Rethinking War

by James Miller, August 13, 2023 (All Rights Reserved)

Those who believe that peace can be defended, and that attack is justified on its behalf, cannot perceive it lies within them. ²How could they know? ³Could they accept forgiveness side by side with the belief that murder takes some forms by which their peace is saved? ⁴Would they be willing to accept the fact their savage purpose is directed against themselves? (ACIM, T-23.III.5:1-4)

In Shaun Narine’s article, “U.S. allies should rethink their allegiance to an aggressive but declining superpower”, (on “The Conversation” website; motto: “Academic rigour, journalistic flair”), Narine doesn’t claim to be unbiased, but I wonder if he realizes the extent of the lack of vision in the headline, given that it implies Canada and other democracies should hitch their wagons to an “ascending” superpower. And given Russia’s recent revelation of itself, to mix my metaphors, as a “paper bear”, that leaves only the benevolent, loving arms of superpower Xi’s China.

I agree the U.S. was led by a preoccupied George Bush, who along with his lackey, Tony Blair, used misleading and false narratives to ignore international law and invade nations in the “war on terror”. Narine argues the “war on terror” defines current 21st century politics. I disagree. That conflict has been tapped of all its mineable ore and we’ve moved on to new veins in the inexhaustible mine of geopolitical conflicts on earth.

Narine says, “This reality partly explains Russia’s reaction to the expansion of NATO and its invasion of Ukraine.” But wait a minute, I was always told two wrongs don’t make a right, as Narine seems to be saying Russia’s invasion of another sovereign state, Ukraine, was justified by its fear the U.S, who invaded Iraq in 2003, had designs on them, as well. This justification borders on the ludicrous. Even a casual observer of world politics, let alone a Professor of International Relations and Political Science like Narine, knows the West and Russia have been at odds since the October Revolution of 1917. And while the two factions have been at loggerheads at times, most notably over the Cuban missile crisis, the US policy over the years has been clearly one of containment and not invasion for Russia.

Equally risible is Narine’s claim China is worried about “U.S. overreach” and being “economically strangled by an American naval blockade.” The link underlying the latter statement leads to an article discussing how a blockade might be a realistic US option in the “event of war” and not the current status quo.

Narine claims China had “done little to the US except to grow to an economic size and a level of technological innovation that challenges American global domination” and while acknowledging China’s “has threatened” (when he really should be saying “continually threatens”) Taiwan and “behaved aggressively in the South China Sea”, Narine claims China’s foreign policy has been “restrained” when compared to the US.

If Narine feels China’s occupation of Tibet; massacre of its own people in Tiananmen Square, cultural genocide in its treatment of Uyghur people and recent crushing of protests for democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, “restrained”, I’d like to see his definition of the opposite.

And, since Narine and I are both in Canada, let’s not forget the “Two Michaels”, arrested on bogus charges concocted after Canada lawfully detained Chinese national, Meg Wanzhou, at the request of the US. According to the Wikipedia article, while the two Michaels were held in jail for 1,019 days, interrogated up to eight hours a day, left in cells with lights on 24-hours a day and denied access to consular officials and lawyers, Meg was under house-arrest in a luxurious setting in Vancouver.

These aren’t the only actions that makes the “free world” anxious about China and its intentions. It continues to invest heavily in military spending; build airstrips on islands contested by other nations in the area; use its “Coast Guard” to harass other nation’s fishing fleets; has proven willing to interfere in the elections of the US and other democracies; has pressured Canadian politicians and set up “police stations” in foreign countries to monitor and coerce it expats and others.

Narine alludes to China’s “ancient culture” presumably to garner approval. The Wikipedia article “Democracy in China” notes: The Constitution also holds that China is a one-party state that is governed by the CCP. This gives the CCP a total monopoly of political power which it frequently exercises. All political opposition is illegal.” The article goes on to say, “Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are all severely restricted by the government.[11][12] The general Chinese public has virtually no say on how the top leaders of the country are elected.[7][11] Censorship is widespread and dissent is harshly punished in the country.[8]

Does Narine really support this kind of government? Would he seize the opportunity to be a “political scientist” at a Chinese university, instead of Canada’s St. Thomas? I sincerely believe it’s Narine who needs to do some “rethinking”.

I wrote earlier of Narine’s lack of vision, but perhaps I’m being kind and should call it hypocrisy. Narine asks of US allies, “Why are they so tolerant of American militarism – often even complicit in it – while condemning the militarism in others?” To which I ask Narine, “Why are you so tolerant of Chinese militarism – and being complicit in it – while condemning the militarism of the US and others?”

But, let me get to the heart of the conflict between the US and China, and the “free world” and Russia over Ukraine. The “heart” of this conflict is authoritarian government’s need to control its populations. They support this position by espousing the ideology that freedoms of expression and belief, including that of religion, are actually deleterious and not values to be cherished and protected. Such thinking gives the state the right to surveil and control, arguing a controlled population is a “safe” society. In addition to controlling the access its citizens have to information, China is effectively controlling the movements of over 1,000,000 Uyghurs using facial recognition and other technology. For more on this, watch the passionate eye documentary, “Inside China’s Digital Gulag.”

