On Ukraine, Russia, and America: When Is War Justified in 2022?
Almost everyone prefers their communities and adobes to stay in peace, and the very talk of warfare often sends a chill to the bones of many. Yet war still exists, mostly in the name of existing interests: these existing interests can always vary and it depends on the conditions of warfare itself. The most widespread understanding of warfare in our contemporary era is found in passages of the renowned Carl von Clausewitz, who defined war as the continuation of politics by other means.
There is indeed a truth to it. Even the famous Sun Tzu had this understanding of warfare; if one carefully reads his classic The Art of War, the question of how to initiate a war does not come up; it is more concerned of what to do when you are at war and how to achieve to objectives, for as Sun Tzu himself remarked, that there is no benefit for a realm, a nation or a country to be on the constant state of prolonged warfare.
As the war in Europe continues to rage, with a million refugees and thousands of civilians killed, it is predictable that there will be certain groups asking that people should pick a side. It is understandable to an extent. The immediate aggressor is none other than Putin’s Russia, yet one cannot deny the fact that his actions are motivated and justified to a degree by his rivalry with NATO. Ukraine, a country torn by ethnic strife even before the events that we are seeing today have occurred, was always a battleground for these two giants. Likewise, even bringing this up will lead to accusations of hampering one’s patriotic duty, even if the rationale of the entire war is both fuzzy and convoluted.
I did remember perusing a short book more than a decade ago titled War is a Racket. Penned by none other than Major-General Smedley Butler, a decorated marine of the United States, he warned the public that the warfare of his age is no longer that of protecting the people. Rather, he bleakly concluded that the Second Great War that broke out shortly after his demise, was none other than a geopolitical conflict of two major imperial blocs in possession of the world. The only kicker here is that the Second World War unfolded initially from protecting themselves contra the Axis Powers, to a larger struggle to remake the world-order as we know it once the atrocities and genocides of the Nazis and the Japanese became common knowledge.
War [is] the continuation of politics.
Back to our main topic, which types of war can only be justified? In my perspective, there are three wars that are justifiable completely. These wars include wars in defense of one’s home, wars against the betrayers of the social compact and public trust, and wars to gain one’s independence from a dominant power. Other than that, the other types of wars get muddled into the quagmire.
In the case of our present tumult, the stance that one can take is this. It is the condemnation of the war and the invasion itself. But we must also be aware that there are huge segments of the Russian population who are opposed to Putin’s gamble, and as such, they are being shut down one by one. We must avoid the blunder that everyone committed in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan; of wholeheartedly backing the American empire and its consequential overreach due to the assumption that they can actually win. This is what is happening to Russia as well; Putin is making the same hubris that engulfed Bush’s and Obama’s agenda for the past 16 years.
Therefore, to end this short piece, I will only leave with a suggestion that anyone can take or leave. That we should not just condemn the war in Europe. We must also condemn the ongoing genocide in Yemen done by America’s partners, and other incursions to world tranquility, wherever it is from, be it from Moscow, Beijing, or Washington. Likewise, there should be louder voices of saying that before one goes to war, they need to clean their house in order first. And America, with its problems on healthcare, education, its domestic political rot, and the realization that the American people have also come to terms with, which is that of their terminal decline, should sort their mess in their immediate vicinity before it must dictate its values internationally.