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Is War Obsolete?

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The purpose of this essay is to analyze the arguments in favor and against the obsoleteness of the war particularly after the cold war. But before going in detail one needs to understand the concept of war that is advocated by the proponents of the Realist school of thought.

According to the Realists, war is essential for serving its interests as for war is mean to achieve their national interests. The institution of war has evolved with the development of state after the peace of Westphalia which gives state supreme power to exercise within its boundaries without inferring in internal matters of the other states.

Defining War

According to Clausewitz war is a continuation of politics by other means. The industrialization played a vital role in promoting war by developing new weapons and revolutionizing the institution of war. It was in eighteen century when war becomes a proper institution which is equipped with modern weapons and tactics. Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that war almost always enlarges the mind of a people and raises their character.”  Kenneth Waltz defines war as “The ultimate resort of states that can see no other way to have their interests met.” Moreover, War was used as a tool by states to expand its territory and area of influence since ancient times like Athens fight against Spartan to control them.

In the twentieth century, the fascination for war is declining especially after the experience of WWI and almost all the countries of the developed world committed to avoiding war between states. The deterrence was also used by states to prevent war by equipping them with arms to teeth to deal with the aggressive states. [1] However, this policy failed with the start of WWII but with the start of a cold war between US and USSR did bring stability by changing of international structure from multi-polarity to bi-polarity. Both powers avoided direct confrontation and the world was divided into two blocs. Kenneth Waltz declared Bi-polar system as a most stable system because both powers tried to balance each other power which reduces the chances of war.

Merits of Bi-polarity

Similarly, nuclear weapons also played a significant role in averting war as both powers acquired nuclear weapons.[2]  Kenneth Waltz called nuclear weapons as an effective tool to prevent war between US and USSR as the use of nuclear weapons after 1945 become unthinkable for any state due to its destructive ability.  According to experts, Bi-polarity proved to be a more balanced system as it would not allow one state to dominate all other states of the world. Bi-polarity created a balance between two potential powers and brings stability at international level as both were equally capable of competing with other.  Both states balanced each other power by created two blocs to check each other growing power at global level.

Arguments in favor of Obsoleteness of War

1- Economic Integration

The interdependence of economy is considered as a major development which is preventing the war, especially between states. For Instance, in the case of China and US despite their rivalry, there is less likely chance of war between both the states.  War creates instability and disrupts the economy in a negative way by causing inflation.[3]  The international economic system has increased the dependence of states irrespective of their size. The economic integration among states is not allowing them for waging war because it is not cost effective for a state. In contemporary world war is undesirable and becoming a burden on the economy of the country.

In the case of China and US relations although they are competing with each other but they would not use war as a tool to increase their influence in the global arena. Since war is not a viable option to pursue their national interests. Similarly, China is suspicious of an American presence in the Asia-Pacific region and their growing ties with its neighboring states. One cannot say that they will be involved in direct confrontation with each other. Since economic interests of the both states are inter-linked and mutually dependent upon each other. China is the biggest trading partner of US and a major importer of Chinese products.  In addition, globalization played a vital role in increasing the interdependence between the states by linking all states with the common economic system and its stability is dependent upon the cooperation among all states of the world. Globalization has transformed the world into the global village by inter-linking world trade.     

2- Role of international organization

The role of the international organization is significant in preventing war between states by including all states into organizations to resolve their issues by using the dialogue process and building the mutual consent of all the states of the world. International organization provides a platform to resolve the contentious issues by negotiation rather going for war as a mean to sort out their conflictual issues between the states. Moreover, legislation of international organization is very effective in averting war between states as they punished those who are involved in crimes against humanity in the form of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

Furthermore, international organizations are effective in ending conflicts between the states by providing a platform and giving importance to objections of the both parties. International organizations play a mediating role to resolve issues between states by hearing both parties and suggesting ways to sort the contentious issues between any two or more states. In addition, regional organizations have improved the regional integration by dealing the regional problems with regional players. For example, European Union is the most successful organization which has united Europe by resolving their issues internally and consider as a most stable region of the world. The European Union is an effective regional organization which makes it most peaceful part of the world as they sort their issues by discussing with each other.  

3- Cost of WAR

The cost of war outweighs its benefits for the state as it long-lasting effects on its people. The advancement in modern weapons has increased the destructive abilities of war by causing infrastructure losses for the state.[4]  In contemporary world states prefer to avoid war due its interdependence on other states for trade and for proper functioning relations with its neighbors. Similarly, the human cost of war is another factor which is becoming a reason for preventing wars between the states. The use of chemical and biological weapons in modern warfare has increased the number of deaths of humans within the second that is mostly avoided by the countries.

Moreover, the signing of treaties by almost all states of the world to limit the number of conflicts is another factor to discourage countries from using force against any other country. In addition, war drains the economy of a country and creates dissatisfaction at the domestic level. For example, during the Vietnam War US had to stop war due to protests within the country against War due to its effects on their domestic economy. The economic cost of wars in the contemporary world has played a major role in preventing a war between the states. War is not considered as the viable option for states to pursue their national interests.  

