The Art of War

Eastern philosophy has been of great interest to me. I resonate with the strict treatment of virtue where principles of righteousness, loyalty and moral strength are absolute and where cowardice and deceit are viewed as traits of the dishonourable. Martial arts is the physical symbol that applies the same austere practices, where practitioners often link the required physical strength to the same psychological characteristics necessary to lead a life of virtue. The Zhou Dynasty, a dynasty that stretched its lengthy arm in ancient China for over eight hundred years lived the great philosopher Confucius (551-479 BCE). During his life, a cohesive royal system of ancestral aristocrats controlling principalities under the rule of the Zhou monarchy gradually disintegrated into feudal rivalries for power between each of the states. Caught toward the end of the Spring and Autumn period (770-475 BCE) where the Eastern Zhou Period begun following the move of the capital east of China to Luoyang so as to adequately protect itself from possible invasion, small fiefdoms and nomadic tribes united forces with various states that gradually matured to onset the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) just following Confucius’ death. Confucius is said to have written Chūnqiū or the Spring and Autumn Annals[1] that chronicled the vassal state of Lu now an area of the modern province of Shandong and the home of Confucius. It was also the oldest record mentioning techniques of hand-to-hand combat, or martial arts, utilised during the Spring and Autumn period likely because of continuous violence with minimal weaponry.

Confucian political and social ethics is clear by his commentary on civil society and ethical pluralism, strengthened by principals of harmony that reinforce ‘hard’ moral concepts including loyalty and honesty but balanced by a ‘soft’ humble wisdom. The Analects of Confucius, a compilation of teachings that reference the importance of cultivating and demonstrating moral and ethical education and behaviour and attributed to the philosopher also deliberates on the subject of war, moral refinement and the authority of rulers.

The 
Master
 said: “To
 lead
 the
 people
 to 
war 
without
 having
 taught
 them
 is
 to 
throw 
them
away.”[2]

While there exists controversy surrounding the historical accuracy of Sun Tzu as a military leader and strategist, it is no doubt that his treatise The Art of War became highly influential particularly throughout the Warring States period where the growth in numbers, the sophistication and the brutality of war became visibly ruthless and chaotic. Philosophers including Mencius and Xun Kuang turned their attention to the philosophy of law and legalism, on war and just war theories, and social and political education as the period was marked by intense battles. Both Sun Tzu and Confucius were said to have lived during the same period toward the end of the Spring and Autumn period. It is said by Sima Qian, a historian of the Han dynasty that wrote the Records of the Grand Historian that Sun Tzu was a general from the Wu province and commanded the great victory between the Wu army during the Battle of Boju,[3] where numbers were significantly lower than the Chu army, but the accuracy of this is widely contested.

While the Art of War is certainly the most well known Chinese text on military strategy, it was canonised among other military doctrines during the Song Dynasty, entitled as the Seven Military Classics.[4] Notwithstanding the tactical practices and other systematic components of warfare that embody strict commandment through lessons that deliberate victory or defeat, the Seven Military Classics is a historical illustration that exemplifies the influence of analytical ruminations on Chinese military science. The texts including The Art of War are T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings), Ssu-ma Fa, Wu-tzu, Wei Liao-tzu, and Huang Shih-kung San-lueh (Three Strategies).[5] They broadly encompass a variety of warfare operations that attempt to understand the nature of war and strategies that include a variety of topics such as leadership, cavalry and infantry, as well as weaponry. For instance, the Six Secret Teachings attributed to T’ai Kung covers tactical advantages of employing disinformation and psychological manoeuvring through manipulation and deception that would enable victory without actual fighting.[6]

The bloody wars during the Warring States Period and continued through the Imperial Era of China combined complex tactical strategies that innovated armament. It was a period where the sophistication of the instruments of war propelled by the continuous hegemonic struggles that elicited the continuous advancements of military equipment. Ancient China soon invented semi-automatic crossbows, multi-phase rockets, naval fortresses with catapults, and the use of gunpowder that bear a striking resemblance to modern lethal weaponry. And what would advanced lethal weaponry look like today? The Aero Vironment Nano Hummingbird is an unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] and as an ornithopter drone appears like the bird in flight only it carries a video recorder that feeds back aerial information. This spybot has a wingspan of only sixteen centimetres. Further still, the Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator) currently being tested by the US Navy is a lethal drone that has the capacity to work automatically, which changes naval aviation activities considerably. If a machine made autonomous decisions, who would be accountable for the deaths caused by it? With increasing technological advancements, automaton lethal weaponry and the utilisation of artificial intelligence for killing, questions about the scope of violence and how international humanitarian law will adapt to these sweeping changes has been raised a focus on weapons and tactical strategy since tens of thousands of people are being killed with no chance of even being remembered or buried. The United States since the Obama Administration increased its covert activities in several key states including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen utilising drone weaponry that has resulted in a huge number of civilian deaths, including women and children.[7] The administration has failed to adequately answer how the numbers differentiate between sources and the scope of the strikes.

