IS HISTORICISM FUTILE FOR STOPPING CONFLICT?
My angle is that I want peace, am no walkover and despise violence except foe border defence. Agreed objective truth is most useful for reconciling antagonists, but objective truth is seldom available. Historians can supply only a few dots of information. The dots are joined by analysts who are bold, passionate and biased, creating confrontation myths. History does more harm than good.
Conflicts continue because the proponents, vindicated by history, disagree and attribute blame to the other side. Historians record circumstances, events and interpretations that fuel revenge and prolong hostilities. Historicism can be useful for reconciling conflict with one side’s position, but analyses are not acceptable to both sides, because spin doctors are more interested in getting an edge, than acknowledging any blame. To end a conflict, there has to be acceptance that it is wrong, that history is irrelevant, that there is trust and forgiveness.
Recent conflicts in which one or both sides are genocidal have lacked agreement at the fundamental level of the opponents’ right to remain alive. Such conflicts will not be resolved by study of history. In the absence of enough good will for negotiation of a ceasefire, a peace keeping force could be interposed by decision of a majority of the 193 members of the UN, or by an international court.
As I write today in Australia, I am aware our borders are not under dispute. I believe other countries should freeze forever their borders at 2023 positions, verified by the UN. The principle is that borders cannot be retrospectively changed, meaning that the status quo stands. Retrospectivity is sometimes allowed when a court determines legal justice, but should not be permitted to change occupation of sovereign territory. This will disappoint aggrieved people who want to improve their livings by changing their borders. It is more realistic that they change their living place, if necessary by migration. Living places are more malleable than are national borders, cast in stone..
When resort to a world authority is needed to prevent the murder of innocents, it has been disappointing that not only have some superpowers withheld their support from intervention, but they have condoned the fighting and supplied weapons as if that could produce a just retribution. Their view is that war is not wrong. After all, their ontology is superiority by means of military power. It is an atavistic urge that after today must be called, denied and relegated to the sidelines.
Another type of conflict has been framed as an invasion and with demands that the aggressor withdraws. History, if it was comprehensive, could recognise falling out from an earlier unity, realising the rift is a civil war. Analysis of the trope would reveal the sides competing for support from allies, through propaganda rather than rationalisation of dubious borders. Civil wars are notoriously destructive and prolonged, with onlookers’ proper role being to expose the conditions of both sides and the lunacy of the combatants.
I have mentioned three types of harmful roles of outsiders that prolong conflict. Taking sides is the favourite response of people and their governments and I think it is always inappropriate. History is valuable for analysing event sequences but not for apportioning blame. Governments should stand aside and join with other nations to impose peace–keeping, supplying humanitarian aid and places for refugees to go. I don’t see how supply of weapons can possibly lead to peace and possibly fulfils a covert strategic need of the donor.
Historical analysis done to justify taking sides in a conflict is misconceived and likely to be superficial. It is unlikely to be accepted by both sides and does not help end a conflict.
A more existential approach is required to nurture peace. We owe it to the children.
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