Ignored realities

Robert Koehler
Thursday, Jan 20, 2022

Guess what? I direct the following insight to, among others, the US Congress, which annually and without comment, with only a few objectors, passes a trillion-dollar (and growing) military budget, by far the largest such budget on Planet Earth.

“You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”

The words are those of Albert Einstein, in a letter to a congressman 75 years ago. He adds, pointing out a truth that is still waiting to resonate culturally and politically: “The very prevention of war requires more faith, courage and resolution than are needed to prepare for war.”

These words take a while to sink in, but as they do, some crucial – crucially ignored – realities emerge. The first is that waging war, or not, is a choice. Mainstream geopolitical reporting pretty much ignores this miniscule reality and covers the ever-simmering possibility of war – here, there and everywhere – as though it’s beyond human control, like a hurricane or a flood or a volcanic eruption. It’s certainly beyond the control of ordinary folks like you and me, who are spectators in the process and nothing more.

Robert Farley, for instance, writing at Business Insider about the planet’s vulnerable geopolitical future, discusses what he calls the “most dangerous flashpoints for the eruption of World War III” – disputed and problematic sites such as Ukraine, Taiwan, Iran and North Korea – where the big powers . . . Russia, China, the USA . . . might lose it with one another.

I’m not criticizing his political analysis, simply noting his portrayal of the planet’s dominant nations as smugly objective forces. For instance: “The pandemic isn’t over,” he writes, “but it is becoming part of the background noise of international politics, and great powers are recalibrating and reasserting their interests.”

What “interests” is he talking about? The unaddressed assumption here is that there is nothing more than a simplistic military-political will operating at the national level across Planet Earth, a will that is only capable of asserting itself through violence, including nuclear violence, and with seriously limited capacity for self-reflection and no complex understanding even of its own interests. And this is our future: We’re probably going to blow ourselves up.

And, my God, there is indeed way too much truth to this, but if the mainstream coverage surrenders to this partial truth and leaves Einstein out – leaves out the fact that war is never inevitable and always a choice – the truth threatens to become absolute. This is what I truly fear.

The interest of power, when it reaches a certain level of dominance, is more power. Period. And confronting this interest requires the courage Einstein spoke of.

Excerpted: ‘Untangling Ourselves From the Dark Side’