4-Use of non-military means 

 The use of non-military means by the states is another major reason towards decline war in 21 century. The states tend to use other means for instance; cyber warfare is widely used by China and US to keep a check on their growing power.[5]  The countries in contemporary world avoid using force against other states because it is not cost effective for them.  Cyber warfare is not only cost effective for states but also a viable option to pursue their interests without heavy spending on its defence. Moreover, cyber warfare would cause more damage to the rival states without indulging in direct confrontation with the other states.

The hacking incidents in the past few years have increased and hackers usually hacked national websites to the country to get access to countries confidential documents and their assets to expose the ability of the state. Cyber warfare is cost effective mean used by countries to subdue their rival states.  The modern technological advancement has increased the role of cyber warfare as all systems of the world are dependent on the digital means. Moreover, computer viruses are also used by almost all states to destroy the confidential projects of their rival states without much effort and violating international laws against the use of force at the global level.    

5- Nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons have also played a significant role in preventing war between states because of its destructive nature and long-lasting effects on the humans and living beings.[6]  Nuclear weapons are considered as psychological weapons or political weapons that act as a deterrent to prevent war between the two or more states.  The development of nuclear technological has changed the nature warfare to a greater extent by reducing chances of War Between the States. During cold war nuclear weapons prevented the direct confrontation between US and USSR. The use of nuclear weapons by either by US or USSR would ensure mutual destruction of both the states.

The use of nuclear weapons is not an acceptable norm at international due to destructive ability to destroy humans indiscriminately. It is considered as taboo by responsible states and international community because of its negative repercussions on the humanity. They are used prevent War among the States. International norms against the use of nuclear weapons have played the significant role in avoiding conflict between the states and acts as a deterrent to states.

Counter Arguments

According to some experts, war is not obsolete in the contemporary world rather it has transformed the old warfare. The institution war has become more organized and lethal. The modern technology has revolutionized the nature warfare by equipping states with modern weapons. The decline of war as an institution is not easy to achieve with growing insecurities of the states.  States are facing security dilemma and in order to compete with other states every state is increasing their defense budget to ensure their security.  Similarly, change in international structure from Uni-polarity to Multi-polarity is another reason why states are investing more to improve their military capacity to compete for more than one power at international level.

Moreover, experts are of the view that nuclear weapons are not preventing war instead they are increasing the military disparities between the states. The countries who acquire nuclear weapons after the 1950s are competing with P-5 by developing Tactical Nuclear weapons. They are also known as mini-nukes basically these low-intensity nuclear weapons which are increasing chances of war among the states.  The accidental use of tactical weapons can start a war due to growing distrust among major countries of the world. For example, in a case of India and Pakistan, accidental use of tactical nuclear weapons can initiate a war between these two states.

Comparative Analysis

If we analyzed arguments in favor of the obsoleteness of war are based on logical argumentation and empirical evidence. It would be plausible to say that institution of war is facing a decline due to growing awareness among general public and policy makers. War is not cost-effective and becoming a burden on economies of the countries. Similarly, modern weapon technologies have increased the defence budget rather spending this money to eradicate poverty and violence in the world. Moreover, development of nuclear weapons is also contributed in preventing war because the use of nuclear weapons can kill thousands of people within seconds especially after witnessing the example of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.

Despite differences among states they give importance to the process of dialogue to resolve their conflictual issues rather than going for war. The cost of war out weights the benefits of war if we assess the implications of war for humans it would be safe to claim that war cause more problems for people who have to face the consequences of war in the form of loss of their lives and displacement from their respective countries to neighboring areas. It would be plausible say that war between states is obsolete if not within the states. The conflicts within the countries are there but it can be addressed by using dialogue process and giving autonomy to minority groups in the countries.

If we compare and contrast arguments in favor and against of war one can say that war is considered as the only option for states in resolving their issues with other states. The institution of war is facing decline after the conclusion of the two World Wars. War is not used by states to protect their national interests due to its heavy cost in the form of both human and material cost of the war. Globalization has also played significant role limiting the role of War at international level by promoting interdependence among all states of the world. Furthermore, war itself causes more problems rather than resolving contentious issues between the countries.

The increasing economic interdependence among states has decreased chances of war as their economic interests are interlinked. War is expensive for any state since it requires not only man-power but also the economic power to sustain the war for a long time.  The countries having viable economies if they start a war consequently it will drain their economy and create issues within their states.  The economic integration of regions has paved the way in preventing war between states by bringing stability and prosperity to all states irrespective of their relative power capabilities.

Theoretical Framework

Social constructivism theory is presented by Nicholas Onuf, Alexander Wendt, Emanuel Adler, Friedrich Kratochwil, John Gerard Ruggie and Peter Katzenstein.[7]  According to proponents of the social constructivism international structure is socially constructed with interactions of human with each other. States objective goals in the form of security and economic development and subjective goals their international standing are created by their interactions with other actors of the world. States identities and interests are constructed from inter-subjective social structures because global actors interact with each other to formulate their interests by comparing them with other states.  The identities and interests of actors are socially constructed by their interaction with each other.

