for every season
WAR, POLITICS AND THE PLANET EARTH
LOUIS RENÉ BERES
René Beres is Emeritus Professor of Political Science
and International Law (Purdue University). He is author of many
books and articles dealing with international politics. His
columns have appeared in the New York Times, Washington
Post, The Jerusalem Post and OUPblog
(Oxford University Press).
of the major nation-states on Planet Earth will need to reach
a dramatic collective decision. These leaders, long accustomed
to belligerent nationalism, will need to align their separate
judgments of national interest with the wider interests of humankind.
Although this will sound fanciful, it would represent the literal
opposite of “America First”-type tribalism. There
is no alternative.
have now reached the tipping point where national military and
economic power seeking must yield to something else. Either
we will fashion a durable system of global interdependence,
or we will be forced to disappear.
we take meaningful steps to implement an organic and cooperative
planetary civilization — one based on the central truth
of human “oneness” — there will be no civilization
imperative is clarified by our species’ “progress”
in creating nuclear weapons and infrastructures. In addition,
major states are increasingly committed to various strategies
of “cyber-warfare” using “internet mercenaries.”
To a considerable extent, the spread of internet mercenaries
is being undertaken on behalf of authoritarian regimes.
now, we humans have consistently managed to miss what is most
important. There is a latent “oneness” to world
politics. This critical dimension of human identity can be encountered
in certain generally-ignored literatures and among such philosophic
thinkers as Sören Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Hermann Hesse,
Carl Jung, Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno and
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This dimension’s persistent
rejection in “real life,” even by the world’s
great universities, reflects an elemental threat to every nation-state’s
have we insistently made ourselves so vulnerable? The answer
reflects a continuous willingness all over the world to seek
identity as members.
a steadily growing chaos on several continents and in myriad
places, we humans stubbornly abide a distinctly primal loyalty
to claims of a “tribe.” Always, individuals everywhere,
wittingly and enthusiastically, subordinate themselves to expectations
of nation, class, or faith.
origins of our “civilizations,” most people have
felt lost, alone, or abandoned outside the tribe. Drawing self-worth
from consoling memberships, we humans still cannot fulfill even
the most minimal requirements of interpersonal or international
ironies are staggering. Recalling the marooned English schoolboys
in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, we are
reminded that the veneer of human civilization is razor thin.
Scientific and medical discoveries notwithstanding, whole swaths
of humankind remain fiercely dedicated to ancient and atavistic
do we remain so determinedly irrational as a species? The best
answer lies in context. After all, our entire system of international
relations is rooted in a self-defiling habitat of unrelenting
violence. Not until the 20th century did international law even
bother to criminalize aggressive war.
we reasonably expect to banish war, terrorism, and genocide
from a system that was spawned in an ancient cauldron of tribal
hatreds and protracted conflict?
exists: While the planet remains on a lethal trajectory of belligerent
nationalism, we need to learn that global survival requires
escape from the spirit of competitive tribes and an acceptance
of human “oneness.”
odds of success may seem precariously low, but the evident risks
are well worth taking.