Authoritarian rulers like Xi and Putin brook no opposition to their rule while democratic nations like Canada, most European Union members, Japan, the UK, Australia, Sweden, Finland and others have a different point of view. It’s called democracy. A democracy allows its citizens to peaceably change governments through free and open elections; posits that elected leaders serve their electors and that elected officials and their governments should support and uphold individual freedoms, like that of religion, assembly, and even the existence of political parties with markedly different ideas about how the country should be run.

And, like it or not, for many decades it’s been US military power that has helped to keep the aspirations of those who believe in these freedoms relatively secure. Sadly, for some reason unknown to me, Americans have succumbed to a bitterly partisan political landscape, where those, mostly on the right, through the establishment of a conservative Supreme Court are attacking freedoms recently won, like abortion, same sex marriage, LGBTQIA+ acceptance and affirmative action. America has swayed so far from its democratic principles and the rule of law that a former US President, who will not be named, instead of being in jail, is the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, despite openly denying his loss of the 2020 election and fomenting an insurrection in an effort to retain power.

Narine notes that “China gains a great deal for the current international system” and then argues for its destruction, stating, “Is maintaining such an imbalanced world order possible or, given its results, truly desirable?”

How can one make sense of an “academic expert” who argues complete opposites? Why by turning to a publication like The Conversation, whose charter promises to “Unlock the knowledge of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.” But wait, Narine’s article is published by The Conversation, that has a team of 12 professional editors, with no less than five Master in Journalism holders and even someone with a “master in Catholic thought”, hard at work. These experts, no doubt, carefully vetted Narine’s work in their ongoing commitment to “work with experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public”. Ah, yes, “the wider public”, the great unwashed who have looked to the “experts” for generations to solve the world’s problems.

But, with The Conversation’s innovative layering of experts on experts, piled higher and deeper, how can we fail? Quite dramatically, it seems.

To return to our political expert Narine, he’s right, in my opinion, that the world has a great deal to gain from the “current international system” and he should be arguing in favor of keeping and strengthening a system that recognizes national borders and international law, instead of tearing it down. I could argue its not the job of Narine, as a Professor of International Relations and Political Science, or The Conversation, as a responsible journalistic voice, to call for the respect of national borders and international law in the interest of world peace, but I would be wrong. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

The Conversation’s charter also promises to “provide a platform where experts around the world can share knowledge, discuss problems and identify sustainable solutions”.

Narine’s solution states, “Accommodating China will require adjustments on the part of status quo states. That means abandoning the world view that so many western democracies have embraced as part of western triumphalism since the end of the Cold War.”

Most of us are familiar with the concept of accommodating or appeasement and we’ve seen it fail time and time again, with Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” being the most notable in recent history. Chamberlain probably didn’t understand why he failed as he seemed to offer the Nazis everything they wanted. What he failed to understand is that they didn’t want to coexist but rather annihilate. I think Narine and The Conversation need to understand that, too.

A link attached to “world view that so many western democracies” in Narine’s article leads to a story on the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy’s website entitled “Needing an enemy: On the Manichean Mindset of the North Atlantic’s Foreign Policy Establishment” by Arta Moeini, IPD Research Director.

The “Manichean Mindset” refers to Manichaeism, a 3rd Century religion that once vied with Christianity for primacy and posits a dualistic world of good and evil; darkness and light.

I will return to this dualistic understanding of the world but want to comment briefly on Moeini’s position. First, Moeini holds America solely responsible for a Manichean Mindset when it is equally applicable to Putin and Xi, who I would argue need an enemy far more than the US because, try as they will, as long as democratic nations with the freedoms we’ve previously outlined exist, they are a threat to authoritarian regimes. Why? Because relatively free societies demonstrate the viability of a fundamental longing of the human spirit: the need and desire to be free and to live in a society that allows for freedom of expression and belief. I believe, given the opportunity, most people would vote for a free and open society instead of governments which would control them.

Like Narine, Moeini calls for a new approach, but only from America. He writes, “This new approach calls for America to lead by the power of its example, exhibiting the benefits of liberty and a constitutional republic at home, without forcibly imposing those values abroad. Such an outlook means abandoning the coercive regime change agendas and the corrosive projects of nation-building and democracy promotion. In this new multipolar world, America would be an able, dynamic, and equal participant in ensuring sustainable peace side-by-side the world’s other great powers, acting as ‘a normal country in a normal time.’ Reflecting the spirit of republican governance authentically is far more pertinent now and salutary for the future of the North Atlantic peoples than is promulgating the utopian image of a shining city on a hill.”