According to constructivists anarchy is not given rather it is socially constructed with interactions of global actors. If all states are interacting in a peaceful manner then it is peaceful and if the country suspects each other intentions then it is conflictual in nature. In simple words, it depends on upon the interactions of the global actors with each other.  Constructivist negates realist assumption about anarchy that it is given.  It is constructed by an interaction of global actors and it changes the behavior of global actors. The interest of the states keeps on changing with a change in international structure as they are stagnant or permanent.

The international system is not given or present like the solar system. It is constituted by inter-subjective interaction among the people. The international system is constructed with the ideas that are not based on the objective reality. Social Constructivism is based upon the set of ideas, norms of people living in a particular area. According to the constructivists understanding the meanings of ideas and concepts is significant because it is based on interactions human with other by comparing them with each other.      

In the case of relations with China and US one can say they experienced ups and downs with the changing nature of their national interests. [8]  During the 1950s, the relations between both the states were conflictual in nature due to American involvement in Korean Peninsula and their support for Nationalist Taiwan.[9]  In the 1970s during Nixon Presidency, US tried to normalize their relations by visiting China and accepted People Republic China (PRC) legitimacy using Ping Pong by sending their table tennis team to China. The shift in relations occurred due to changing nature of their national interest and abandons the Nationalists of Taiwan.  The US normalized their relations with China to curtail the Russian expansion in the region and increase American area of influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

If we analyzed the relations of the both countries using the Social Constructivists lens one can say China and US have experienced a period of strained relations and normal relations depending upon the nature of interests that are changing with a shift in the international system. It is either peaceful or conflictual in nature. Moreover, in recent past, the increased in economic interdependence has improved their relations with each other due to dependence upon each other for achieving their economic interests. Similarly, China and the USA are competing with other economically due to growing Chinese economy and rise as a major player at international level. China and USA are suspected of each other activities particularly in the Asia-Pacific region due to growing Chinese influence in the region.     

The relations between China and US are largely driven by their distinct ideologies and identities.  The foreign policy of both of these countries is dependent on their identities which are different from each other. The understanding of their respective identities is essential for making sense of their posture towards each other. States acts according to national interests that are based on their identities.  According to Social Constructivism understanding of identities is required to analyze the relations between two states in detail. The role of identities is significant is determining the major policy decisions that are largely dependent upon the ideational factors of the state.

In the context of China and US, the role of the identity cannot be undermined because both give importance to their identities in their relations with each other.  The in-depth understanding of the foreign policies of China and US is largely based on their distinct identities. The nature of the relationship between China and US is very complex due to the vital role of their respective identities in their major policy decisions towards each other. China gives importance to its identity in the conduct of their relations with US and rest of the world. In the same way, the US also promotes democracy at the international level that signifies the role of identity in their foreign policy.

Conclusion

To conclude, war is obsolete particularly between the states in the contemporary as no major war is fought between states. The institution war is facing a decline due to its heavy cost paid the people. The countries prefer to use non-military means to increase their sphere of influence rather using force to get their interests. The phenomena of war are not fascinating for young people anymore as it used to be in past. The repercussions of war have far-reaching effects on the humans by disturbing them emotionally and mentally. Moreover, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are another factor which is vital for averting war among the states due to its implications for humans. The countries at international level do not promote war to solve their conflictual issues with each other. The international organizations are effective in ending the war between states by promoting peace and stability. Similarly, the role of effective civil society and epistemic communities cannot be undermined in preventing war at a global level.  The epistemic community has played a vital role in stigmatizing the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.  

Lastly, war  is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century. Realist school of thought promoted war as tool or Lastly, no doubt war is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century.  Realist school of thought promoted war as a tool or mean by states to achieve their national interests. In 21 century the role war is not vital due to increasing in economic interdependence between the states. The economic integration at the regional level is important in ending major conflicts among states of the particular region. War as an institution is not effective at international due to a shift of countries towards non-military means to subdue their rivals rather than indulging them in war or military confrontation with each other. 

 [1]Hans G. Brauch, “The Three Worldviews of Hobbes, Grotius and Kant Foundations of modern thinking on peace and security Contextual Change and Reconceptualisation of Security,” AFES-PRESS, accessed June 5, 2016, http://www.afes-press.de/pdf/Hague/Brauch_Worldviews.pdf.

[2]Sherpa Subirana, “Is War Becoming Obsolete in International Affairs? Discuss with Reference to the Academic Debate on the Issue. | Lobsang Dundup Sherpa Subirana – Academia.edu,” Academia.edu – Share Research, accessed June 5, 2016, https://www.academia.edu/6647109/Is_war_becoming_obsolete_in_international_affairs_Discuss_with_reference_to_the_academic_debate_on_the_issue.

