Many readers will echo Verhofstadt’s view on the EU: “Once we fought now we talk!”

August 3, 2017

 

Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “On this day in 1914, Germany declared war on France. Once we fought now we talk! This is why I am proud to be European!” 

Verhofstadt was once suggested as a candidate to replace Romano Prodi as the next President of the European Commission, but his candidacy was opposed and rejected by a coalition led by Tony Blair and other leaders who had disagreed with Verhofstadt’s uncompromising criticisms of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq the previous year.”

The writer wanted to learn more about this Belgian politician after receiving this link from Felicity Arbuthnot, whose recent audio account of the past and present of Mosul some readers will have heard.

Guy Verhofstadt served as the 47th Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008. He is the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group and has been an MEP since 2009.

At one stage, he and his party, Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), formed a coalition with the French-speaking Flemish socialists and Greens in Brussels and Wallonia.

He has been put forward as the possible candidate for replacing José Manuel Barroso as the president of the European Commission by a coalition of Greens, Socialists and Liberals.

In 2015 he supported the European Commission’s proposal to distribute asylum requests for migrants over all countries of the European Union, opposed by UK and France. He also called on governments of France, the UK, and Hungary to stop building walls and increasing border security measures and redirect their efforts to  humanitarian assistance.

There were other subjects on which we would not agree, but his position on migrants seems just and humane. He also fosters progressive political alliances which many in this country advocate.

 

 

 

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How can we learn from history to build a peaceful future?

July 15, 2015

PVDD 5The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.

Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.

After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.

A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.

These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.

The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.

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If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.

Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.

An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.

In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.

In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.


Japanese and German ‘peace articles’ under threat

November 13, 2014

c3 logo

ARTICLE 9.

(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

David Pilling writes in the Financial Times today:

Most voters remain cautious about (Prime Minister Abe’s) ambition to revise the constitution, particularly when it comes to jettisoning the pacifist article nine.

Any such step would need to be ratified by referendum, a hurdle it would almost certainly fail.

However determined Abe 2.0 is, on that front he may have to yield.

In 2010 a C3000 post quoted the Wall Street Journal’s report that opinion polls in Germany reported the opposition of a ‘solid majority’ of Germans to their country’s military role in Afghanistan. Many were aware that this war was contrary to their law as it stands, set out in Article 24 [International organizations] and Article 26 [Ban on preparations for war of aggression].

As Dr Ian Davis wrote in 2010, (though with reference to NATO members) rather than deregulating the rules of  military engagement, similar non-aggression clauses should be included in the national legislation of other states.


Germany is urged to put its young lives at risk by Euro/American politicians and military chiefs

February 3, 2014

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WSJ logoIn 2010 a Civilisation 3000 post quoted the Wall Street Journal’s report that opinion polls held in Germany at that time did reflect that a ‘solid majority’ of German people were opposed to their country’s military role in Afghanistan. Many were aware that this war was contrary to their law as it stands, set out in Article 24 [International organizations] and Article 26 [Ban on preparations for war of aggression].

gauck german president

The Financial Times now reports last week’s warning from federal president Joachim Gauck , the first German head of state to give the opening address at the annual Munich Security Conference, that Germany must use its armed forces more frequently and decisively. He cited German indifference and European navel-gazing amid “rapid” and “dramatic” new threats to the “open world order”.

Calling for Germany to play more of an active military role in the world has been a recurring theme of the annual conference in Munich – which is typically attended by a range of top-level European and American politicians (Ed: with links to arms manufacturers) and military chiefs.

Chancellor Angela Merkel: the voice of sanity

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Berlin on January 30th, Angela Merkel said that, while Germany should play a greater role in resolving international conflicts, this did not mean greater deployment of the country’s military:

“This is not a matter of more or less military engagement, it’s a question of using the political influence of a country like Germany”.

As Dr Ian Davis of NATO Watch wrote in 2010, rather than deregulating the rules of German military engagement, similar non-aggression clauses should be included in the national legislation of other NATO member states.


WW1 centenary plans: diplomatic tensions

August 26, 2013

 WW1 graves

George Parker, Political Editor of the Financial Times (below), reports that diplomatic tensions are surfacing around the world as the combatant nations in the first world war prepare to mark the centenary of the conflict in 2014, focussing on two countries:

george parker“Berlin has watched with growing anxiety the tone of some British media commentary ahead of the anniversary, while Turkey has been at loggerheads with Australian politicians over the Gallipoli centenary”.

German diplomats say they hope the British events will not be “celebratory” in tone but deny that its envoy attempted to influence the proposed UK events when in London to discuss the anniversary.

A June report said that Andrew Murrison, the defence minister overseeing the UK events, refused to describe the conflict as a “just war”, saying he would leave definitions of a “just war” to “moral philosophers” to interpret the ideas of St Augustine or St Thomas Aquinas.

Berlin wants to use the centenary to restate the case for European unity.

Next post: thoughts on the anniversary from Jan Dalley, Arts editor of the FT and Peter Hirsch, a New Jersey correspondent.

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