The Lie behind the European Union’s “75 years of peace”
“The state of exception is only one and, once declared, there is no power or possibility to verify the reality or gravity of the conditions that have determined it.”
– Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer
We are often told that the European Community – the super-national entity that later evolved into the European Union – has guaranteed to its peoples and countries an unprecedented stretch of 75 years of peace, effectively putting an end to continental conflicts after the tragedies of the two World Wars. But is this really true?
Broadly speaking, all empires attempt to keep open conflicts and wars as far away as possible, to keep them at the borders of their ‘sphere of influence’. Such task today has become easier thanks to airplanes and missiles, which makes it possible to fight wars remotely, a trend that culminates now in the use of drones – and will possibly evolve in the near future into ‘space wars’. Distance from the ‘heartland’ has certainly been the norm for the conflicts carried out by the USA: Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan are all at a safe distance from the American continent. The same rule applies to conflicts in Serbia, Kosovo (and perhaps sometime in the near future Ukraine) for the European Union, indirectly confirming how the EU – in spite of being the unlikely sum of different countries and kingdoms – as a political actor actually behaves as an empire.
Granted: neither the USA nor the EU have been exempt from internal riots in the last decades, but this issue would require an entirely different analysis on internal peacekeeping. The question I will be focusing on in this essay is whether we are now experiencing really peaceful years – or at least war-exempt ones, both in EU institutions and in member countries. Are these really “unprecedented peace times”?
To begin with, we must look at the definition of ‘warfare’. A war is characterized by deaths – many deaths – including civilian population. Non-military killings are a landmark feature of ‘modern wars’ only, as in the distant, and perhaps more civilized past the population was not a ‘collateral damage’ of military actions. But the effects of war in the past also included sudden misery and economic problems for many families (with the corresponding amassing of outrageous fortunes for the happy few), limitations to personal freedom such as curfews and internal passports, full hospitals, and a stretch on the capability to help the sick, hoarding and speculations on food, soaring energy prices, as well as a sudden drop in birth rates. Furthermore, there were also economic crises and problems for most sectors, with the only exception of a handful of industries. Last but not least, wars are known to bring stress and inflict psychological damage on the population, usually coupled with a general feeling of uncertainty about the future.
Taking all of the above into consideration, it starts to appear as evident how our own conditions are largely similar to those of war times in the past, and could therefore be described as ‘war-like’. The only calamity we have been spared, apparently, is the destruction of our homes and buildings by bombs and open combat activities.
What is more, during the past two years we’ve even had some new negative entries in the list of things making everyday life worse. The West has witnessed the return of discrimination between categories of citizens, whereby people are denied basic freedoms on the basis of things like their vaccination status. Not to mention generalized ‘lockdowns’, something more similar to high-security prisons for dangerous inmates than as a health prevention measure as the term itself indicates (old dictionaries still feature the original definition of the word, before Covid, ‘lock·down’: “a time when prisoners are not allowed out of their rooms, usually after there has been violence in the prison”). I personally asked my father who lived throughout WWII in Northern Italy – thus enduring not only the war, but also the German nazi occupation and US-UK air bombing raids – about the conditions he lived in as a teenager, and he said to me that curfews in 1940s’ Italy were enforced only during night hours, and that the population was completely free during the daytime. My teenage son, in other words, had a worse deal in 2020 than my father who lived through WWII.
If we are living ‘peaceful times’, it must be a strange kind of peace indeed.
“The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.”
– Qiao Liang, interview with China Youth Daily
The subject of what is war has been thoroughly studied over the centuries. Following Huntington’s analysis on the “re-making of world order” in a 1993 article for Foreign Affairs, perhaps the most relevant text today is Unrestricted Warfare, written by two Chinese colonels of the People’s Liberation Army, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. The book received universal praise in military circles, and, building on Sun Tzu’s teachings and updating them with present days practices, first developed and made available to the general public technical concepts like “hybrid warfare” and “asymmetric conflict.”