[3]John Mueller, “IS WAR STILL BECOMING OBSOLETE?,” Political Science | OSU, last modified August 3, 2012, http://politicalscience.osu.edu/faculty/jmueller/apsa1991.pdf.

[4]Rosella Cappella, “Confronting the Cost of War: The Political Economy of War Finance | Center for Finance, Law & Policy,” Boston University, accessed June 5, 2016, http://www.bu.edu/bucflp/initiatives/confronting-the-cost-of-war-the-political-economy-of-war-finance/

[5]Terry L. Deibel, “Foreign Affairs Strategy – Cambridge University Press,” Home | Cambridge University Press, accessed June 5, 2016, https://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9781107453302&ss=exc.

[6]Kenneth Waltz, “Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better, Adelphi Papers, Number 171 (London: International Institute F,” Mount Holyoke College, last modified 1981, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.html.

[7]Roya J. Amineh and Hanieh D. Asl, “Review of Constructivism and Social Constructivism,” Journal of Social Sciences, Literature and Languages 1, no. 1 (April 2015): xx, Available online at jssll.blue-ap.org.

[8]Hui Wang, “U.S.-CHINA: BONDS AND TENSIONS,” RAND Corporation Provides Objective Research Services and Public Policy Analysis | RAND, accessed June 5, 2016, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1300/MR1300.ch12.pdf

[9]Yan Xuetong, “The Instability of China-US Relations,” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 3, no. 3 (2010): xx, doi:10.1093/cjip/poq009.

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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Russia’s Weak Response to Finland’s Joining NATO

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Image source: kremlin.ru

On May 12th, Russia’s RT bannered “Finland’s NATO membership will trigger response – Moscow”, and reported that

Moscow has warned that Finland joining NATO would pose a direct threat to Russia’s security and its acceptance to the military alliance would prompt Russia to develop measures to ensure its safety. That’s after Finnish officials confirmed on Thursday their commitment to join the US-led bloc and announced plans to pen a formal application later this week.

“There is a current instruction from the president to develop a list of measures to strengthen our western flanks in connection with the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flanks,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov during a daily press briefing on Thursday. …

He added that Russia regrets Finland’s decision to join the hostile steps taken by the EU and warned that Helsinki’s attempts to join NATO would serve as a reason to develop respective mirror responses. …

Last month, the former Russian president and prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council implied that if Finland and Sweden became members of NATO, Russia might be forced to deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltic region in order to preserve “the balance of power.”

It wouldn’t “preserve ‘the balance of power’,” because U.S./NATO will then be in position to place America’s nukes on Russia’s border near its brain-center Moscow, whereas Russia isn’t in position to place its nukes on America’s border near its brain-center Washington DC. 

If Finland joins NATO, then America will station its missiles on Finland’s Russian border, 507 miles from Moscow, and that is 7 minutes away from blitz-nuking Moscow.

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, America threatened to initiate nuclear war against the Soviet Union if the Soviet Union would position nuclear missiles in Cuba, 1,134 miles from Washington DC, which would be about 10 minutes away from blitz-nuking Washington (but would have required much longer to reach Washington back in 1962).

Consequently, Russia now is in at least as dangerous a situation if Finland joins NATO as America was in during the Cuban Missile Crisis when America was threatening to launch a nuclear invasion against Russia if U.S.S.R. placed missiles in Cuba.

Furthermore: unlike America and the Soviet Union during the Cuba Missile Crisis, when BOTH nations were willing to negotiate a peaceful end to that Crisis, Russia is willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement this time around but America is not and has repeatedly refused to do so. Clearly, America is heading for conquest.

Consequently, Russia must now, if it is to adhere to the standards that both Kennedy and Khrushchev adhered to in 1962, make absolutely clear now to Finland’s Government that if and when Finland will join NATO, then Russia will have no alternative to blitz-nuking not only Finland but simultaneously nuking all other NATO-member nations.

Well, there actually IS an alternative: Russia’s Government can cede its sovereignty to America and begin negotiations on a surrender to the U.S. Government.

Russia’s current vaguely worded threat against Finland is just a vague way of doing that. However, another alternative exists for Russia, but one that Vladimir Putin seems not to be considering, at all, even though it really is the ONLY sensible one for Russia to do, and it would adhere to the model that JFK adhered to in 1962. But let’s first review what has led up to this Crisis, so as to place the Crisis into its proper historical context:

Russia’s first strategy against further enlargement of NATO was to demand, on 15 December 2021, to the U.S. Government; and, two days later, to America’s main anti-Russian military alliance, NATO; that NATO would never add any new member-nations — especially not Ukraine. This demand was firmly rejected, on 7 January 2022, by both America and its NATO arm. Worse yet for Russia: after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, hoping thereby to prevent at least that country joining NATO, both Finland and Sweden were so scared that they might be invaded next, that both countries expressed in early April 2022 a desire to join the anti-Russian alliance, and were welcomed by America and its NATO arm to apply to join. So, even if Russia wins its war in Ukraine, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have actually failed, because NATO seems now more likely even than before to increase — exactly the opposite of what Russia had been intending.

