Violence is making a come-back into Western societies – how are we prepared for this? Is looking the other way a solution?

Never since about half a century back, the world was in such a disarray as now. There is a whole range of failed, or failing, states in the MENA area: Afghanistan, Pakistan (nuclearized), Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine.
Sectarian violence is on the rise, and a strange caliphate shows the world how easy it can be impressed by a few beheadings.
Lesson 1: violence pays off. In Europe, the Russian aggression against Ukraine – stealing Crimea and meddling in provinces – trashed the post-Cold War order in Central Europe.
Lesson 2: violence pays off. In East Asia, there is an intensifying anatgonism allegedly about hundreds of rocks in he East and South China Seas, wrapped in the language of sovereignty, and targeted at assumed energy potentials. The climate between China and Japan, on the one hand, and Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei, on the other hand, is deteriorating rapidly.
Lesson 3: violence may pay off. The current protests in Hongkong may initiate new unrest in mainland China as well: Violence as identity currency.
Europe seems to be suspiciously unprepared for this new wave of violence. Can we afford to ignore it? What if ‘talking’ doesn’t lead anywhere?

  1. Alexei Voskressenski 4 years ago

    One of the clear reasons for violence is the lack of global governance and the weakening of the world order. The inability of key world players and international organizations in the presence of malign behavior and subversive activity to ensure international relations based on transparency, justice, and the inevitability of unanimous condemnation of violence, as well as double standards, terrorism, oppression of people, closed social-political access, and the inappropriate behavior of some national ruling elites resulted in the degradation of the world order. This trend must be reversed. The problem is that in reality no one knows how to reverse this trend in practice.

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  2. Hildegard Müller 4 years ago

    The propagated “end of history” after the fall of the Iron Curtain was an illusion. What we are experiencing are mostly not new, but old unresolved conflicts that flare up again. Additionally, we see a dramatic increase in asymmetric threats. This development is taking place against a porous international world order: The United Nations have lost influence as a result of their antiquated structure and disagreements between member states. The European Union is divided and in trouble due to debt crisis, idealistic pacifists and EU-skeptics. The international structure is increasingly less of a deterrent from violence. Terrorists, dictatorships and autocratic governments with nationalist agendas have recognized and exploited this vacuum ruthlessly. It is foreseeable that the EU`s practice of observing and commenting will not be enough. Inaction is the opposite of deterrence.

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  3. Shen Dingli 4 years ago

    In East Asia, violence is more or less giving way to peace, though not necessarily perfectly. North Korea has sent a high-level delegation to the South for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, raising the hope of improving the relationship between the two Koreas, despite the fact that their navel vessels are still fighting. China and Japan may resume their long-suspended summit in a month during the Beijing APEC, though the Japanese prime minister may not commit openly to not paying tributary visits again to Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity. And China and the US will convene their second unofficial summit, in the wake of Beijing APEC, following the style of the Sunnyland estate meeting in California last year. All these countries know how to compete without losing control.

    The same could happen in Europe and the Middle East. However, this is not likely. Given the former Ukraine President Yanukovych’s commitment, made earlier this year, to advancing the presidential election to this May, when he was likely to be ousted constitutionally, Russia was willing to prepare for the change of political environment of its immediate western neighbor. However, ousting him through thugs, plus a parliamentarian stamp, three months before the election, forced Russia to respond in a violent way. Similarly, the US “preemption” against Iraq in the wake of “911” in 2001, shall be responsible for the entire chaos in the country. The present challenge by ISIS is merely a continuation of the earlier disaster, as otherwise this “muslim state” would be perfectly contained. Both Gaddafi and Assad regimes have their own weaknesses, but to challenge them through using or supporting violence has apparently been responded to with more violence in kind.

    Hence the solution: respecting rivals, being patient to diversified views, offering political compromise to all stakeholders and attaining acceptable reconciliation. Give this a try before resorting to violence.

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  4. Barbara Dietz 4 years ago

    Today, the world faces an increasing number of violent conflicts and wars that seem to be resistant against any form of negotiated settlement. The most dangerous ones are located in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Palestine, South Sudan and only recently in Eastern Ukraine. In the past, many violent conflicts were put on hold with no obvious solution, resulting in so-called “frozen conflicts”. Moldova’s territory of Trans-Dniester, Georgia’s regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo are examples where unsolved – formerly violent – conflicts prevail. Without a doubt, there is a high risk that frozen conflicts as well as unresolved ethnic and religious clashes open up, resulting in new waves of violence.
    Actually, Western societies are ill prepared to deal with current frozen conflicts and open violence. Among other reasons this is related to the very complex nature of these conflicts based on ideological, ethnic, religious, territorial and economic disputes. In a number of cases none of the conflict parties involved agrees with values appreciated by Western societies such as democracy, governance and freedom of personality. Although military support may be unavoidable in rare cases, Western societies should concentrate on humanitarian aid and conflict solution strategies. In the end, most experts agree that violent conflicts which are often associated with failed governance and corrupt regimes threaten human rights and prevent economic stability and social welfare in the regions involved. It is the wider civilian population in these regions that pays the price for the ongoing violence.

