Playing with fire!

Image: Marcelo Guimarães Lima


The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and now Israel and Hamas, shows the reckless attitudes of current world leaders and the real risk of a wider war

Those in power are playing with fire. And it's not today! In fact, at the beginning of the European summer, before the outbreak of the First World War, during the traditional July holidays of 1914, the main leaders of the great powers did what they always did: they went on vacation. Even though the previous decades had been marked by an unprecedented escalation in the arms race around the world, no one was betting on a war that would engulf the planet in the following four years, with serious and extensive consequences.

Likewise, the Second World War – today seen as an extension of the first – was not wanted by anyone except Germany. However, even Hitler came to German power through democratic means, after a failed coup attempt a few years earlier. At that time, the leaders of the main winning powers in the Western bloc still believed they could control Hitler through economic and territorial concessions. We all know how it all ended…

But what we have in fact, in the end, is that the last 80 years have been affected, to a greater or lesser extent, by the two great wars that the last century bequeathed to us.

Having made this brief digression, it is imperative to raise awareness about the reckless attitudes of current world leaders in recent years, perhaps decades. As you can see, if the great challenge we need to face, resulting from the profound climate changes already felt across the globe, as a result of the irresponsible actions of political groups embedded in the power of the largest world powers, was not enough, now we are facing a type of fire that we should have definitively extinguished by now: a World War, the Third.

In this context, if the war conflict involving Russia and Ukraine already denoted a devastating potential for the pretensions of world peace - to the extent that NATO has provided all possible help to that second country, under the express orders of the United States - , the outbreak of the new and most intense conflict in recent decades between Hamas and Israel could lead the world to collapse.

You see, dear reader, in the two conflicts mentioned above, it is necessary to go beyond the vain media philosophy, which always tries to treat one side as a villain and the other as a victim. In times of liquid post-modernity, it is certain that news and true information are as available as fake news. Therefore, anyone who wants to better understand the unique moment in which we live must advance in the search for credible information, to try to draw their own conclusions, based on the facts presented.

Therefore, I present my conclusion here, succinctly, with the aim of stimulating debate and reasoned criticism: the two main conflicts that are currently highlighted in the media – as there are several others “forgotten” by it – are not, In no way, two isolated facts, but two sides of the same coin, even if they have different regional specificities. For those who may doubt, we will list some considerations that support this argument.

Firstly, neither in the Russia x Ukraine conflict, nor in this more recent one between Israel x Hamas, is there a “good guy”, that is, all these actors are to blame for everything that has been happening in their regions.

In the Russia x Ukraine conflict, despite Russia being the aggressor and being responsible for subjecting the civilian population of the invaded country to atrocities, it did not attack suddenly, due to the mere bloodthirsty will of its current ruler, a dictator. Even if we consider the fingerprints of an expansionist Russia, at least regionally speaking, the truth is that the United States systematically violated the agreement signed between the then President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the then US Secretary of State, James Baker , which established that NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) would not advance “even an inch towards Eastern Europe”. This was in 1991.

There is no way to ignore, therefore, that the United States, and its armed wing called NATO, knew the consequences of bringing Eastern European countries to their side, through inclusion in that organization. The disintegration of the USSR, and its corresponding armed wing, namely the Warsaw Pact, offered the United States the possibility of adding to its ranks former countries that orbited the “iron curtain”. However, Russia made it very clear that some countries were “non-negotiable”, such as Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine itself.

In relation to the conflict that now scandalizes us, and despite Hamas having acted in a brutal and animalistic manner, an ignominy towards the Palestinian people, the truth is that the Gaza Strip is, today, the largest open-air prison on the planet. Now, are all the Palestinians who live there, or who lived there before this catastrophe broke out, terrorists? Are they all radical fundamentalists belonging to Hamas or are the majority made up of normal people who seek to live, honestly, on a daily basis under the sign of oppression imposed by a military power of the caliber of Israel?

I personally believe in this second option. Therefore, seeing Israel respond disproportionately to Hamas' infamous attack, killing thousands of fleeing civilians, who have nothing to do with the dispute in question, certainly seems to me to be an atrocity. More than that: it is a genocide that will mark the next generations of Palestinians, who today suffer from the loss of loved ones, the vast majority of them innocently. Or does anyone in their right mind think that the more than 6.000 bombs already launched by Israel in just eight days, in a tiny territory that is home to approximately two million people, are surgically falling only on the heads of Hamas members?

The second point of similarity between these two conflicts is the geopolitical interests of each of the four actors involved, as well as the great powers behind them (not so far behind today).