In a nutshell, Liang and Xiangsui’s thesis argued that the fact that major powers can’t fight one another openly and directly with traditional weapons, since this would involve the possibility of mass destruction on an unprecedented scale, leads to the use of traditional armies only in small-scale, localized conflicts, and that as a consequence the overall concept of war by necessity stretches itself to include other – all other – means available for conflicting and inflicting damage to the opponent.
Enter the concept of ‘unrestricted warfare’.
Freed from any rules, boundaries and mutually agreed practices, war can now take a limitless variety of forms. Therefore, whatever mean is available to influence the balance of powers between nations is taken into consideration and, if possible, used. The objective is to win or render the opponents unable to pursue their direct interests while attacking their spheres of influence.
Nothing is excluded, at least in theory, to reach this objective. Mass media manipulation and communication, ‘false flag’ operations, selective legislation, financial and economic pressures and boycotts, corruption, technology, cyber warfare, even outright terrorism. If it sounds familiar, it’s because we have witnessed virtually every possible means to this end. The endless pounding by mass media with death rates and statistics; the threats and blackmailing by “financial markets” to elected governments; the use of “revolving doors” between politics and corporations to corrupt them (with a preference for investment banks, financial businesses and, more recently, medical and pharmaceuticals companies). The entire world has been forced to use proprietary information technologies to continue working, studying, visiting family and friends, and buying remotely. Call it “the New Normal.”
So why isn’t any of our leaders, therefore, openly admitting that we are at war, or at least in a continued and prolonged conflict situation? Why is there a complete unwillingness in the highest political decision-making levels to face the truth, or at least to speak openly about it?
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
– George S. Patton
As a consequence of decades without open wars and conflicts, the selection process for political decision-makers has changed substantially, especially in the EU. The endless number of intermediate levels of mediation and delegation led to the unhappy result of selecting leaders hardly capable of taking a bold decision. From the “Große Koalition” in Germany to the “historical compromise” in Italy, compromise and mediation at the lowest possible level are the norm rather than the exception, with some countries managing to spend years without a government in power, without suffering too much.
But wars are not won through mediation and compromises. Conflicts require the ability to take quickly difficult decisions – hopefully the correct ones. They don’t require mastery in language and political correctness, but insight, courage and bravery, all qualities seldom found in Brussels’ corridors of power. Today’s ‘elites’, entrusted with the responsibility of life-changing decisions for the masses, have revealed themselves to be incompetent and irresponsible, constantly trying to pass the baton to someone else whenever convenient. This is specifically the case of the ‘quasi-scientific’ committees on public health established during the pandemic, led by groups of bureaucrats and functionaries with technical backgrounds incapable of even grasping the overall effect of their actions on peoples and businesses.
The outcome of a wrong judgment call by someone in a powerful position can be devastating. The Munich Conference in September 1938 saw Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier misjudge and underestimate the dangers of Hitler and Mussolini’s regimes. While they were both greeted triumphantly upoon their return home – having apparently avoided war in Europe and successfully tamed the Reich and its aggressiveness forever – the full cost of their irresponsible blindness to the harsh truth soon became evident to everyone. The conflict escalated into a worldwide war and only Churchill’s courage (and that of the English people) made it possible to turn the tables after half a bloody war with many millions of deaths.
The EU institutions and national governments are not short of Chamberlains and Daladiers. This selected generation of would-be leaders is simply unfit for office. Most of the present European leaders, as well as many of their predecessors, are wholly incapable of recognizing – let alone fighting – a war like the ones we’re facing today, nor certainly making the right decisions during an emergency. Their use of the word “peace” is nothing but a manipulative storytelling strategy – a “PsyOp”, to use a warfare term, aimed at nothing but reinforcing their own delusions and enacting a self-serving vision in contrast with actual evidence. If we want to avoid the full consequences of their incompetence, their rule must end.