In 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine made headlines around the world. It wasn’t the only war – or buildup to war – going on that year. There was a war in Ethiopia that just officially ended late in 2022. And China appears ready to risk an armed conflict with the United States and others over Taiwan. To that end, the U.S. has sought to help Australia build better submarines. Not only that, but Japan is building up its army.
Are military solutions useful to resolve any of these conflicts?
Taking these conflicts in turn, does Ukraine and Russia benefit from slaughtering each other? Ukraine can argue it has an existential right to defend itself. But that right ends where Russian aggression begins. If Russia hadn’t invaded, or if it left Ukrainian territory, there wouldn’t be any call for violence. And from the Russian perspective, why are they willing to sacrifice thousands of people? Land? Seriously?
The conflict in Ethiopia – the Tigray War – had started in 2020. I hadn’t heard about it in my country until 2022. Such is the poor state of news affairs when a war in a particular geography gets more attention than another. At any rate, this war has some of its origins in previous conflicts and political clashes. But while the conflict was ongoing, it appeared the rest of the world had kept busy with COVID and other global events. Instead of aid being sent to Ethiopians caught in the middle of fighting, they’ve been largely ignored. Don’t they deserve the same attention and care as other nations of the world?
Speaking of attention, there is a ton of it getting paid to an island in the Pacific that wasn’t brought under communist control after the Second World War. A large buildup of military spending and preparation is expected in the coming years. Possible outcomes include everything from the military subjugation of Taiwan to a full-scale shooting war between Pacific countries. How do the people of Taiwan benefit from those outcomes? What about the people of mainland China, or those who oppose them?
None of this makes much sense.
The idea that a country can kill people and take their liberties is one that is thought to have been discarded in the last century. But it persists. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Because, despite the sentiments of people to the contrary, the entire notion of conflict resolution between nations still rests on the application of violence.
Although the world might not like it, Russia still has the capacity to kill people to accomplish any whim its government sees fit to attempt. People in Ethiopia can choose violence to settle any array of political differences. And any other country in the world can exert dominion over another so long as it has the capacity to kill human beings.
This is despite the fact that killing people might lead to industrialized violence on a cataclysmic scale. Or that killing doesn’t end the underlying political differences that had given rise to prior animosity. Or even that killing people makes the land one is trying to acquire less valuable (or useful, or even desirable).
So far, this decade has highlighted the severe lack of progress humanity has made from superstitious apes huddling in caves, living at the whims of nature and fortune. These wars are just the latest bane of humanity’s existence to rear their ugly heads. Pestilence, war, climate-change fueled famine, and many more horrors await us before this decade closes out. Some of these have easy answers.
But some, like war and its underlying reliance on violence, require everyone to find the better, more difficult answers.
Someone’s life depends on it.