The territorial disputes and strategic rivalries continued in China well into the twentieth century, clearly accountable for the invasion of Tibet along with numerous campaigns in Korea, Vietnam, India and the Soviet Union. But a new strategy of warfare developed in the late 70’s that intended to win the war for economic power. These reforms began through the statesmanship of Deng Xiaoping that changed the staunchly critical China as a closed economy to one that opened the doors toward a global reach through foreign investments.[8] As such, the China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily increased since then and the balance of power is now starting to shift in China’s favour, forecasted to increase and surpass that of the United States. This economic strategy was followed by changes to its military strategy, particularly visible when they witnessed the advances of US military power during the Gulf War, which displayed the advanced technology in modern warfare. As visible in China’s historical battles between warring states, strategic victories were possible when economic strength enabled advantages in military might and weaponry. Decisive changes to China’s economic approach matched with the growth and expenditure to their combat capability.

Disclosure on military matters in China remains well guarded and though difficult to ascertain the exact defence budget, in 2015 defence spending was at $146 billion. Though, they cannot hide the sheer size of the Peoples Liberation Army [PLA] whereby the active reserve personnel and perceived fighting strength is totalled at over 2.3 million in manpower.[9] Tactical efforts to change China’s aviation capabilities is clear including very discomforting advances in weaponry such as the DF-ZF [formerly Wu-14] hypersonic glide vehicles[10] that project missiles out of the Earths’ atmosphere and overcome defence shields before re-entering at much faster speeds. Other weapons include the Xian H-6 Bomber capable of long-range and anti-ship missiles and maritime powers through investments in cruisers such as the Type 055 Destroyer.[11] This is amalgamated with a strengthening space program and the interest is certainly not scientific with satellites boosting radar and electronic capabilities that strengthen intelligence and counter-offensive navigation among other tactical advantages.

More than just weaponry, military strategy also includes a range of other factors including battle logistics, geographical values, and resources such as petroleum and nuclear power. This begins to raise questions about the recent changes between China-Russia relations and their steadfast position to support Iran and Syria. Improved relations particularly during the late 90’s between Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin[12] that developed corporation particularly around common geopolitical interests along with changes to improve offensive military technology through arms sales, clarifying that there is indeed an invisible war and one that would determine who the global superpower will be.

The Warring States period exposed China as a practitioner of merciless strategies for power and expansion, an adaptation that continues in contemporary Chinese politics as seen during the Warlords Period between 1916-1928 where bandits, cliques and militias plagued the country with wars until the People’s Republic of China (PRC) following the Chinese Revolution of 1949 unified the country under the leadership of Mao Zadong. The ruthlessness of the political system, brutality toward dissenting opinions, and authoritarian leadership is markedly influenced by the political history and cultural attitudes that has stretched for hundreds of years and defined by the philosophies in the Hundred Schools of Thought that continue to inspire the attitudes and social consciousness present until this day. China has an extensive population and resources that may ensure the continued management of economic growth despite the size of the country raises concerns of territorial claims. Though it is clear that the international community believe that China is far behind the military prowess of the United States with comparatively feeble technology… is it really?

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away… If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

[1] Charlene Tan, Confucius (2014)
[2] 13:30, The Analects of Confucius
[3] Jann Tibbetts, Fifty Great Military Leaders of All Time (2016)
[4] Sarah Foot, Chase F. Robinson, The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 2: 400-1400 (2012)
[5] Ralph D. Sawyer and Mei-chün Sawyer, The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (2007)
[6] Ralph D. Sawyer, D Sawyer One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies: Battle And Tactics Of Chinese Warfare
[7] See more information at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism https://www.google.com.au/search?tbm=bks&hl=en&q=obama+drone+killings#q=obama+drone+killings&hl=en
[8] M.Y.M. Kau, Susan H. Marsh, Michael Ying-mao Kau, China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping: A Decade of Reform: A Decade of Reform (2016)
[9] Michael Codner, Michael Clarke, A Question of Security: The British Defence Review in an Age of Austerity (2011)
[10] http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a20604/china-successfully-tests-hypersonic-weapon-system/
[11] Anthony H. Cordesman, Steven Colley, Chinese Strategy and Military Modernization in 2015: A Comparative Analysis (2016)
[12] Jeanne Wilson, Strategic Partners: Russian-Chinese Relations in the Post-Soviet Era: Russian-Chinese Relations in the Post-Soviet Era (2015)

Dangerous Liaisons in Syria: Is it a Civil War or a Proxy War?

