“If you have a pistol hanging on the wall in the first act, it should be fired in the second.” — Anton Chekov
All around the world, the same song has been playing since the dawn of human civilization. Since humankind abandoned the tree tops to wander upright, then abandoned foraging for farms, then farms for towns and towns for cities, the same song has set the tune and history has danced.
We want to live together, obviously. The faster, free exchange of ideas from larger and larger groups of humans living in close proximity is a driver of modern technology and all life as we know it. We keep concentrating ourselves into larger and larger numbers, living all boxed-in apartment complexes, office buildings, and modular houses.
Once in a while, we collectively experience something so unpleasant or dangerous, it reminds us why this isn’t always a good idea.
Diseases and viruses spread more easily in a large, heavily-concentrated population. People sometimes concentrate so closely together as to cause injury and death.
And then there is the real mortal enemy of humans and it isn’t viruses or microbes but our own fatal flaw. It is a generational disease so deeply woven into the fabric of human society, it might even be imprinted on our DNA. We have been beset by permutations, variants and strains of it as long as humans have been keeping records, and long before that judging by archeological evidence of 60,000 year-old human skulls bearing the unmistakable signs of blunt force trauma
Violence is endemic to human societies and civilization. It is as ubiquitous as the housefly, as old as the hand axe, as prevalent as taxes.
Human beings have been engaged in an arms race since long before the inventors of the chariot wiped the battlefield with their opponents.
In spite of the fact that we live in the Information Age- and there is no shortage of information about war, the wars which have been fought, why they were fought and how, including pictures, war persists into the modern age.
Today, there are perhaps as many wars and rumors of wars as ever.
Each generation must, at some point, accept the fact that mankind has not seen the last of war. Some generations must confront this truth more vigorously than others: All generations hope they won’t have to.
Even considering the modern weapons of war, the crowning jewels of the arms race; an arsenal probably capable of destroying all human life on the planet and possibly every living creature into the bargain- nations still perpetuate wars on other nations.
We have invented nuclear and other energy weapons capable of killing millions of people at once and leveling entire cities, so dangerous they are euphemistically referred to as “Mutually Assured Destruction.”
This is as good a philosophical argument as any against the use of euphemisms for things that involve the human suffering and death on a massive scale. It’s important to define our terms and words matter. Mutually Assured Destruction, even more euphemistically called “MAD” is really the prolonged and agonizing death of almost every living person on earth following the instant death of everyone else.
Biological and chemical weapons that produce injuries too horrific to contemplate stock the arsenals of many a superpower, the U.S. included. There are stealth weapons, ballistic missiles, spy satellites, and advanced surveillance technology invented in Silicon Valley, sold for a mint, and perfected by the Chinese Communist Party.
These are the formidable weapons of modern warfare about which we know. There are a great many as yet unidentified aerial phenomenons, as the U.S. Military likes to call UFOs these days. Jokes about ETs aside, at least some percentage of these are bound to be military test aircraft or weapons systems, conducted by one secretive nation or another.
In war, you don’t always fight with the weapons you have. Sometimes, a clever battle commander can fight with weapons they don’t have. Knowing the capability of U.S. spy satellites during the Cold War, the enterprising Soviets constructed fake military bases complete with cardboard cutouts of tanks. It worked, too.
Old weapons of war have been turned into weapons of mass destruction in the modern age of social media.
Warmongers have hammered the plough share of the printing press into a sword of misinformation and disinformation warfare, psychological operations conducted online and in country to undermine governments, political parties, powerful interests. Content farms, troll armies and phantom hackers shut down oil pipelines, influence the outcomes of elections, organize protests by opposing political groups on the same day, at the same time, in the same place.
None of this is new in warfare, even if the permutations of old tactics are new. It’s the playbook the British Raj used to stay in power in India for so long, and why Gandhi was such an important figure.
The only way thousands of people can rule over millions is with the consent of the governed…unless the governed are too busy fighting among themselves. Deepening existing divisions between castes in India was a cornerstone of British success. Gandhi was a political uniter and the British ruling class was no match for the united people of India.
Without this type of underhanded, undermining warfare, a tea company could never have taken over an entire country.
It is a strategy frequently employed by those without a mind to MAD; who don’t mind marching the world a little closer to another war. They either don’t believe it will happen, or they stand to profit from it.
The Chinese Communist Party is using such strategies against Taiwan; a nasty bit of chess playing it calls the “Three Warfares” and has also been known to use against India…and probably others including but not limited to the U.S. and Australia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is employing the strategy against his nearest geopolitical rival and potential future property, Ukraine.
Towards the Ukraine, the actions of Putin’s Russia have grown positively alarming over the past few months. Since summer, he has refused any dialogue with Ukrainian leaders, rejected all mediation efforts and began amassing a great many Russian tanks in the border region as if poised to invade Ukraine.
He is also engaging in a whisper campaign against the Ukraine; pushing misinformation and speculation like predicting Ukraine’s immediate acceptance into NATO and an impending genocide soon to be perpetrated in Ukraine against its Russian-speaking populations.
Foreign policy observers are sounding alarm bells about Putin’s intentions. He is laying the groundwork for Russia to annex the Ukraine, trying to undermine its support from NATO and preparing the Russian people for war. He has introduced a weapon in act one he may intend to use in act two.
This isn’t a new conflict; 14,000 people have already died in the non-war between Russia and the Ukraine since 2013. The question isn’t “What is Putin going to do?” but “What is Putin going to do next?”
Putin’s designs on Ukraine are as troubling as the CCP’s immediate plans to annex Taiwan, the way it did Hong Kong. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have designs on neighboring Greece.
How much are war-weary world powers willing to tolerate? Will it be peace at any price? Or war?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)