In this issue of International Journal on World Peace, three articles probe the creation of peaceful and legitimate states. Since the rise of modern democracies, people have believed that having elections would make states legitimate because every citizen would have a right to participate in governance. Such simple views fail to ask whether (1) the governance system gives all groups access to power, or (2) whether people are capable of voting as responsible citizens.
The recent events related to the “Arab Spring” began with euphoria and largely ended in despair as violence, starvation, and millions of refugees were the product of what was intended to be a transition to better Arab societies. In some cases, the opposite results of what the Arab Spring promoted were created, for example the emergence of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya filling the vacuum of failed states. This led many to conclude that arming rebel forces, or attempting to occupy a foreign country, was counterproductive and that the refugees were the result of the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations and their allies. Many American citizens began to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad should have been supported and humanized by improving human rights, rather than by arming rebels to topple the regime and creating chaos.
How are regimes best transitioned? What might lead to transition failure? The first article, by Samuel R. Greene and Jennifer Jefferis, is titled “Overcoming Transition Mode: An Examination of Egypt and Tunisia.” It examines the popular idea that continuity with the previous regime will have better prospects for success than a complete break from the previous regime and uses Tunisia and Egypt as examples. Surprisingly, Egypt had greater continuity and more elections than Tunisia, but it failed to transition, whereas Tunisia, which created an interim government and a new constitution seems to have some chance of successfully transitioning. Continue reading →
This issue of IJWP has articles that discuss three topics: peace within democracies, the relationship between participation in IGOs and state military spending, and Korean unification. All of these articles relate to the issue of justice and security of groups, whether politically or culturally united. No state wants to lose its power and no cultural group wants to lose its identity or be treated as inferior. Violence can erupt between or within states when one entity attempts to dominate or exploit another, rather than recognizing an inherent right of others to exist and act in the world.
In principle, democracy reflects a level of consciousness that considers everyone as having an inherent right to exist and to cast a vote for a common future. In practice, there is no existing democratic political regime that entirely reflects this ideal. The institutions of governance, whether between states or within states, have not been well-enough perfected to eliminate unequal treatment under the law. Many factions, whether they be political, economic, or cultural sub-groups, have been able to influence political systems to favor their own interest at the expense of others. And, the institutions of culture often fail to transcend an in-group / out-group group-centered consciousness that would treat other ethnic groups, economic interests, or political parties with due respect. This can happen both in the process of establishing a new democratic entity, or with the corruption of an existing one. Continue reading →
One of the fundamental tensions in the contemporary world has been between traditional societies and modernity. “Traditional societies” refers to those who are connected to traditional communities or cultures. This includes accepting received religious beliefs and/or scriptures, loyalty to community leaders, and shaping one’s life based on how things were done in the past. “Modernist societies,” on the other hand, refers to those societies who have faith in science, modern social institutions like the bureaucratic state, and those who want to build a new and different future based on reason and discovery.
Social change is inevitable. There are demographic changes, technological changes, changes in the natural environment, and more. Traditional ethnic and national groups are constantly bumping up against one another, infringing on territory. Some groups suffer from environmental impacts made by other groups. New technologies and social institutions create lifestyle changes. Traditionalists are more likely to resist these changes, while modernists are more likely to advocate change. The tension between tradition and modernity can lead to constructive change and adaptation, but often it leads to civil war and strife. This depends on the people involved, and whether they are willing and able to adapt. Whether people have a traditionalist or a modernist orientation, they can act peacefully or violently based on the maturity of their social consciousness. Continue reading →
The modern world is still coming to grips with the concept of a nation-state and the degree to which states can be at peace when laws promote the cultural values of one group over another. For example, is it possible to have a religious state (e.g., a Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or a Buddhist state) that does not inhibit freedom and development by imposing a past worldview and practices on its population? Is it possible to have a state-imposed religious system that does not persecute minorities?
In the West, Emperor Constantine and others declared Christianity the religion of the empire in an attempt to create social stability. Christians without political power had proved honest and caring, as opposed to the corruption that existed everywhere in the Roman Empire. However, it has been said that when Rome became Christian, Christians went the way of Rome. Power corrupts, and it corrupted Christianity in the West. Popes and kings used religion to oppress people, most of whom were serfs, by promising salvation in the next world for obedience to their religious and feudal lords in this one. By the end of the first millennium, popes and bishops had declared crusades, fought over wealth, used deceit and trickery, and had sired countless children despite their vows of chastity. They used the power of the state to conduct horrific pogroms against heretics and Jews. Ingenious tools of torture, like racks that stretched people until they “converted” or their limbs detached, were invented for inhumane treatment contrary to Jesus’ message of “love your enemy.” Continue reading →
The articles in this issue of IJWP are related to the cultural consciousness that influences group-on-group violence. The pursuit of group interest with disregard to the interests of other groups can either be the willful result of selfishness or actions based on ignorance of the situation of other groups.
The photos of the body of the three-year-old son of Syrian Abdullah Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach helped fuel a campaign for global sympathy for refugees fleeing war-torn areas in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This sympathy increased pressure on states to receive more refugees and for reform of bureaucratic practices. Refugees make dangerous illegal trips in which the death rate is high because red tape can make legal immigrants wait for years. This news promoted by global media raised global consciousness of the plight of others who are suffering an undeserved fate, and helped to encourage compassion for members of other groups. The result was increased quotas for refugees adopted by many countries, although few solutions to solve the systemic violence causing the refugees to flee were promoted by the media. It is clear that the media and globalization have a major impact on the fate of people who a century ago would never have been known to the larger world. However, the media often promote elite interests that lead to group conflict. Continue reading →
This issue of IJWP looks at contemporary centers of conflict where the goal of protagonists appears to be conquest rather than coexistence. Conquerors insist on imposing their will on others by force and want to control as much of the world as possible. They often justify the conquest by arguing that they are carrying out the will of God, or that they have a superior plan for the world and that imposing their plan justifies murder, rape, displacement of populations, and theft. A conquering group views those not on their side as inferior, and therefore their murder, enslavement, or other violations of rights are acceptable.