A more effective strategy by Russia might nonetheless still be possible. If so, I think that it would be something like this:

Russia will announce that its nuclear missiles will be targeted ONLY against the U.S. and its allies, including all NATO member-nations, no neutral or not-U.S.-allied nations. Consequently: Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, and any other nation that isn’t in NATO or otherwise treaty-bound militarily with the United States, will not be targeted by any Russian nuclear missiles.

In other words: any new NATO member-nation will thereby become a target added to Russia’s list for destruction in any WW III that might transpire between the United States and Russia.

Consequently, if  Finland or Sweden join NATO, then that nation’s likelihood of becoming annihilated if and when a Third World War starts, will enormously and suddenly increase, merely on account of that nation’s having become a NATO member.

Furthermore, Russia will simultaneously be announcing that if any nation wishes to have an assurance that Russia will never, under any circumstance, invade it, then Russia will welcome from that nation a request for such an assurance from Russia; and Russia will include in that announcement explicit invitations not only to Finland and Sweden, but to all other nations which have, at some time, expressed an intention or a possible future intention to join either NATO or one of America’s other anti-Russia military alliances, such as AUKUS. In this regard, Russia will also state that if ever Russia were to provide to a nation such an assurance and subsequently to violate it, then Russia would not only be violating its own tradition of rigidly adhering to international treaties that it has signed, but would also thereby be forfeiting any and all of its rights under international law, by doing so. In other words: Russia would, in advance, be surrendering to any country that it would subsequently be violating by its having invaded the country that it had promised never to invade. This in-advance promise to forfeit all of Russia’s rights under all international laws in any such circumstance, would be a surrender in-advance, under all existing international laws; and, consequently, under the arrangement that is being proposed here, there would be no nation in the entire world that has, or ever did have, so strict an international legal obligation as Russia would be having under this proposed arrangement.

Finally: this proposed arrangement will be offering, to all existing member-nations of NATO and of America’s other anti-Russian military alliances, a promise that if and when any such existing member-nation will quit that anti-Russian military alliance, Russia will be happy to — at the moment that this is done — automatically provide to that nation the same legal commitment never to invade that nation, as has just been described here. In other words: the proposed arrangement will be offering, to the entire world, a stark and clear choice between two options: on the one hand, being allied with the most aggressive nation in all of the world’s history — the nation that sanctions, coups, and outright invades, any nation that fails to cooperate with its goal to replace the United Nations as being the ultimate arbiter of international laws, by the United States as being, instead, the ultimate arbiter of what it calls “the rules-based international order” (in which all of those ‘rules’ come ultimately from whomever rules the U.S. Government).  Versus, on the other hand: building upon and remaking the U.N. into what had been the original intention for it by its creator and namer, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was for the U.N. to replace the historically existing (until now) rule-of-force by-and-between contending international empires, by, instead, a peaceful and democratic international order, in which there will be a “United Nations” which will be a worldwide federation of all nations, in which international laws will be produced by the global legislature of duly authorized (under each individual nation’s own internal laws) representatives; and adjudicated by the global Supreme Court, and enforced by the sole global possessor and user of strategic weaponry, the U.N. itself, so that penalties that are ruled by this global Court of international relations can be enforced against the Government of any nation that has been ruled by this Court to have violated the rights of any other nation’s Government. In this understanding of the U.N.’s proper scope of power and of authority, the U.N. will have no authority and no power regarding the Constitution or laws of any nation that apply only internally to a given nation, but ONLY to international laws, which pertain only to international relations, never to a nation’s internal matters. FDR’s objective was to make another World War — another war between empires — impossible, by eliminating all empires, and replacing all of them by an international democracy of nations. Russia, in the proposed arrangement, would be striving to achieve, for the entire world, what FDR had planned for the post-WW-II world, but which tragically became promptly changed and abandoned by his immediate successor, Harry S. Truman — the founder (on 25 July 1945) of the present global U.S. empire (and of its hamstrung currently existing — Truman’s — U.N.).

There still might be time enough for Putin to make that offer, not only to Finland, but to the world.

NOTE: Finland was an ally of Nazi Germany in WW II, invading the Soviet Union during 1941-1944, in Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa”, aiming to conquer it and enslave the Soviet peoples to Hitler’s Nazi regime. This time, Finland would be serving the U.S. regime to conquer Russia. Unless, perhaps, Putin makes this offer, and Finland accepts the offer.

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Afghanistan’s Forgotten War: The Clash Between the Taliban and ISKP

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Amid the Ukrainian war, the Afghan crisis accurately represents a forgotten conflict. Notably, the rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), personified by violence and instability, has, much to the detriment of analysts, continued to bleed the country dry. Additionally, food and health insecurity fuelled by climate change and COVID-19, suppression of women’s rights and freedoms due to distorted beliefs of de facto rulers, and intensifying border tensions with Pakistan have compounded uncertainty facing the Afghans. While these factors have added to the growing, multi-dimensional gordian knot mirroring the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan, the security concerns shaped by the Taliban-ISKP rivalry are central to the Afghan quagmire.

