January 8, 2013

Alternatives to War

Andreas Buro

Civil Conflict Resolution in the Context of International Politics

Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz once wrote that, “War is just a continuation of politics by other means.”

Two hundred years later, President Barack Obama said that war “is sometimes necessary”—ironically, while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

The opinion-makers in the media rushed to his defense: Today’s military deployments are in essence no longer even wars, they say, but “humanitarian actions” that the West engages in to selflessly aid oppressed people around the world. And the television networks seldom broadcast images of the cruelty of war anymore, as they once did from Vietnam. Instead, today’s journalists report from the front while “embedded” in the military. Correspondingly, there are no “bombardments” anymore, but only “surgical interventions.”

The fact that war is equated with medical procedures that are meant to heal is a particularly drastic illustration that George Orwell’s slogan “war is peace” from 1984 has come to bear. Recall that it continues, “Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

When ideas are blurred in an Orwellian sense such that bombs are meant to be instruments of healing, we can safely assume that ideologues are at work, ideologues who are not concerned with portraying a reasonable image of reality, but rather with justifying wars. We can also assume that the belligerents’ real interests—be they material, geopolitical, or other—are not being mentioned. Instead, those who are responsible for going to war are awarded the mantle of selflessness, and even humanism.

That is why the fairy tale that “there is no alternative” plays a central part in the current discussions around war. Apparently there is no alternative to violent conflict—not in Serbia/Kosovo, not in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, not in Libya. We are inclined to believe not anywhere.

Andreas Buro, Professor Emeritus of International Politics at the Goethe University Frankfurt and German peace activist for many years, contests this apparent legitimacy. In his study, he argues that there are always alternatives—and the alternative to war is called Civil Conflict Resolution.

Buro shows the consequences of military conflict and develops the basis for civil conflict resolution against that backdrop. He discusses political institutions that can apply the methods of civil conflict resolution today, but also the opposition to it in international politics. His central question is: What must be done to end the age of war and begin the age of civil conflict resolution?