DEFINITIONS OF PEACE, CONFLICT AWARENESS, AIR FORCES MEMORIAL AND FRECKLETON REMEMBERED
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
25 Aug 14. ‘Peace’ as a word may be seen by the majority of us to mean the opposite of violence, an absence of violence or war but in truth the correct definition of the word is far from being clear.
“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue a state of mind. It is a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice” according to the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza in his Theological-Political Treatise produced in 1670. Peace can also be a construct as for instance when defined in the context of ‘appeasement’ or an attempt at formulating peaceful settlement. It may also be seen as merely a perception just as to some it could be used to describe peaceful coexistence or, as is quite often the case in the modern age, a concord between nations. At its simplest the word peace may be defined as meaning harmony, unity, good order, a divine state, serenity or maybe just a state of mind. In relation to the confused definition of what peace is German writer, poet, philosopher and critic Rudolf Pannwitz posed this interesting question: “we may have all possible reasons against war but how does it help us when we are unable to say what peace is, can be or shall be?”
Peace is far from what we have currently have in Iraq, in Syria, in Israel, Gaza, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine and some other parts of the world that we are perhaps unaware. Conflict is all around us and you may well say that it always was. While Russia baits the west and the so-called ‘Islamic State’ continues to grow in confidence it seems that western governments have little desire to become more embroiled in the disputes of others. The US is doing its bit in Northern Iraq and the British Government is also providing assistance and reassurance to our allies wherever it can in Eastern Europe and also in Iraq. NATO remains poised and while we may rightly question its strength in the wake of western government defence cuts we will surely never question its resolve. To a point one can of course understand the reticence of western governments to plunge their respective military into the disputes of others and also that they maintain the ongoing hope that diplomacy as a means to conflict resolution is far better than war. We must somehow try to understand the necessary caution and appreciate too that time was required to fully learn lessons from past conflicts and maybe mistakes. But we cannot stand by indefinitely and my hope is that at upcoming NATO Summit in Wales next month will see clear messages of intent about what we intend to do in the face of an enemy that appears to be more dangerous than anything we have yet known. I hope also that when we are able to look on the NATO Summit in a few more weeks’ time we will also be able to say that it marked the absolute nadir of member government spending on defence.
Last week US defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel said that Islamic militants pose the “biggest threat, to the US. Adding weight to that same argument Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has since observed that ISIS posed a threat that could last a generation. Sectarian conflict is nothing new in the Middle East but in the manner in which a various number of conflicts threaten the West today rarely has the situation been more serious.
It is no longer any use saying that we want peace across the Middle East region if all that we are really saying is that we seek to avoid war as if, of course, it was the complete opposite of peace. The failure to involve ourselves last year in Syria has been seized upon by ISIS and now, as more lives are lost every day, we are carrying the price. Now calling itself the ‘Islamist State’ powerful tentacles have been spread across Syria and through into Northern Iraq. If we fail to act now in a decisive manner our generation will risk being seen b