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(De-)Militarizing Our Future

The current war in Ukraine and, more specifically, against Ukrainian civilians and civil infrastructures casts dark shadows over our earthly future. It is especially the recent decisions to fiercely increase the investments in the military that sounds alarming from the perspective of an MA Program committed to fostering cultures of peace(s). The following commentary is an effort to reflect on these tendencies by stressing the importance of demilitarizing social relations and by simultaneously calling for an investment in Peace Education instead. Only so can we “earthlings” have a future.

“Military organizations and democratic processes are difficult to reconcile”

As other commentators have already stated, the hitherto dominating narrative of a diplomatic, borderless post-cold war era of (neo-)liberal markets engaging in mutually profitable commercial relations has not just lost in traction. This narrative literally imploded at the sound of all the explosions. The shadows that are currently amassing and obscuring aspirations for a liveable, that is, for a co-habitable and co-hospitable future on the planet earth are indeed many: With millions of severely traumatized and “displaced” people scattered around and entire cities levelled to the ground. A Third World War and the (mis)use of nuclear weapons looming. Mass pauperizations and elite enrichment. Intensifying global food shortages and impending famines. There is tremendous gains by multinational companies exploiting the soaring prices for non-renewable and non-ecological sources of energy. We can hardly imagine more sinister futures than those presently lurking.

Among those options that are currently being favored – and also praised – as strategies to reduce the risk of future acts of blatant aggression and as means to forge a more “secure” future is primarily that of investing more than ever into military corporations. For the military-industrial complex, the current war with all its focus on military technology and equipment is indeed a tremendous jackpot. After years of struggling to legitimize increases in military expenditure and to paint an attractive image of itself, the destruction of Ukraine is bearing witness to the creation of novel military forces. These will quite likely be defining the years to come. Apart from the hundreds of billions of public money that will be redirected from other areas, most likely: welfare state areas, into private military businesses, it is already apparent with what self-confidence military actors are not just “defending” their interests. They are nowadays “offensively” marketing themselves as saviors of the future itself.

The current war – next to all the others – is itself perhaps the most devastating example of what an aggressive militarization is capable of doing or undoing. Thus, we should be critically aware that societies building and depending on the military are eventually militarized societies. Furthermore, let us not forget that military organizations and democratic processes are difficult to reconcile. They are very diverse types of social relations and thus also of relating to peace and conflict. Recalling, further, that the word gift (similar to the Greek word pharmakon) means both “present” and “poison,” we should be very vigilant that what is being sold to us as “present,” not least advanced weapon systems, is not itself also a (future) “poison”.

If a future – and not just another – is possible, then we probably need to learn the impossible: to withstand peacefully the longing to militarize it. The future of the planet on which we as earthly beings all depend in one way or another would indeed be more promising if a different investment was waged than one that capitalizes on military threats: would it not be much more desirable and even sustainable to invest in Peace Education as a means to critically disengage from the war-machinery and to experiment with more peaceful ways to inter-relate instead? While the drums of war are beating loud and furious, it is often the lesser and softer instruments that set the tone of peace.

Image sources:

  • Friedle