The three wars

Image: Ahmed Akacha


The recent ruling by the International Court of Justice may not have an immediate impact on the ongoing war, but it will erode the legitimacy of the settler colonialism and apartheid project in the long term.

The three major wars or conflicts currently underway demonstrate the volatility of the intersection between the local and the global.

In the Hamas-Israel conflict, we see how the maintenance of the Israeli settler-colonial state is intertwined with the preservation of US global hegemony.

In the Ukraine war, a bloody war of attrition between two countries that was provoked by pressure from Washington to expand NATO to a country in the former Soviet Union.

In the South China Sea, we are witnessing the rise of territorial and natural resource disputes into a global conflict, due to the US effort to maintain its global hegemony against China, to which it is losing geoeconomic competition, but over which continue to enjoy absolute military superiority.

In short, the main cause of today's global instability lies in the fusion of the local and the global, of geopolitics and geoeconomics, of empire and capitalism.

Balance of power, balance of terror

What makes today's conflicts especially volatile is the fact that they are occurring in the absence of any effective multilateral coercive authority to impose a peaceful solution. In Ukraine, it is the balance of military power that will determine the outcome of the war, and in this case, Russia appears to be prevailing over the Ukraine-NATO-US axis.

In the Middle East, there is no effective coercive power that opposes the behemoth Israeli-American military – which makes even more remarkable the fact that, despite a genocidal campaign that has lasted almost four months, Israel has not achieved its main war objective, which is the destruction of Hamas.

In the South China Sea, what determines the course of events is the balance of power between China and the United States. There are no “rules of the game,” so there is always the possibility that American and Chinese ships playing “chicken”—or heading toward each other and then diverting at the last minute—accidentally collide, and this collision could escalate to a higher form of conflict, such as conventional warfare.

Without effective coercive restrictions imposed by a multilateral organization on hegemon and their allies, they can easily descend into genocide and mass murder. Whether in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza, the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention have turned out to be mere pieces of paper.

The right to self-defense

In the absence of a multilateral arbitrator capable of imposing his will, only the development of a political, diplomatic and military counterpower can contain the hegemon. This is the lesson that the wars of national liberation in Algeria and Vietnam taught the world. This is the lesson that the Palestinian resistance teaches us today.

This is why, while we condemn the imperial wars carried out by hegemon, we must defend the right of people to resort to armed self-defense.

This does not mean that the peacemaking efforts of global civil society do not have a role to play. He has. I still remember how, just before the invasion of Iraq, or The New York Times published an article, on February 17, 2003, in response to massive mobilizations against the planned invasion of Iraq, in which he said that there were only two superpowers left in the world, which were the United States and global public opinion, and that the then president George W. Bush ignored this outpouring of global resistance at his peril.

Global civil society actually contributed to the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by eroding the legitimacy of these wars among the American public, making them so unpopular that even Donald Trump denounced them – that is, in retrospect – as did many personalities who voted in favor of the war in the US Congress.

The recent ruling by the International Court of Justice, which ordered Israel to stop the genocide in Gaza, will likely have a similar impact to global civil society's resistance to Bush Jr.'s invasion of Iraq. The ruling by the International Court of Justice may not have an immediate impact on the ongoing war, but will erode the legitimacy of the project of colonialism and apartheid of settlers in the long term, deepening Israel's isolation.

A just peace

We often see peace as an ideal state. But the peace of a cemetery is not peace. A peace bought at the price of fascist repression is not only not desirable but will not last.

Oppressed peoples, like the Palestinians, will refuse peace at any price, peace that is obtained at the cost of humiliation. As demonstrated in the 76 years since Nakba, the massive expulsion from their lands and their homes, the Palestinians are not satisfied with anything less than a peace with justice, which allows them to recover their lands confiscated by the Israelis, establish a sovereign state “from the river to the sea” and allow them to raise their heads with pride.

The rest of the world owes them their unconditional support to bring about this just peace by all means possible, while opposing imperial wars led by hegemons in other parts of the world.

*Walden Bello He holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Princeton and a former representative in the Philippine House of Representatives (2009-2015). Author, among other books, of Counterrevolution: The global rise of the far right (Fernwood Publishing) [].

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the portal counter punch.

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