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  1. paul walsh 4 years ago

    My opinion is that there are deeper reasons for the return of violence that we cannot wholly attribute to a failure of global governance or global institutions. I mean, we have to ask ourselves – what are the root causes of the phenomena? Some brief thoughts:

    Politics – There has been a professionalisation of politics over the past 20/30 years, whereby politicians are now career politicians. They’ve never done anything else. This creates distance between the elected and the electorate.

    At the same time, there has been a ‘hollowing out’ or de-politicisation of politics, dating from the collapse of the idea of communism as a viable (existing) alternative to capitalism. This is a process describe by the political scientist Peter Mair. What do people have to vote for nowadays when there’s no right or left? The candidates are often indistinguishable.

    The transfer of sovereignty to higher authorities i.e. national to EU, only exacerbates these two phenomena. We can now see the rise of fiercely populist parties e.g. UKIP exploiting this space and pledging to bring politics ‘back to the people’. This is happening across the political spectrum.

    What proves my point? Well, when this distance between electorate and elected I mentioned previously narrows, and when politics is re-politicised, then people became engaged again. Witness the recent referendum in Scotland, with a gigantic turnout and an open, frank and broad political exchange of ideas and opinions.

    Two more points. Firstly, the radicalisation of young Muslim men is, I believe, a consequence of the ‘West’ and its institutions not being able to intervene, or intervening unsuccessfully, in key conflicts which affect Muslim communities. Firstly, Chechnya (which Putin used to gain political leverage), Bosnia and most importantly the ongoing catastrophe of Palestine. This has to be named as one of the main causes of Muslim antagonism, and in contrast to what some believe, it’s not an irrational position to arrive at considering the way that the state of Israel is continually allowed to flout international law.

    Finally, Benjamin Barber’s thesis (‘Jihad Vs McWorld’) that disillusionment with Western neo-liberal policies fuels resentment among Muslim communities is worth thinking about if we are to make any headway in tackling radical extremism.

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  2. Droit au but 4 years ago

    I think the question is misleading. The roots of the violence in many places are actually Western policies. We should rather ask: How to avoid blowbacks. Take Iraq. The appearance of IS and the spread of radical jihadism is an outgrow of the US’ (and its allies) aggressive and murderous policies in the region. Take the sanctions that destroyed the fragile society even before the latest invasion in 2003. The two international diplomats who had administered those US-UK led sanctions, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, labeled them as “genocidal” and resigned in protest. Then came the invasion, the “supreme crime” in international affairs, as established during the Nuremberg trials. Former CIA operative Graham Fuller recently wrote that “I think the United States is one of the key creators of ISIS. The United States did not plan the formation of ISIS, but its destructive interventions in the Middle East and the war in Iraq were the basic causes of the birth of ISIS.”
    One of the results of the US-UK aggression was to cause sectarian conflicts that have spread over the whole region. And it´s an old story. Like the old imperial power before (Britain), the US has tended to support radical Islam and to oppose secular nationalism which seemed to be more threatening to policy planners. Furthermore, the most radical Islamist state in the world, Saudi Arabia, is a strong ally of the US and other Western powers. We don´t have to mention the reasons. The consequences are quite ugly, though, since Saudia Aribia (and, to a lesser extend, other Western allies like Qatar) is using its incredible wealth to spread its extremist Wahabi/Salafi doctrines all over the world by establishing schools, mosques and by funding other extremist groups.
    So, where to go from here? IS has to be fought back, no doubt about that. But Western policies that support radical fanatics (Saudi-Arabia) and destroy whole societies (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Libyia etc.) must be reversed, too.

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  3. Wisam 4 years ago

    Indeed violence pays off, but in the short term. A better question is, does violence pay off in the long term? In other words is it sustainable? The so-called Islamic State has declared itself an independent state. In real terms, this is only sustainable in so far that it is able to maintain sovereignty over the land it has claimed. However, there is an international coalition, with undisputed air superiority, and a mandate to disable IS. Undoubtably this will be a prolonged battle, but I find it hard to believe that Iraq and other regional countries will be interested in sitting at the negotiation table, similar to what’s being discussed with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    To return to the original question, how do we deal with violence making a come back in Western societies? As with anything, there must be a balanced and multi pronged approach. Take the Islamic State; a strong and unwavering military response must be met with a political solution with Sunni communities in Anbar province, in addition to robust economic development strategy that will allow Iraqis an opportunity to carve out a dignified existence for themselves. This is inextricably tied to national security for Western states.

