? a field of colorful vocabulary? vegetable vs man?

  6. Simon Valentine | Jul 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm |

    one oxygen two hydrogens

    the code copied over over and over again
    a recursive way of life mental condition incapable of what is necessary, desired, or needed

    the oxymoron of absolute value
    the jack-in-a-box cousin, square root of a square
    substitution, the cousin has
    you, the first, have not
    and you are no death spirit
    just another orthodox rock-in-a-bag

    swing that sling, practice
    you cannot stop us

  7. BuzzCoastin | Jul 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm |

    We must know that war is universal and strife right, and that by strife all things arise…

    War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.

    And Heraclitus blamed the poet who said, “Would that strife were destroyed from among gods and men.” For there could be no harmony without sharps and flats, nor living beings without male and female which are contraries.

  8. Echar Lailoken | Jul 18, 2014 at 6:09 pm |

    Tao Te Chiing

    Chapter 30

    The one who uses the Tao to advise the ruler
    Does not dominate the world with soldiers
    Such methods tend to be returned

    The place where the troops camp
    Thistles and thorns grow
    Following the great army
    There must be an inauspicious year

    A good commander achieves result, then stops
    And does not dare to reach for domination
    Achieves result but does not brag
    Achieves result but does not flaunt
    Achieves result but is not arrogant
    Achieves result but only out of necessity
    Achieves result but does not dominate

    Things become strong and then get old
    This is called contrary to the Tao
    That which is contrary to the Tao soon ends

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