Nevertheless, as the world rapidly shifted its attention from the fallout of the international coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the subsequent humanitarian catastrophe, the graveyard of empires has continued to experience far-reaching turbulence.

Untangling Afghanistan’s security profile

The Afghan state’s security dilemma has widened over the past year due to the new regime’s ineptitude at eliminating incoming attacks staged by the ISKP. It stands true, as it did in the immediate aftermath of Kabul’s fall in August 2021, that ISKP will partially fill the security vacuum, challenging the Taliban’s authority without posing an existential threat. However, ISKP’s constant attacks operating interchangeably between high and low-intensity ones, and their impact – fatalities, sectarian tensions, fear, mistrust, and paranoia – are collectively dismantling the fragile security architecture instituted post-2001.

Since last year, ISKP-led attacks have repeatedly jolted the Afghans and those reportedly responsible for their security, in quick succession. This has prompted analysts to wonder about the veracity of claims made by the interim government about being in control of the country’s entirety. The ideological and resource-based competition driving such attacks and counter-retaliations by the emerging law and security-enforcement agencies have failed to derive a definitive victory for either faction. Furthermore, this has undermined any semblance of normalcy which could have taken root – for better or worse. Furthermore, the Taliban’s counter-response has adopted a flawed logic, driven by their ideological hostility towards Salafism, of which The ISKP has adopted a distorted interpretation – Salafist Jihadism. On the other hand, the Taliban are followers of the Hanafi-Deobandi school of thought.

Beginning with the blast at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August 2021, the ISKP has routinely undermined chances of achieving relative security in Afghanistan after the regime change. Two bomb blasts rocked Kabul in the days preceding the Eid celebrations.

On 30th April 2022, at least one individual was killed, three were wounded when a passenger van exploded, and 10 (although the death toll was at least 50) were killed when a bomb was detonated inside a mosque on 29th April 2022. Although nobody assumed responsibility for the first attack, it aligns with the modus operandi of the ISKP.

Earlier, on 19th April 2022, bomb blasts at the Abdul Rahim Shahid High School injured at least 17 and fatally wounded six others. The death toll later catapulted to 20 in a predominantly Shia Hazara neighbourhood. This was closely aligned with ISKP’s operational style.

While the Salafist-Jihadists, i.e., the ISKP terrorists, have staged violent attacks against civilians, amid which senior commanders have also lost their lives, the Taliban has conveniently forgotten that not all followers of Islam’s Salafi doctrine have violent inclinations. Nevertheless, the Taliban leaders have stepped up their crackdown on Afghan Salafis to display that the fight against an opposing terrorist group is steadily attaining success.

For example, alleged reports about Salafist seminaries and mosques being raided or closed down have increasingly emerged since last year. While the ideological differences and ambition to wholly assert control over Afghanistan’s entirety are the rationale of the Taliban’s domestic policies, it is significant for the new regime to consider that such actions will prove detrimental to maintaining security.

A war with no end in sight?

This war will get more chaotic and bloody as the days go by, and the international coalition’s belief that the Taliban would be able to keep domestic and international security threats at bay has now been proven to be a critically incorrect presumption, even a disillusion perhaps.

Deadly incidents such as these are understandably a cause for concern and compounds the resentment of the restive population that cannot access essential services amid rising inflation and where at least one in five families are compelled to force their children to take up jobs as domestic help as financial insecurity has skyrocketed.

On the other hand, the Taliban’s counter-response will allow the ISKP to recruit moderate Salafists to swell its ranks. This will be a gradual process, yet all the more dangerous to the country’s security situation. It is so because vis-à-vis a more rapid pace of recruitment, a slow and steady process would be more inconspicuous and would occur more easily below the radar. Moreover, in a country where despite trillions of dollars of aid being pumped over twenty years, the intelligence apparatus proved inconsequential in determining and thwarting the Taliban’s advance, it would be at least a couple more decades before the incumbent regime could turn the tide around. Nevertheless, such improvements would prove rather challenging for an administration that is cash-strapped (on a legitimate front) and has proved unable to make a convincing case for its recognition by the global community.

Worsening the problem is the possibility of people taking up arms against the state in the face of food and financial insecurity, which will continue to mount as long as violence and instability continue to plague the society. Perhaps, defections from the Taliban could also take place in protest of deteriorating human security conditions and the leaders’ ineptitude at governing as per the Islamic traditions while vying to align closer to the western world.

It would also open small, albeit multiple fronts against the Taliban and the broader Hanafi-Deobandi adherents. The victims of attacks on places of worship have remained confined to the Shia Hazara community’s members. However, non-conforming Sunnis also perceived as heretics. A civil war with cross-sectarian colours would witness mass hysteria, bloodshed, and displacement. Additionally, the decimation of infrastructure – roads, government, health, etc. – and modes of connectivity would take a hit in the second round of impact.