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  4. Christian Frank 4 years ago

    2014 And the Prelude of a New World Order
    by Christian Frank

    With the downfall of the Berlin Wall and with it, the end of the Cold War, the international system was faced with the omnipresence of western values and an almighty presence of the United States as the world’s single hegemon. Political experts, politicians and scholars believed (and sometimes cried it out very loudly!) that from now on the world will be shaped not by power politics anymore; instead mankind believed that the integration of world markets, the rule of law and global flows of information are designed to connect countries and governments all around the globe.
    “We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order–a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations. When we are successful–and we will be–we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.’s founders.“ (George H.W. Busch 1990)1.
    Optimists even cried out that from the 1990s on power politics and realist approaches to international relations will be buried on the graveyard of history.
    But, what fatalists very early pointed out shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, with the “Balkan Slaughterhouse” in Bosnia and Kosovo, latecomers had to recognize with the breakup of the Ukraine, along with Vladimir Putin’s attempt to bring back Russia into the premier league of power. Additionally it is the tremendous success of non state actors like ISIS and Al-Qaeda offshoots, which like cancer cells nests where sovereign nation states are falling.
    What has happened in the last 25 years? To make a long story short: a) The nation state lost its power and influence. As September 11 and its aftermath has demonstrated: the USA and NATO were seriously challenged by unconventional operating non-state militant actors in Iraq , Afghanistan and beyond. b) At the same time countries like China, Russia and the rest of the BRICS are defining their future role as independent world powers. c) Although NATO is remaining the most powerful alliance in history, there are cracks in the wall. The ongoing financial instability in Europe and its political instability are a burden for the military households. As the crises in the Ukraine has shown, it is difficult to bring the interests of all EU members in line. This and the missing experience in terms of power or better to say “hard politics” is one of the reasons why it seems difficult to cope with a demanding Vladimir Putin and his realist approach. As the United States is moving away from Europe by shifting their strategic focus more and more into the Pacific region, eager to balance a rising Chines dragon as early as possible, Europe needs to learn how to cope with the problems rising up in their backyard (e.g. Ukraine and the Middle East).

    How will the world change in the next coming 25 years?
    According to my opinion the above presented changes in the international system since the end of the Cold War will go on. I personally think that the world is going to turn faster and will get more complex. The sovereign nation state will remain the most powerful actor; but non state actors will be able to tease him in form of transnational operating terrorist organizations and other militant formations. To sum up: They will be more as simple “noise in the system”, what most Realist thinkers claim. NATO will loose its influence and must concentrate on its core competences, namely defending its members against foreign aggression. Beside this, the USA will continue to operate alone or in form of a selected alliance in order to pursue their interests. The EU will have to cope with its identity crises in order to survive.. Additionally, the EU more and more will be forced to cope with its problems without their US American allies. Europe must learn to cope with power politics. According to the rise of countries like China, Russia or India, the world will resemble the time of the 19th century, in which European powers balanced in order survive.
    Bringing this essay to a conclusion, I personally think that 2014 is the beginning of a new period of geo-politics, accompanied with transnational operating non-state actors. The West must re-organize itself in order to cope with violence coming back into their societies. This is not done by a survival of the fittest mentality alone, but it is definitely the time to learn to play the power politics card in a serious way. Nevertheless, Western politicians muss act prudent and play the soft power card as well. The world gets more confusing and it sometimes makes the impression that the 21st century will be the century of the new world disorder. We must hope therefore that today’s and future political leaders are acting sensible and prudent way. Let us hope that they will not become sleepwalkers again.

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  5. Daniel Cardoso 4 years ago

    There are indeed several worrying conflicts in the world today, but they don’t indicate, I think, a substantial rise in violence. Violence is not making a come back because it never left. I also think that is misleading to suggest that the peaceful and law-abiding protests in Hong Kong are a sign of violence. Preventing Hong kong citizens from having have full democracy is what is violent not the protests. Lastly, the major conflicts that we have today (Ukraine, Syria, Libya…) result, to some extent, from the fact that the world order is going through a period of redefinition. In the 1990s global governance meant US hegemony and this formula was enough to “freeze” conflicts, as Mrs. Dietz mentioned, or to tackle them unilaterally. This scenario lost momentum in the last decade and both the US and the rest of the world are since then trying to figure how to adjust to this transition and how to deal with the mistakes made during the “unipolar moment”. This transition in the world order is violent but it also carries the potential to bring about a more responsible and cooperative posture for the future from all the parties.

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  6. Dima Tarhini 4 years ago

    Are western societies prepared for the come-back of violence? Well, in my opinion, there are not. The German goverment is trying to figure out how to deal with German jihadists returnees from Syria and Iraq. The solutions that have been discussed and announced by the Minister of Interior touch only the surface of the problem – but not the heart of it. The German government estimates that more than 400 Germans – among them 50 women – joined Isis. Many of these young Muslims have migration background and others are converts. Half of them finished school and some even studied in universities. Most of these young women and men where fully integrated in German society. Within a very short period of time, Isis propaganda managed to reach them and convince them to join their cause. So, what went wrong?

    Not only the West and its interference in the Middle East is responsible for strengthening islamist groups. Even more important is the role that some Mosques and Isalmic Institutions are playing a big role in misleading young Muslims into a wrong interpretation of Islam. The voice of conservative and radical preachers is louder than moderate and liberal muslim organisations. They pursue political and/or economical agendas. Geopolitical interests are often behind these groups.

    Muslim educational institutions should be discussed, re-evaluated and modernised. Western goverments should work hand in hand with liberal muslim institutions in order to defeat together radical voices. Until now this step has not been taken , and unfortunately each side is still blaming the other.

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