War, politics, and planet Earth

Leaders of the major nation-states on Planet Earth will need to reach a dramatic collective decision. These leaders, long accustomed to belligerent nationalism, will need to align their separate judgments of national interest with the wider interests of humankind. Although this will sound fanciful, it would represent the literal opposite of "America First"-type tribalism. There is no alternative.

We have now reached the tipping point where national military and economic power seeking must yield to something else. Either we will fashion a durable system of global interdependence, or we will be forced to disappear.

Unless we take meaningful steps to implement an organic and cooperative planetary civilization — one based on the central truth of human "oneness" —  there will be no civilization at all.

The imperative is clarified by our species' "progress" in creating nuclear weapons and infrastructures. In addition, major states are increasingly committed to various strategies of “cyber-warfare” using "internet mercenaries." To a considerable extent, the spread of internet mercenaries is being undertaken on behalf of authoritarian regimes.

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Until now, we humans have consistently managed to miss what is most important. There is a latent "oneness" to world politics. This critical dimension of human identity can be encountered in certain generally-ignored literatures and among such philosophic thinkers as Sören Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Jose Ortega y' Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This dimension's persistent rejection in "real life," even by the world's great universities, reflects an elemental threat to every nation-state's survival.

Why have we insistently made ourselves so vulnerable? The answer reflects a continuous willingness all over the world to seek identity as members.

Amid a steadily growing chaos on several continents and in myriad places, we humans stubbornly abide a distinctly primal loyalty to claims of a "tribe." Always, individuals everywhere, wittingly and enthusiastically, subordinate themselves to expectations of nation, class, or faith.     

From origins of our "civilizations," most people have felt lost, alone, or abandoned outside the tribe. Drawing self-worth from consoling memberships, we humans still cannot fulfill even the most minimal requirements of interpersonal or international coexistence.

The ironies are staggering. Recalling the marooned English schoolboys in William Golding's “Lord of the Flies,” we are reminded that the veneer of human civilization is razor thin. Scientific and medical discoveries notwithstanding, whole swaths of humankind remain fiercely dedicated to ancient and atavistic sacrificial practices.

Why do we remain so determinedly irrational as a species? The best answer lies in context. After all, our entire system of international relations is rooted in a self-defiling habitat of unrelenting violence. Not until the 20th century did international law even bother to criminalize aggressive war.

Shall we reasonably expect to banish war, terrorism, and genocide from a system that was spawned in an ancient cauldron of tribal hatreds and protracted conflict?        

Hope exists: While the planet remains on a lethal trajectory of belligerent nationalism, we need to learn that global survival requires escape from the spirit of competitive tribes and an acceptance of human "oneness."

The odds of success may seem precariously low, but the evident risks are well worth taking.

Louis René Beres, Ph.D. Princeton, is emeritus professor of international law at Purdue University. He is the author of 12 books and several hundred articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. His newest book is “Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018)