Moeini demonstrates his willingness to bargain with the devil, like Narine, and before him, Chamberlain. America and its allies have long hoped that the rise of China would eventually lead to more freedoms for its citizens and see China adopt the “benefits of liberty” but this has not been the case. China’s legislation to prevent another Mao by limiting the leader’s tenure has been swept aside by Xi, as Putin has done in Russia.

Moeini suggests the US, Taiwan, Japan and other nations essentially ignore Chinese aggression and act like “normal countries in a normal time”. China is not acting as a “normal country in a normal time” and most authoritarian governments, Russia being an ongoing example, don’t act “normally” if that definition means giving its citizens any semblance of human rights and respecting the territorial integrity of other nations, particularly democracies.

Moeini suggests that to placate Xi we give up on the idea of the “shining city on a hill” and it’s interesting his metaphor is principally concerned with the quality of light, a universal symbol for truth and freedom. In saying we should give it up, he essentially suggests that living in a world of darkness and capitulation is the way to bring about world peace and human dignity. What nonsense!

I argue that Narine’s position (and supported by Moeini) is fundamentally flawed for the reasons already given and believe it will not work.

But I don’t just want to be critical. Let me offer an alternative.

Accepting, for argument’s sake, that the Manichean Mindset is active in the minds of all the leaders involved, not just the US, I suggest we look at this mindset more carefully to see if it accurately reflects “reality” or if there is an alternative interpretation.

The Wikipedia article on Manichaeism states that the prophet Mani, born 216, founded the religion. “Manichaeism teaches an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process that takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, whence it came. Mani’s teaching was intended to “combine, succeed, and surpass the teachings” of virtually all the world’s religions and Mani was regarded as “the final prophet” after Zoroaster, Buddha and Jesus.

I argue that most of the world shares this view of a dualistic world of good and evil, of holiness and sin. However, there is a philosophy that takes essentially the opposite position. Pure, non-dualism states that the belief in duality is not the fundamental nature of existence. God, the creative force of the universe, does not have or contain an opposite. This position can be found in a careful reading and interpretation of scriptures found in many religions. Jesus, for example, taught of our “perfection” and urged us in the beatitudes “Ye are the light of the world” and it’s notable that the next sentence, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”, is where Moeini gets his quote.

A more recent and clear exposition of pure, non-dualism can be found in “A Course in Miracles” (ACIM), published in 1975, which is accepted by those that believe in it as the channeled work of Jesus Christ. The Course teaches that only existence is real and reality has no opposite and is therefore beyond threat of any kind. Truth, represented by the concept of light, for example, does not require and has no aspect of darkness in it. The Introduction to the Course states:

…The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.

  1. This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:

²Nothing real can be threatened.
³Nothing unreal exists.

⁴Herein lies the peace of God.

(ACIM, T-in.1:8–2:4)

Convincing Xi and Putin (and perhaps you, the reader) that what many think is “reality” is its complete opposite is a challenge but, on the other hand, these two leaders have the power to stop their aggressive approach to world politics, reshape their countries’ political systems and usher in a world where every nation becomes a “city on a hill”.

Can you imagine Xi putting the financial resources China now spends on armaments towards giving his people the necessities of life, open access to information, and the free exchange of religious thought? Can you imagine Putin doing the same? And, in so doing, having Xi and Putin inspire America and the rest of the world to follow suit?

Some say this is possible.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

This alternate narrative, I maintain, is the truth. Consider this quote from The Bhagavad Gita that mirrors the ACIM Introduction.

The unreal has no being; the real never ceases to be. The final truth about them both has thus been perceived by the Seers of ultimate Reality. Know That to be indeed indestructible by which all this is pervaded. None can work the destruction of this immutable being. (Chapter 2 Verse 16:17)

Truly, this world is but a cosmic dream that has no effect on reality, nevertheless, we can strive to awaken to reality, and in so doing, bless ourselves and this world.

Awakening to reality involves recognizing that peace is preferable to war, love preferable to fear and truth preferable to illusion.

ACIM Lesson 190 “I choose the joy of God instead of pain,” sums up the utter insanity of believing war can lead to peace.

  1. Lay down your arms, and come without defense into the quiet place where Heaven’s peace holds all things still at last. ²Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear. ³Let no attack enter with you. ⁴Lay down the cruel sword of judgment that you hold against your throat, and put aside the withering assaults with which you seek to hide your holiness.
  2. Here will you understand there is no pain. ²Here does the joy of God belong to you. ³This is the day when it is given you to realize the lesson that contains all of salvation’s power. ⁴It is this: Pain is illusion; joy, reality. ⁵Pain is but sleep; joy is awakening. ⁶Pain is deception; joy alone is truth.
  3. And so again we make the only choice that ever can be made; we choose between illusions and the truth, or pain and joy, or hell and Heaven. ²Let our gratitude unto our Teacher fill our hearts, as we are free to choose our joy instead of pain, our holiness in place of sin, the peace of God instead of conflict, and the light of Heaven for the darkness of the world.

(ACIM, W-190.9:1–11:2)