Jaw-jaw is better than war-war – and there’s only one…

British wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, who had much conversational and combat experience, is credited with originating the phrase ‘the jawbone is better than war-war’. He did not achieve his aphorism as a result of pacifism, he knew war had its place, but he also recognized that conflict situations are better resolved by talking than by fighting.

Branko Brkic, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Maverick, wrote what can be considered a fairly comprehensive indictment of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and he does not go so far as to accuse Putin of interfering in American politics via the social media manipulation of the race presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. To this day, Trump remains a Putin fan.

In short, Brkic suggests that Putin has:

  • The decimated Russian democratic society;
  • Make fun of elections and accountability;
  • Created one of the most unequal societies in the world through unprecedented levels of corruption;
  • Militarized the country through years of propaganda;
  • Spread this propaganda through the media that has been placed under full and total Russian control;
  • Basing Russia’s future on oil, gas and other fossil fuels in this time of global climate emergency;
  • Has essentially gifted the country’s economy with a few paying oligarchs, ensuring that it cannot grow through entrepreneurship and has no chance of being competitive;
  • Wage six bloody wars (Chechnya 2000, Georgia 2008, Syria 2012, Crimea, Donbass 2014-2022, Ukraine 2022);
  • Wage the same wars devastating all before them – corruption robbed the Russian military of the ability to conduct modern precision warfare;
  • Sprayed Wagner mercenaries across Africa and the Middle East, serving the most wicked and murderous regimes;
  • Chaired a state-sponsored global network of cybercriminals, bullies and propagandists who are responsible for most of the hate on social media;
  • Helped fan the flames of reactionary racism from Europe to Africa, from the Americas to Asia;
  • Killed and maimed political opponents and activists in other countries in complete disregard of international law;
  • Engaged in a reckless planetary war in Ukraine against a state that in no way endangered Russia while being pleaded by the whole world not to; and
  • Brought laws that punish telling the truth up to 15 years in a penal colony.

Is this really what YOU want, South Africa?

Professor William Gumede de Wits has a different view of Putin. He sees him as a follower of the “‘maskirovka’ strategy, a military doctrine of deception, manipulation of facts and doing the opposite of what is said, to catch Western powers off guard with his war against Ukraine”. As a former KGB spy, Putin is described by Gumede as “a man deeply immersed in the philosophy of deception”.

There is nothing misleading about the bombardment of Russian tanks on the streets of Kiev, and the more than 2.5 million refugees fleeing Ukraine are not a figment of a filmmaker’s imagination. Images broadcast on television news channels around the world show that there is a real war on fire in Ukraine, which threatens to escalate into a regional, if not global, conflict on an unprecedented scale in the history of mankind.

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago takes a different view of the cause of the situation in Ukraine. He is the author of the theory of offensive realism. He believes the United States is responsible for Putin’s orchestrated aggression in response to what he calls aggressive geopolitical activities by the United States creating an existential threat to Russia. His approach is well documented on YouTube and Wikipedia.

Peace and security were foremost in the minds of World War II survivors when they drafted the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the wake of human misery and suffering caused by the war against Germany and Japan. Today, Germany is one of the main members of the European Union and NATO. Japan has one of the largest economies in the world. World War II ended with an unconditional surrender brought about by force of arms in Europe and the use of the nuclear bomb on Japan. Mearsheimer argues that the vaporization of Japanese cities via USAF aerial bombardment was carried out out of fear of a ground war in Japan.

Since the creation of the UN, it has become possible to end a conflict by means other than armed force.

Alternative dispute resolution has become a niche industry in the worlds of commerce, litigation, diplomacy and international relations. Mediators abound in contexts where the fabled “win-win” solution to conflicts of all kinds is a possibility. Mediation has become a highly professional enterprise, which should not be attempted by amateurs if success is the goal. When politicians are used as mediators, they should be advised and guided by highly qualified and experienced mediators.

The current situation in Ukraine lends itself to the use of mediation to reach a mutually acceptable and less bloody outcome than that promised by the conflicts in various parts of the country. There are benefits for both sides in emphasizing the positive aspects and seeking ways to peacefully deal with the various negative aspects that have caused the conflict in Ukraine, especially in the Donbass and Crimea regions.

Mediation is often used when the negotiation has not borne fruit. The negotiation as it has taken place so far has had no positive effect, indeed, on the contrary, the conflict seems to be worsening in Ukraine. The role of the mediator, or team of mediators, is to turn off the heat and shed light on the issues between the warring parties.

The first condition for successful mediation is that the right mediator or a “dream team” of mediators be appointed with the consent of the warring parties. This can be achieved in various ways via unlimited permutations. If they cannot agree among themselves on who should mediate, they can ask an arbitrator or a neutral body to appoint the mediator(s) for them. No mediation is successful if the parties do not agree on its outcome. A good mediator addresses the hopes and fears of both parties and seeks to constructively address the fears so that the hopefuls have a better chance of success.

When none of the parties, or even one of them, is ready to consider mediation, the right circumstances for mediation must be created. In a situation such as the one currently prevailing in Ukraine, the chances of accessing mediation are increased if the disadvantages of fighting worsen due to sanctions, the accumulation of armaments, fierce resistance, successful complaints to the International Criminal Court regarding the crime of aggression and other war crimes, a humanitarian crisis in the two warring countries, hunger, want and want. A rout in combat, regardless of who is defeated, tends to diminish the chances of bringing the dispute to mediation.

The sooner the path to mediation is explored, the better it is for all parties, including neighboring states and those parts of Ukraine that can freely and fairly decide to secede from the country rather than continue indefinitely to be a disputed territory.

Skilled mediators managed to bring the warring states of Israel and Egypt to an agreement on the fate of the Sinai Peninsula via a high-profile settlement that has lasted for many years and has improved relations between the two countries, despite their many obvious differences.

Internal conflicts between Slavs should, at least in theory, be easier to resolve, provided good mediators have a fair chance to apply their skills to the issues before tensions are escalated in the crucible of conflict and rendered intractable. due to the hardening of positions over time. The zero-sum game of a scorched-earth policy (such as that used by the British against the Boers in the Second South African War) does not belong in the 21st century.

The need to act quickly when the circumstances are ripe for successful mediation is essential. Mediation can only enjoy a short window of opportunity before a war of attrition becomes more attractive to combatants. The human cost of war is so prohibitive that a concerted effort to mediate (preferably after a ceasefire) as soon as humanly possible is a more humane approach.

The position taken by South Africa regarding the conflict in Ukraine is both morally and legally indefensible. Our Constitution demands that we take our rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations. Our state must respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights. Our treaty obligations oblige us to promote world peace, as does our membership in the UN since its inception.

The vote in favor of abstention on the UN resolution regarding the situation in Ukraine is conduct inconsistent with sovereignty and the peaceful and freedom-loving ethos of our Constitution. Our leaders could – and should – do better. Promoting the idea of ​​mediation on the conflict in Ukraine and creating conditions conducive to its success is probably the best way to achieve this. DM

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