On the other hand, neighbouring Pakistan, which is swiftly transforming itself into a polity dominated by militant-religious groups, could act as a quicksand, further fuelling the contentious disputes about the Durand Line and aggravating border conflicts, setting ablaze both itself and Afghanistan. After all, developments in either country have rarely remained independent, at least in the contemporary era. The power and security vacuum created under such circumstances invariably results in fomenting ground for foreign fighters to commercialise war and reap profits by fighting as mercenaries for the warring factions that pay the maximum rewards. Strategically straddling Central and South Asia, Afghanistan would be appropriately positioned to be the hub of terrorist haven, training camps, and centre of ideological spillover.

While this does not mean granting international recognition to the Taliban government, it means formulating a mechanism to continue delivering aid directly to the Afghans in the long term and empowering them. In addition, there is a necessity to ensure that an international peacekeeping mission is ready for deployment if a wider conflict engulfs Afghanistan. Since raising funds and equipped personnel for such tasks would be a long-drawn-out process, it is pertinent for invested stakeholders, including Russia and China – to carefully review the developments and, through a carrot and stick policy, contain any untoward dilemmas from arising. It has less to do with helping the interim rulers and more to do with assisting the ordinary Afghans in navigating the multi-pronged complexities and preventing the fallout of a broader war from permeating the borders these countries share with Afghanistan.

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Defense

Apparent Poor Planning by Putin of the Invasion of Ukraine

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Image source: kremlin.ru

Russia’s first strategy against further enlargement of NATO was to demand, on 15 December 2021, to the U.S. Government; and, two days later, to America’s main anti-Russian military alliance, NATO; that NATO would never add any new member-nations — especially not Ukraine (the only nation that’s within a mere 5-minute’s missile-striking-distance away from nuking Moscow). This very reasonable demand was firmly rejected, on 7 January 2022, by both America and its NATO arm. Worse yet for Russia: after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, hoping thereby to prevent at least that country joining NATO, both Finland and Sweden were so scared that they might be invaded next, that both countries expressed in early April 2022 a desire to join the anti-Russian alliance, and were welcomed by America and its NATO arm to apply to join. So, even if Russia wins its war in Ukraine, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have actually failed, because NATO seems now more likely even than before to increase — exactly the opposite of what Russia had been intending.

This is obviously failure on his part. His demand for a halt to NATO’s further expansion was essential for the national security of the Russian people against a possible repeat of Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa” against Russia but this time with nuclear weapons, which might be the nuclear stage of an invasion that will start with a non-nuclear air-and-ground invasion to grab Russia. However, if there is to be a non-nuclear invasion of Russia, then Russia won’t wait but will immediately respond to it by unleashing against all of the invading countries Russia’s nuclear weapons in order to destroy as much of the U.S.-and-allied retaliatory weapons and command-structures as possible and thereby greatly reduce the intensity of the U.S.-and-allied nuclear response. 

In other words: NATO’s further expansion will lead inevitably to a world-destroying nuclear war. However, America and its allies made clear on January 7th, that they want this. Consequently, Putin had to act, because they forced Russia into a corner, and Russia’s geostrategic situation had become desperate because NATO already had expanded dangerously close to Moscow.

His big blunder was that he should NEVER have invaded Ukraine UNTIL Ukraine would FIRST have invaded Donbas. If he had done that, then many of the billions of people who consider him a war-criminal for his having been the first to invade, would not, and would clearly understand that Zelensky is (because he would have invaded first) and that everyone who participated in Obama’s 2014 Ukrainian coup and its aftermath that has led to this war is a war-criminal, but Russia is acting instead on the basis of the existential threat to Russia that Obama started and is guilty for. I consider Obama a psychopath and the most dangerously evil person in modern times because he started the path to WW III. However, if Putin had prepared in advance for an invasion of Ukraine that would be responding to Ukraine’s invasion to grab back its former Donbas region, then there would have been no cause for Finland, Sweden, or any other non-NATO-member-nation, to be seeking now to become targeted by Russia’s nuclear missiles (which certainly will be done if and when any new nation becomes added to NATO — such a nation would thereby be declaring itself to be an enemy of Russia, and would be treated as such BY Russia).

Given that on January 7th, America and its allies made clear, by their action on that date (saying no to Putin’s entirely reasonable demands), that they are determined to conquer and take over Russia, Russia needed to respond accordingly. However, if that response had instead been to wait for (the long-expected) Ukrainian invasion of Donbas, and invaded Ukraine only AFTER such an invasion was already launched by the U.S. side, then the public image of Russia around the world would now be vastly more favorable toward Russia than is now the case — and vastly less sympathetic to the Ukrainian side than it is. (Especially not favorable to Zelensky if they knew these things about him.)

The PR value to the U.S.-and-allied side, of Russia’s having invaded first, made a vast difference in favor of America’s gang, and against their intended victim, Russia. For example: it enabled the scandalous shipments of tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S.-and-allied weapons into Ukraine, that are increasingly tilting the battlefield into the Ukrainian regime’s favor, to be viewed favorably by Western publics. This wouldn’t have been the case if the war had started with headlines such as “Ukraine Invades Breakaway Republics.” It would instead be seen as arming the aggressor.

