War a foregone lose-lose option

The Canadian government, as distinct from the U.S. government, is misreading the tea-leaves as it signs up to join the impending war that will be unleashed in Iraq (and likely in neighbouring parts of Syria as well) by an alliance of 41 countries seeking to combat ISIS.

Our prime minister does not have to get involved but has chosen to do so. On the other hand, the momentum pushing the Obama administration into this war is based on the solution-less helplessness of a bellicose culture to which President Barack Obama himself does not belong but which he is powerless to resist.

We will all end up losers. In most cases, war is a mere Band-Aid measure that worsens problems instead of resolving them.

This war effort will fail for a host of reasons.

It does not address the root causes of the civil war in Iraq and is devoid of realistic medium-term and long-term plans. It is unlikely that the objectives have been detailed in writing and agreed to by the well-intentioned anti-terrorist allies, some of whom had themselves supported the same “terrorist” forces in earlier times in their joint efforts to overthrow political regimes which had overstayed their welcome in government.

Case studies of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Iran bear out the relevance of selective regime change, based on the toxic dictates of political hegemony, the valuable resources (especially oil and gas) at stake , and the greed of individuals and interest groups (such as the military).

The balance of power in the world today has changed so significantly that wars are no longer as “successful” in achieving the set objectives as they were in the past. In the 20th century, in previous centuries and in previous millennia, war was more “effective” because there was little or no accountability for the parties involved and affected, nor particularly to the international community of nations as is now the case.

So, the question that arises is: What is the alternative to military intervention?

We have to start by admitting the flagrant truth. We have all failed to address the root causes in this situation and to address the principle of rational and balanced priorities in any one society including our own, and indeed in the global society. We keep insisting that productivity and competitivity of the economy are the way forward, without giving higher priority to the life-and-death challenges, the bread-and-butter challenges of hunger; poverty; equitable access to health, education and housing; to climate change and environmental degradation.

Then we can also fess up to our unwillingness to battle the fundamental power imbalance in the international governance system, such as in the UN Security Council.

Furthermore, in cases like Iraq, we can put all of the directly affected parties and their regional integration and cooperation agencies at the centre of the deliberations in the search for solutions. We may even have to seek out the cultural, ethnic and geo-historical commonalities that were disregarded and discarded during the colonial and imperial periods of that region’s experience.

Today’s managerial gurus keep telling us that failure is delayed success. It may be more accurate in this rush to an “allied” military solution to state that war is repeatedly delayed failure.