In fact, if in the Russia x Ukraine conflict the appropriation of vast natural resources by Russia, the so-called “commodities”, and all the best evacuation routes from them is at stake, for Ukraine, with a strong historical fascist inclination, the opportunity to leave of the Russian orbit of influence and, consequently, further undermining the bases of support for the imperial will of its executioner, under the blessing of the greatest world power, the United States, seemed too good to be ignored.

It is no coincidence that the negotiations for Ukraine's entry into NATO took place without much fanfare in the mainstream media and without rushing, perhaps to catch Russia off guard. But the United States was acting surreptitiously, as the coup d'état against elected Ukrainian President Viktor Janucovich in early 2014 showed.

In the Israel x Hamas conflict, the issue becomes a little more complicated, because there is only one State, which is Israel. Hamas is a fundamentalist Shiite militia that even has a rival among the Palestinians, which is the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, at first glance, there is no comparison in terms of geopolitical interests between Israel and Hamas. But this is only at first glance, given that Hamas is directly influenced by its more powerful cousin, Hezbollah, which is viscerally linked to Iran.

The most recent events in the Middle East region indicate a rapprochement between Israel and some countries in the region, notably the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, and a possible agreement with the largest of them, Saudi Arabia, although still uncertain, and Iran's theocratic regime does not welcome this approach. In this sense, the vexatious situation that Israel imposes on the Palestinians, mainly in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank, serves as a pretext for Iran to try to block agreements that would leave it practically isolated in the region.

A third consideration still needs to be briefly analyzed. Certainly, the economic logic of capitalist accumulation through war prevails in both war conflicts. This is not new. Even though the whole world is not involved (nor can it be, under penalty of experiencing the end of the human adventure on earth), all the wars fought throughout the history of the human animal had, at least in the shadow, economic interest. What is new in these conflicts is, more than what could happen with the escalations of both, the confirmation of Giovanni Arrighi's theory that, finally, American corporate capitalism is in its twilight.

Indeed, if for the aforementioned author war reproduces a repetitive pattern of the capitalist world economy (Arrighi, 1996, p. 283), that is, war acts as a capitalist engine, the management of this long-lasting historical capitalism required the American superpower the formation of increasingly powerful blocs of government and business organizations “as the main agents of capital accumulation on a global scale”. (Arrighi, 1996, p. 309)

Thus, under the aegis of the “financialization” of capital promoted by apparently limitless technological expansion, the United States repeated the pattern of polarizing effects of “financialization” pointed out by Arrighi (1996, caput 2, pages 87 to 162), in the century of Renaissance Florence. The balance that is now being charged in a more impactful way, already pointed out by him since the 1970s, is in line with SCHUMPETER's (1984) double thesis, according to which capitalism is so strong that one cannot have any idea of ​​its collapse , while his own success creates the ideal conditions for him not to survive.

Now, the United States knows that it can no longer deal with all the imbroglios that exist in the world. They know, first of all, that their own “Belle Époque” of the Reagan years. In this third decade of the XNUMXst century, for the first time in almost a century, the United States sees in its rearview mirror the rapid approach of a great power: China. But not just hers, as India will also arrive, albeit belatedly. In other words, the United States knows that the axis of economic and financial supremacy will shift to the East, perhaps within this century.

Hence his desperate and final attempt to involve everyone in regional wars, which must be prolonged and deadly as possible, taking care, however, that they do not assume global proportions. The United States knows that without the destruction caused by regional wars, demanding reconstruction, which only they are capable of offering throughout the world, they will be swept away by history, as were all other world powers in the past.

The risk of collapse exists and, unfortunately for the United States, it can be overthrown on two different fronts: internally, Roman style, by the predominantly Latin immigrants that they hate so much; externally, by the Chinese and Indian hordes that, together, will number more than three billion people in this XNUMXst century. However, as history itself teaches, the United States will not fall (if at all) without a fight. No world power fell without causing serious damage to the new order that was being announced.

And that is precisely why care must be taken with the current proxy wars. As its power as a world superpower declines, the United States is increasingly, and with more commitment, stimulating religious, ideological, geographic conflicts, etc. around the world. These warlords, and their henchmen from the regional powers, are, however, playing with fire. A fire of enormous proportions, kilometers high and wide, and capable of producing enough heat to melt the planet thousands of times...

* André Márcio Neves Soares is a doctoral student in Social Policies and Citizenship at the Catholic University of Salvador (UCSAL).


ARRIGHI, Giovanni. The long XNUMXth century: money, power and the origins of our time. Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint; São Paulo: UNESP, 1996.

SCHUMPETER, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Rio de Janeiro. ZAHAR, 1984.

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