The International Order is Broken
We know this because the world’s politicians are using military means to solve what are essentially political problems they don’t know how to solve.
As the Syrian crisis rolls into its 8th year no clear winner has emerged, other than ISIS being degraded by Western and Russian forces operating throughout Syria.
“No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Not that Russia and the West are working together to destroy ISIS (far from it!) rather, Western countries are working to destroy the evil entity to prevent it from spreading across the Middle East and the Western world, while the Russians are tearing ISIS apart because it represents an internal threat to Syria, its longtime ally.
Which are reasonable and noble goals.
But at any time since the Syrian conflict began in 2010, Western, Russian and Syrian diplomats could’ve worked out a plan to solve the terrorist problem inside Syria and could’ve wrapped up the whole mess within 24 months with relatively few civilian casualties. But they didn’t. Or they couldn’t.
The very definition of broken-ness, right there.
Could have. Should have. But. they. just. couldn’t. get. it. done.
Why Are We Broken?
When the interests of several countries align — and they still can’t put together a unified coalition — it’s a textbook case of a broken international order.
Which is how we stumbled into WWI, WWII, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghan War, and several other conflicts, such as the Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 people in a matter of days. And we know how those wars turned out, and we know (within 10 million deaths) how many people were killed in total in those 20th-century conflicts.
The failure of politicians and their diplomats to find better solutions and thereby prevent those wars is appalling beyond any scale that humans can understand.
“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”
Sometimes, very complicated problems can result from a very simple problem.
FOR EXAMPLE: The neighbourhood’s troubled teen filling your car gas tank with water overnight — although a simple act in itself — can cause serious problems after the car is driven the following morning. Such a simple act can cost a vehicle owner hundreds of dollars to repair and cause major inconvenience.
And likewise, every war fought in the 20th-century was caused by an astonishingly simple misunderstanding of human psychology by the world’s politicians and diplomats.
We are broken because those politicians believed that employing ‘Win-Lose’ thinking to solve problems was the preferred path, instead of realizing that ‘Win-Win’ thinking is a higher form of thinking that only humans can employ to solve problems.
Every war since 1900 is the direct result of employing ‘Win-Lose’ thinking to solve political problems. Another way to say it, is that every single death and injury caused by war in the 20th-century is 100% on the heads of the people who practiced politics and diplomacy in that century — because their thinking wasn’t up to the task.
Never in human history had anyone seen bungling on the scale of 20th-century world leaders.
Therefore, as the ‘default mode’ for politicians in the 20th-century was to employ ‘Win-Lose’ thinking, every serious disagreement turned into war and mega-millions died as a result.
Because the politicians of the day resorted to their animal instincts, over 250 million people were killed in war and in the famines caused by war in the 20th-century. Some might call that number a conservative estimate of the total death toll of war during the previous century.
Sobering, isn’t it?
Aren’t We Better Than That?
Apparently not. Because even today we’re still using bombs to solve the problems we’re not smart enough to solve. Problems that humans created aren’t being solved, because we’re not using the right methods to solve our problems.
So we bomb our way out of problems.
Using ‘Win-Win’ Thinking to Solve Our Problems
There are few examples of the world’s politicians using ‘Win-Win’ thinking to solve our very human psychological problems.
Ending the Cold War is the stellar achievement for diplomats in the 20th-century. And just in time, because the civilization that humans built over thousands of years came dangerously close to annihilation many times during the Cold War.
Another example of ‘Win-Win’ thinking occurred when the world’s politicians and scientists came together to sign the Montreal Protocol to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons from our supply chains; chemical compounds that were rapidly destroying the Earth’s ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol has been called ‘the most successful accord in history’.
Yet another example of ‘Win-Win’ thinking occurred when the Allied Powers joined forces after World War II to rebuild Europe using the Marshall Plan to fund food aid, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, and to help establish a fairer world order based on peaceful relations. In postwar Japan, the Allied Powers facilitated the country’s rebuilding by purchasing billions of dollars of Japanese goods and benefited the Allied Powers even moreso than it benefited the former Axis Power.
Without the assistance of these, the most brilliant minds that ever lived, humanity may have become extinct long before the year 2000.
The ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who ended the Cold War, the ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who ended the use of chlorofluorocarbons, and the ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who invested in the former Axis Power economies during the postwar era, changed our world for the better (at the very least) and may be responsible for saving all life on the planet (at best).
Those examples prove ‘Win-Win’ thinking can work to solve our problems and that we don’t need to retain ‘Win-Lose’ thinking as our default problem-solving method.
Regardless of the Method we Choose, we Must Stand Up for Our Principles
President Donald Trump today authorized 3 military strikes inside Syria to hit suspected chemical weapons sites or chemical research and development (R&D) facilities ostensibly used by the Syrian military.
The president cited Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution in his justification for the attack saying that Syria represented an area of strategic importance to the United States. However, there almost isn’t a place on Earth that is of less strategic importance to the U.S. and its allies, as Syria.
It may be the president’s remarks were incomplete or he misread his teleprompter — because Syria isn’t a strategic place from the U.S. viewpoint — and if he sticks to that view he will spend days or weeks defending this military action to members of the Congress and Senate.
What is of strategic importance to the United States (and what would work for members of Congress charged with upholding the U.S. Constitution) is that preventing the proliferation and use of chemical weapons is of strategic importance to the United States, and therefore, President Trump’s authorization of use of force is justified and necessary, and in the best interest of the United States.
In that way the president’s use of force is legal and justified under the U.S. Constitution, and may also serve as a deterrent to a Syrian regime which seems bent on destroying significant numbers of its population with which it differs, and which so far has refused any chance to allow them escape to another country.
Choosing Humanity vs. Hubris: Why We Fight
Exterminating your own citizens because they have a different political view isn’t acceptable and no doubt President Trump is privy to images and videos from Syria that are marked classified because they’re too horrific for U.S. television viewers to see.
And let’s be honest, seeing those images hastened his decision to veer hard towards military action rather than continuing to employ so-called ‘Soft Power’ to bring a diplomatic solution to the Syrian debacle.
It may be that punishing Syria each time it uses chemical weapons against civilians or terrorist entities will serve as an effective deterrent. However, Syrian forces may become more adept at hiding such attacks from Western eyes and ears.
“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized.”
Syria’s plan seems to be to kill every terrorist, every non-combatant family member of terrorists, or any person stuck in an area known to contain terrorist entities.
While this may seem normal to dictators, it is highly offensive to civilized people. Even Syria’s ally Russia abhors attacks on civilians and non-combatants — and Russian citizens seem extremely offended when chemical attacks are used to solve what are, in the final analysis, human problems for which the diplomats haven’t yet found solutions.
Short-term Deterrence or Long-term Mutual Success?
Whether Tomahawk missile attacks act as a deterrent to Syrian chemical weapons attacks inside Syria, or not — at least President Trump can say that America and its allies didn’t stand idly by and let it happen without challenging it.
Yet, the better way (although, admittedly the long-term way) to solve this crisis is to show these heinous acts on every television in the world, to explain what is actually occurring there, to make chemical weapons use anywhere on the planet unacceptable to everyone, and to use ‘Win-Win’ thinking to save our broken, but still human, civilization.
When we finally adopt ‘Win-Win’ thinking as our default option to deal with human-caused problems, that will be the day that human beings finally surpass the animal kingdom in every way on this planet. And if we don’t, our short break from the threat of Cold War-style Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) will soon be over.
Written by John Brian Shannon