New Year, old notions

As midnight chimed fireworks sparkled and people held hands, hugged and wished each other Happy New Year. Meanwhile in far too many places rather more dreadful pyrotechnics continued being unleashed.

Rockets erupted with fire and shrapnel in heavily populated built up areas, the deadly crackle of assault rifles continued to exact an inexorable toll of civilians and soldiers alike. The recently screened BBC series Vigil is being repeatedly realised in awful reality as military drones are launched by leaders utterly unconcerned about casualties, mere collateral damage.

While Russia and Ukraine continue their internecine conflict, their place in the headlines has been temporarily usurped by Israel’s determination to out-atrocity Hamas, apparently quite prepared to risk provoking Hezbollah into some futile act of bellicose response.

Two bombs in Iran have been exploded, amongst a crowd assembled to pay respects to a military man assassinated by an external power, seemingly by Islamic State. Muslims slaughtered by Muslims. The Middle East is demonstrating that the three Abrahamic religions, whatever they might profess otherwise, are no promoters of peace.

American evangelical Christians even claim the conflicts in and around Palestine have a divine purpose. Their government is seemingly prepared to continue supplying weaponry and support to those deemed politically righteous. Ukraine has even moved the birthday of Jesus, from their orthodox point of view, into line with their allies.

There is a common feature in all these conflicts; that is, the fundamental competitive nature of capitalism being expressed as nationalism. Zionist state, Palestinian two-states, Islamic State, or the states essentially created by the Bolsheviks now fighting it out.

In Britain, amongst those whose ‘socialism’ is in the Leninist tradition, there are arguments favouring one side or another in the conflicts. There are those who claim groups such as Hamas must not be criticised for their actions because they represent the oppressed.

How representative they actually are is debatable as there is no way of objectively assessing how many in Gaza actually lend Hamas their support. But even if they do it is hard to see how the seemingly random killing of a 1,000 plus Israelis advances Palestinian well-being. Especially as the response of Israel’s government was wholly predictable.

Political leaderships and their military ultimately will prioritise their nation’s state over the lives of the citizens. The common man, woman and child, are an expendable resource, self-replicating in the longer term, in the struggle for competitive advantage.

It is worth pointing out to those who profess their anti-imperialism through their partiality for this side or that in these armed conflicts that history is against them. A half century or so ago anti-American imperialism’s activists marched the streets chanting, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh, Vietcong are going the win’. They did, and fifty years later Vietnam is securely capitalist and well favoured by America.

However, in 1965, General Curtis E. LeMay, US Airforce Chief of staff, referring to North Vietnam said, ‘We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age’. Subsequently, an uncounted number of Vietnamese were killed by frequent bombing from altitudes so high there could be no pretence that military targets were identified, or that civilian casualties were unfortunate, but unintentional. There was also the widespread use of Agent Orange, a defoliant that caused widespread birth defects at the time and also in those conceived long after the war ended.

This campaign was conducted on behalf of the nation whose representatives are presently calling on Israel to moderate its action in Gaza, while continuing to supply the munitions.

Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Iraq subjected to ‘shock and awe’, Ukraine and Russia, Hamas and the IDF, all justified by national interests. It also raises the question of what constitutes terrorism. If it means inflicting terror on those on the receiving end, then terrorism is the default position of all nation states when pursuing their interests militarily, either actually or by threat.

Peel away the publicly stated rationales offered in justification, then competing nationalisms are exposed. Putin can accurately point to NATO expansion, but it’s Russian interests opposed to Ukraine’s, which has its own self-identified national interests to defend, that have led, once more, to war.

In the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia look on the present conflict with their own competing national interests in mind. One antithetical to Israel, the other perceiving benefit from a possible working relationship with Tel Aviv.

And so the behind the scenes discussions revolve around the one-state and the two-state solutions for Palestinians. As if by drawing more lines on maps nationalist divisions can be ameliorated if not wholly overcome.

Meanwhile British politicians continue to invoke Israel’s right to self-defence as if that mitigates somewhat the humanitarian tragedy being enacted. The moral high ground may seem an exalted place to stand, looking down on those seemingly too benighted to look up and see beyond their errors. But it is a cold, isolated place.

Not that the UK is exempt from nationalism, rather it is riddled with it. From coronations to Brexit to political divisions, its competitive nature all too apparent. This year’s general election will be promoted by the SNP as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence.

This demonstrates an essential feature of nationalism, which is that it is pitched against ‘the other’. The other in this case is England, as if there is something elemental to being Scottish that is fundamentally different to being English.

Surely, a denizen of Edinburgh has more in common with a Londoner than a crofter on Orkney, as the Londoner compared with a North Yorkshire hill farmer. Neighbours living next door to each other have similarities and differences. But their best interests are served by sharing their commonalities and their individual attributes.

Far better than killing each other over which flag should be saluted is ditching all the flags and working together to realise human potential throughout the world. A truly international commonwealth in which competition has been replaced by cooperation.

Gaza will be the present iteration of terror inflicted by the bellicose until the slaughter is put on pause before being unleashed elsewhere. Unless and until, that is, people decide, as we are well capable of doing, to abolish capitalism and its attendant nationalistic notions.


Next article: ‘Defence diplomacy’ ⮞

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