If You Want Peace, Must You Necessarily Prepare For War?

The war in the Middle East has affected the psyche of people around the world in a way that has not been seen in the past, whether they have any direct connection with it or not

If You Want Peace, Must You Necessarily Prepare For War?

"Si vis pacem, para bellum" is a Latin adage, which, translated into English means "If you want peace, prepare for war."

As repugnant as it may sound, there seems to be some truth to it. History is witness that peace in many conflicts was only achieved after a bloody war between the parties involved. The peace may have been temporary or shaky, but peace it was nonetheless. Examples in recent history would include the Second World War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War (still shaky peace), Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, conflict in Northern Ireland, and more recently, the 20-year-long US war in Afghanistan.

The Arab-Israel wars have however, so far evaded this adage. Since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, there have been several wars/conflicts between the parties and after each occurrence truce was negotiated, resulting in a period of relative calm but never achieving even a semblance of peace. A few Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Jordan, did sign peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. However, the main stakeholder of the conflict, Palestinians were left out of any deal.

The recent round of violence which was intensified with an attack by Hamas on 07 October 2023, followed by the siege and relentless bombardment of the Gaza strip by Israel, can only be called a full-scale war. People all over the world are in shock, watching the horrific images of death and destruction on their television screens. On one side is a well trained and well-equipped army, materially supported by several Western nations and on the other side is a militant group with mostly rudimentary home-made weapons and informal training in urban warfare. But it is the civilians, including women, children and elderly, for whom Gaza has been turned into hell, who are paying bulk of the price. This reminds me a scene form the 1970s popular TV series M*A*S*H, which goes like this:

Maj Winchester: Everybody knows that war is hell.

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

One day, this current round of Arab-Israeli war will also end after a lot of death and destruction. Will it be followed by an uneasy truce until the next round? Will the cycle repeat itself? Possibly not. This time the circumstances are very different. 

This war has affected the psyche of people around the world in a way that has not been seen in the past, whether they have any direct connection with it or not. A different generation of young people around the world has witnessed every detail of the horrors of this war on their hand-held devices. Social media has brought to the forefront the true context of this conflict despite the concerted efforts of the so-called mainstream Western media that has continued its biased and one-sided reporting. People are intelligent enough to know that this conflict did not start on 07 October 2023. The massive protest rallies around the world, including in the Western capitals, are a clear indication that people are genuinely affected by the death and carnage going on in Gaza: they want it stopped and they want to see a serious effort made to find a lasting solution of the conflict.

The search for peace is not as formidable as some may want us to believe. The framework for negotiations can be found in the numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, which survived vetoes by any of the five permanent members of the Council, and are legally binding on the parties involved. The last such resolution was Resolution 2334 (2016) passed in December 2016 by a 14-0 vote, with only the United States abstaining. In this resolution, the Security Council reaffirmed that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders. The 193-member General Assembly has passed even stronger resolutions over the years. Hence the will of the international community is clear and so is international law.

Perhaps this time people in Western countries would press their leaders to not leave this conflict unresolved. If the US can sit down face-to-face with Taliban in Doha, Qatar after a 20-year-long war to reach an agreement to end the war, why can’t Palestinians and Israelis do the same after a 75-year-long unresolved conflict? 

If that happens, this can become a blueprint to resolve many other relatively less complex unresolved conflicts around the world, and the world would become used to a new adage: “If you want peace, prepare for peace!”

The writer is a retired engineer based in Canada, and has a keen interest in Pakistan’s political affairs. He can be reached at: zahid110@gmail.com