Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)

Winning Peace

Most analysts of international conflicts deal with winning or losing a war. At best they deal with short-term versus long-term versions of winning and losing. However, the question of how to win or achieve a lasting peace is rarely researched. Research on the 2nd World War reveal as soon as the turning point of the war was achieved the preparation of what will come after defeat. Organising humanitarian relief is part of warfare. The U.S. has set a good example of how to organise humanitarian aid as well as ensuring a lasting peace in Europe after the 2nd World War. Lots of books have been written on the Marshall Plan to get the economies in Europe (Western Europe) back to producing. Much less attention has been devoted to the important element of “de-nazification” of whole societies.
To win peace after the monstruous crimes of the Nazi-regime and the millions of followers and ruthless fighters was a challenge without precedents. The U.S. gave a good example of how to handle the process of winning peace in the regions under its military authority. In the following I shall refer to work published by Christa Horn (1992) “Die Internierungs- und Arbeitslager in Bayern 1945-1952”. The Allies had agreed upon to pursue war criminals. In April 1944 the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces published the “Handbook for Military Government in Germany”. It was deemed important to detain “certain government and party officials and members of police and para-military formations” (p.17).
Common to demilitarisation efforts after a war, it is the primordial function to reduce the risks of a renewed uptake of guerilla-like attacks due to the amount of arms still widely available or hidden on the enemy’s territory. The document specified further that the continued presence of Nazis in government and other exposed positions “might be a threat to the security of the Allied Forces or an impediment  to the attainment of the objectives of Military Government in Germany” (Arrest Categories Handbook, P.2). Denazification was a means to an end. The size of the task was, however, underestimated at several instances. For example, the organisation of the arrest and detention of more than 100.000 persons was a difficult task. After the end of fighting the transition to peace is not instantaneous. Hierarchical military and party structures had to be dismantled. The so-called “automatic arrest” issued on 13.4.1945 included all grades from the NSDAP down to the “Kreisleiter” or even “Ortgruppenleiter” as well as SS members and their “Helferinnen” (Horn, 1992 p.21). These arrests without judicial procedures came under critic as not-American in the U.S., but it took until 10.10.1948 to abandon this procedure. The literature on the issue refers more to the lack of adequate judicial procedures to handle such so many legal procedures with qualified persons as well as the difficulty to organise detention camps for more than a hundred thousand persons that should deserve to be prosecuted. Handing over to the national or regional judicial instances was, therefore, an important step. The risk to abandon the process of “denazification” was evident, but it was equally important to counter the expansion of the Russian-domination in Eastern Europe with the help of a strengthened Western Europe. Winning peace is a delicate balance of prosecution through the winners of the war and the subsequent prosecution of criminal actions through the indigenous population and its new institutional and judicial setup.
Social Sciences have a lot of solid insights to offer to win peace. With careful consideration they are helpful to learn from even for current international affairs and raging wars. Demilitarisation is only a small part of winning peace. Changing mind sets to internalise humanitarian values remains the biggest challenge and involves more than one generation.

Nations Fail

Ever since Adam Smith wrote on the “Wealth of Nations” the topic concerns social scientists. The discourse around the wealth of nations has become even more fundamental these days. Beyond wealth calculated in economic terms we are convinced to add well-being of the population as well as the state of the environment into the accounting procedures like national accounts. But wait a second. Similar to the term wealth we have to widen our perspective in what is considered to be a nation. Shifting borders through wars (Russia aggression on Ukraine) or separatist tendencies of regions, (re-)unification of Germany or Korea (eventually) show that the nation is a concept in flux. Considering migrants from former colonies still as having residential rights in the colonising country shows, there is more to nations than a one size fits all nation concept.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had published the book on “Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” already in 2012. On the 3rd of October Germany celebrates its re-unification only because the Russian dominated German Democratic Republic (and the other Eastern European satellite states under Russian control) can be considered as a failed state. These Russian dominated states crushed private initiatives and build corrupt systems where party allegiance and hierarchical structures were overemphasised. Following Acemoglu and Robinson (chapter 10) the lack of diffusion of prosperity is likely to be the root cause. Even similar to the French revolution, which brought about tough measures of redistribution, the external threats to the post-revolution France demanded subscription of masses into armies to defend the young republic against aristocratic rulers in the surroundings. If monarchy in France is a failed state, the post-revolution France survives due to high identification with the republican idea. The Soviet dominated Ukraine is a failed state, but the Ukraine of today resists due to its willingness to defend its own republican ideals. To get virtuous circles of development started, inclusiveness across the board is necessary. Leave nobody behind, seems to be a shortcut summary. It is much easier said than done. Loosing younger generations in the sense that they no longer subscribe or feel part of an inclusive wealth of the nation is a highly dangerous path. Failed states have a history in failed inclusive social and economic practices. Democracies are at risks just as much as authoritarian nations. However, democracies have better institutional settings to address the lack of inclusion and in multiple ways.
When I celebrate the 3rd of October in the Federal Republic of Germany I celebrate (1) the accomplished failure of the GDR, its undemocratically elected elites, corrupt institutions and the failure of the thousands of willing collaborators of the Russia-backed regime; (2) the peaceful resistance movement, (3) the relatively short-lived humanitarian focus of the Russian leadership at the time to not send in the tanks and (4) the willingness of the FRG to support 20 million new citizens for many years to come (5) the allies of the FRG to accept the potential security threat of a strengthened Federal Republic of Germany, which might entail a shift in the balance of power in Europe.
And yet, even in 2023 we pose questions on what is the concept of failure, when authoritarian regime can still survive for sooo long and some still accomplish extensions. We keep questioning the sense of the term “nation” in modern times and across the globe. Too many wars are still fought in the name of a “nation” even if only a handful of military-supported leaders and single autocrats try to impose wars in the name of some rather vague or plainly mistaken claim of nationhood.
On the 3rd of October we celebrate that “nations can fail” opening a path into a more prosperous and inclusive society. Some nations fail, just because they were no nation in the first place. The GDR was such an artefact of international compromise as part of the overall “balance of power” and the Cold War. The result of this process gives so much hope to other divided nations (Korea) or nations under authoritarian oppressive rule.