If, however, Ukraine — facing such a waiting-game with Russia — were instead to have decided simply not to invade Donbas, then Russia’s continuing waiting-game with all of the U.S. side would have greatly strengthened Russia at the expense of Europe, because Europe is massively dependent upon Russia for gas and oil to heat its buildings and run its factories. Europe’s suicidal choice to cooperate with the sanctions that both U.S. and UK imposed on Russia would cause their economic collapse and possibly even the end of the American empire. Every week of delaying an invasion of Ukraine was consequently adding to Russia’s power over the situation, and weakening America’s power over it. That Russian victory was a real possibility which Russia’s premature invasion of Ukraine likely will prevent (by instead spurring NATO’s growth). As the U.S.’s CIA Director William Burns said in his 9 May 2022 interview in the Financial Times, regarding the likely addition to NATO of Finland and/or Sweden, “These are choices that Putin himself has driven by the ugliness of his aggression against Ukraine.” Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine before Ukraine invaded Donbas was the worst geostrategic decision in modern times. However, it might not necessarily be fatal. My 28 April 2022 article “A More Effective Russian Strategy Against Further Enlargement of NATO” described what might be a way to eke out a win here — both for Russia and for the future of the entire world (except U.S.-and-allied billionaires, controlling owners of firms such as Lockheed Martin and ExxonMobil). It offers a shred of hope, but every day longer that goes without Putin’s doing it, is an additional nail not only in Russia’s coffin but in ours.

Also on May 9th, Putin delivered a speech, in which he said:

Last December we proposed signing a treaty on security guarantees. Russia urged the West to hold an honest dialogue in search for meaningful and compromising solutions, and to take account of each other’s interests. All in vain. NATO countries did not want to heed us, which means they had totally different plans. And we saw it.

Another punitive operation in Donbass, an invasion of our historic lands, including Crimea, was openly in the making. Kiev declared that it could attain nuclear weapons. The NATO bloc launched an active military build-up on the territories adjacent to us.

Thus, an absolutely unacceptable threat to us was steadily being created right on our borders. There was every indication that a clash with neo-Nazis and Banderites backed by the United States and their minions was unavoidable.

Let me repeat, we saw the military infrastructure being built up, hundreds of foreign advisors starting work, and regular supplies of cutting-edge weaponry being delivered from NATO countries. The threat grew every day.

Russia launched a pre-emptive strike at the aggression. It was a forced, timely and the only correct decision.

“Forced” there means that no alternative decision would have better served the national-security needs of the Russian people. I respectfully disagree with that. “Timely” there means that what had been, until February 24th, Russia’s long waiting-game with the U.S. regime and its current stooge-leader in Ukraine, ended at the best possible time and in the appropriate circumstances. I respectfully disagree with that, too. 

However, even if all of what he said there is true, then why is he not, right now, before Finland (the country that, other than Ukraine, has the longest European border with Russia) joins NATO, issuing to Finland the offer that I had described in my 28 April 2022 article “A More Effective Russian Strategy Against Further Enlargement of NATO”? The following is an excerpt from that, describing its core:

Russia will announce that its nuclear missiles will be targeted ONLY against the U.S. and its allies, including all NATO member-nations, no neutral or not-U.S.-allied nations. Consequently: Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, and any other nation that isn’t in NATO or otherwise treaty-bound militarily with the United States, will not be targeted by any Russian nuclear missiles.

In other words: any new NATO member-nation will thereby become a target added to Russia’s list for destruction in any WW III that might transpire between the United States and Russia.

Consequently, if  Finland or Sweden join NATO, then that nation’s likelihood of becoming annihilated if and when a Third World War starts, will enormously and suddenly increase, merely on account of that nation’s having become a NATO member.

Furthermore, Russia will simultaneously be announcing that if any nation wishes to have an assurance that Russia will never, under any circumstance, invade it, then Russia will welcome from that nation a request for such an assurance from Russia; and Russia will include in that announcement explicit invitations not only to Finland and Sweden, but to all other nations which have, at some time, expressed an intention or a possible future intention to join either NATO or one of America’s other anti-Russia military alliances, such as AUKUS.

In any event, regardless of whether Putin or I am right on the question of whether the “pre-emptive” nature of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “forced” and “timely,” would it not — now and going forward on this — serve the interests of the Russian people, and the interests of the Finnish people, and the interests of the whole world (except perhaps U.S.-and-allied billionaires), for Russia, right now, to make this offer, right now? 

An alternative to joining the U.S. regime’s alliance to conquer Russia needs to be offered to any nation that is considering, or might consider, joining the U.S. gang. Is that not so? And is that not, really, the ultimate question here (regardless of whether or not Russia’s invasion on February 24th was not only forced, but, also, timely)? So: when will that offer be made; or else, why won’t it be? Shouldn’t Putin be asked that question?

Author’s note: first posted at The Duran

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