On the other hand, coexistence is a notion that every human being has equal value and rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reflection of a global consciousness that emerged after World War II, which recognizes that respect for the rights of others is a higher form of human consciousness and a prerequisite for world peace. Continue reading →
Introduction to IJWP, June 2015
This issue of IJWP looks at the relationship of violence to what might be called “maturity of truth,” or personal and cultural wisdom. “Truth” is both individual and social. It is individual when it refers to a person’s attainment of an awareness of others as equally valuable and worthy of life in a shared world, and the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve a happy and fulfilling life through productive activities that do not harm others. Truth is social when it is embodied in civilization. By civilization, I mean a culture whose language, norms, institutions, and behavior patterns reflect a collective awareness of the worth of all human beings, human rights that apply to all people, and a level of knowledge and social organization that allows all people an equal opportunity to prosper.
The first article is an essay by sociologist Tom Kando that argues “Demography is Destiny,” a statement attributed to Auguste Comte, the father of sociology. In his analysis, Kando concludes that the single variable that correlates most with violence is age. Statistics show that more homicides per capita occur in places where the median age is lower. Further breaking it down, the most violence occurs where there are a high number of unemployed young males. This pattern occurs in data comparing countries where, for example, the homicide rate is higher in Venezuela with a median age of 25.8 than the United States with a median age of 36.9. It is even lower in Japan, where the median age is 44.6. This correlation also occurs within countries where, for example, the homicide rate is higher in Chicago, with a median age of 31.5, than in Plano, Texas, which has a median age of 38. Some commonly discussed factors, like the number of handguns per capita, much higher in Plano than Chicago, do not correspond so directly to the homicide rate. More homicides occur where youth are idle, frustrated, and unemployed. Continue reading →
All three articles in this issue of IJWP are concerned with interest group influence on state policy and the negative effects it creates. In On War, Carl von Clausewitz described war as “politics by other means.” In this assertion, he recognized that “politics” is a contest of power over control of governance and resources and not necessarily “governance” itself. Politics tends to be about who controls power and not about how the political system operates successfully. In a realist world, political science often becomes a study about how an interest group can achieve its own end, not how the system can be prosperous, just, and stable.
A working system of governance should be “non-political” in the sense that it is based on universally accepted principles, the way we accept the principle of gravity. Despite ideology, ethnic background, or desire to achieve a specific end, if you walk off a cliff you will fall to your death. A natural principle trumps political will. Inevitably, failed states are those whose rule of law did not respect principles of good governance. This is why good political science should be focused on the principles of functional political systems, rather than the science of how an interest group can assert itself over others. The science of how a particular group can achieve its ends will always lead to collisions with other groups doing the same, and this makes political science the science of deliberate conflict instead of a science of peace or justice. Continue reading →
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I (WWI), the beginning of modern mechanized war at the global level. WWI represented a watershed in which war fought between traditional kings and their armies was transformed into wars among states whose policies are determined by political parties and bureaucrats. It also represented a huge technological shift, beginning with rifles, bayonets, pistols and calvaries, and ending with mustard gas, tanks, submarine torpedoes, and airplane bombs. Modern weapons of mass destruction do not easily distinguish between soldier and civilian, or confine themselves to traditional geographical borders. Traditional armies were decimeated by new weaponry, and the collateral damage on civilians escalated as well. Nearly 20 million people died in WWI; half were civilians.
The article, “Greece and the Road to World War I” by George Kaloudis, focuses on the nature of nation-state alliances and the configuration of great powers vs. smaller powers. It discusses the impact World War I had on a smaller state. Smaller states were lured into alliances with larger powers both for promises of protection and promises of a share of victory spoils. In the case of Greece, the war divided the nation internally as the king sided with the Central Powers while the democratically elected leader sided with the Allied Powers. The goals of modern democratic states are often determined by large institutional interests, rather than the head of state, as described by outgoing U.S. President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex.” Continue reading →
This issue of IJWP begins with an article by Norman K. Swazo on the biography of the jihadist Abu Zubaydah, who has spent many years in Guantanamo Bay detention. It is the story of a young man struggling with a conflicted identity rooted in his own upbringing in a rigid Islamic family in Saudi Arabia and his experiences related to more complex and secular Western societies. The meaning this young man came to find in a jihadist movement was only reinforced by the post-9/11 Bush doctrine that advocated the use of preemptive violence against perceived American enemies. The folly of the Bush strategy is discussed by Shah M. Tarzi in our second article.
Violence is an innate biological reaction to frustration that is inherited for self-preservation. We see young babies screaming, kicking, and waving their arms wildly when needs are not met and they know of no other way to get milk or a diaper change. We are also too aware of the fact that most of human history has been about conquest, plunder, and rape—forms of violence employed to achieve personal or state ends. The main focus of this journal, and of the entire field of peace and conflict studies generally, has been to move beyond violence to civil behavior and cooperation. The “Seville Declaration” of 1986 declared that “biology does not condemn humanity to war.… How we act is shaped by how we have been conditioned and socialized.”1 Non-violent modes of interaction can be learned, and can lead to resolving frustrations and achieving human goals. Continue reading →