Is This War World III?

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Is This War World III?

Syrian refugee women stand in line to receive their family's share of winter aid kits at the Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border. (Photo: AP/Mohammad Hannon)

There are 60 million refugees in the world, the same number as were refugees at the end of WW II. 

On October 31 in an unprecedented joint warning, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross called for "states to stop conflicts, respect international law and aid refugees." Criticizing the global response to the refugee crisis, Ban Ki-moon said, "In the face of blatant inhumanity, the world has responded with disturbing paralysis." 

Despite the "unprecedented" warning, it has not received enough news coverage (a Google search turned up one hit on a news story in the Guardian UK and a post at Common Dreams) compared to the many hits any celebrity scandal generates.  The chill goes down my spine when I think it's like the world inaction when Hitler was exterminating Jews across Europe. 

Is this WWIII?  

I don't know what the criteria of WW III would be, but when I sat down to make an list of current factors that could be considered, this is what I came up with and it's not looking too good:

  • Multiple confrontations between the U.S. and Russia on more than one front (Ukraine and Syria)
  • Ongoing confrontations between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea
  • A renewed nuclear arms race in which all nuclear nations are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of fulfilling treaty obligations to disarm
  • Politically unacknowledged failure of all U.S. war policies in the Middle East and across Asia; universal continued pretense by the U.S. military and political elites that  more war will fix the disasters
  • The global arms trade in which the U.S. accounts for three-quarters of the global arms market
  • Global military expenditure are $1.711 trillion, the global arms trade is $100 billion/annually, AND military spending in the Middle East in 2014 rose by 75% to $173 billion
  • Japan has scotched its peace constitution
  • The refugee crisis shows no sign of abating and every sign of growing and continuing to be ill-managed by the global community complete with terrible percolations of hatred towards the refugees in nations experiencing the influx
  • Economic belligerence by wealthier nations towards less wealthy nations (one example: E.U. towards Greece, there are many other examples of rich nations bleeding poor ones)
  • Nations and mass populations remain stubbornly indifferent to the series of crises with few exceptions
  • Climate change is happening, seas are forecast now to rise up to 3 feet and probably more (even as much as 10 feet in a century or 2) and upcoming Paris talks are widely expected to fail
  • There is continued suppression of dissent by surveillance, persecution of whistle-blowers and journalists with repressive police tactics used at protests around the world

The conflicts driving people to hit the road or the seas are not going to be solved by any nations dropping more bombs, putting "boots on the ground" or arming one or more sides. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. bears the most responsibility for the current crises as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world" – as true today as when Martin Luther King said it in 1967.  At the same time, U.S. peace organizations are all struggling to raise needed funds to continue our efforts – marginalized though we are.  This is a substantial problem that needs to be resolved.  To solve these crises we need to bring the wars to a close. 

If we are so inured to the suffering endured by our fellow human beings that we do not address the current refugee crisis, we are in great danger.  Human empathy is a road to transformative change – that which we would not want to happen to ourselves is something we must work to prevent happening to our fellow brothers and sisters.  This goes for wars as well as addressing climate change to our greatest collective ability. 

When we fail in our responsibilities to this fundamental aspect of our being human is when hatred ascends and wars spiral out of control.  Is this the current moment and if so what are we going to do about it?

Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth is a coordinating committee member of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a national peace coalition founded in 2003. UFPJ is currently working on a "Peace Pledge" campaign, details of which can be found here.

 

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