The aggression involving the mass deportations and displacement, ethnic cleansing and evacuations of millions in Europe during World War Two, along with post-war border changes, continued population expulsions and repatriations meant that the prolonged chaos required common standards that would heal the hostilities and build bridges to support people seeking asylum from persecution. The violations against human rights values as expressed by the United Nations Charter of Human Rights[1] along with the precedents set by the Nuremberg Trials meant that the post-war crises in Europe required a multilateral treaty that defined the status of a refugee and the responsibility of state parties to ensure that they grant asylum and uphold the duty to protect all people no matter their nationality. By 1951, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was approved and recognises the right of all people to seek asylum and to be treated fairly and without discrimination. It defined a refugee as having a well-rounded fear of being persecuted and unable to return to country of former residence due to the likelihood of persecution.[2]

The Convention has since been subject to one amendment via the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1967) that removed the geographic limitations and enabled a universal reach ahead of the global crises taking place outside of Europe. This included the Middle East particularly after the Six-Day War in 1967 in Israel where the implications of the war increased the pre-existing millions of Palestinian refugees that remain in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.[3] Continuous hostilities in Iraq, Yemen and Syria and the growing number of forcibly displaced persons from predominately Muslim countries as well as internally displaced requiring humanitarian assistance grown exponentially that numbers of displaced from Syria alone have been estimated at 12.5 million.[4] Of this total, over 1 million Syrian refugees sought protection in Lebanon along with 655,675 in Jordan[5] and both countries are not party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. With the massive refugee crises exposing the failure to cope with the current framework together with the inappropriateness of international refugee law regulating the influx, considerations about the effectiveness of the Convention and the evolving nature of today’s refugee issues has called for the adoption of new changes to pre-existing international protection regimes that understand changes methods of modern warfare and the relationship between Islam and Democracy.

The modern history of Syria is fairly unique in the Middle East, particularly because those that have held the greatest control over the last century following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire have been the Alawi, a form of Shiite Islam and thus a Muslim minority. For the sake of brevity, you can read in detail my historical comparative between Turkey and Syria here in addition to my analysis of the Syncretistic religions of the Near Eastern region here. France initially occupied areas of the Near East including Lebanon and Syria, but with ongoing sectarian violence and finally the fall of France to the German Nazis during World War Two, a series of favourable events particularly with British authority now playing a role in the region enabled the independence of Syria, officially proclaimed in 1945. Prior to this, France provided the Alawis with the opportunity to access political decision-making during the difficulties that the French faced with sectarian violence in return for their support. Developments in transport and education enabled the historically isolated Alawi community particularly from the Latakia region – who have had a long history of persecution by the Sunni majority – to access to the rest of the country along with positions in the military, factors that reinforced and mobilised social and political solidarity. As such, power was conversely afforded to the Alawi minority over the Sunni majority as the authority of the military strengthened, a military controlled predominately by the Alawi and after a number of coups finalised by the 1963 Syrian coup d’état, the Ba’ath Party seized control of the country.

The hostilities continued in the region including internal leadership upheavals and the ruthless damage against the Syrian armed forces by Israel’ powerful display of military prowess in 1967; in six days, the Israeli forces seized the Golan Heights, destroyed the Egyptian Army and captured the Sinai peninsula and a number of other assaults that incapacitated Syria to defeat. This finally led to the revolution led by Hafez al-Assad who remained President of Syria for decades after 1971 when he – at the time stood as defence minister – overthrew president Noureddin Mustafa Ali al-Atassi and his right-hand Deputy General Secretary, Salah Jadid, the latter – due primarily from the influential and powerful role he played politically – had attempted to remove al-Assad and ultimately backfired. Russia’ political involvement in the country was clear at this time, particularly with Jadid’ relations with the Eastern Bloc and plans to strengthen ties with communism; Nuritdin Mukhitdinov as Soviet Ambassador to Syria playing an influential role in developing closer ties to Russia. Providing armament – becoming the main supplier – and permitting the Russians to lease a naval facility in Tartus, Syria remained an ally as part of Russia’ Cold War efforts against the United States, the latter along with their pre-existing relations in the Middle East particularly with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey initiated further tensions with Syria.

The deadly arms race in the Middle East is an example of politically and religiously fuelled competition in the region. Russia has become the main supplier of arms to the Assad regime, recently deploying advanced S-400 air defence systems to Syria [allegedly to protect their naval base] that is comprised of mobile missile launchers capable of detecting flying targets and effectively providing the country with battery capabilities that boosts its defensive security, effectively making non-stealth jets inoperable.[6] Similar missile systems were recently delivered to Iran, altering the security balance by closely matching the military powers of Israel and the US, which could thus permit an uninterrupted pursuit of dangerous domestic initiatives including the advancement of its controversial nuclear development program. Though United State’ fleet has been upgraded to overcome the strengthening defence through the development of new stealth assets and long-range bombers including LRS-B or B-21 Raiders,[7] it nevertheless poses a concern that could shift the dynamics and enable Iran to pursue nuclear technology independent of any lethal responses. Hidden under the guise of a peaceful source of power, nuclear facilities that have the technology capable of developing weapons along with a joint Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation could clearly engender a real shift in the balance of power in the region. This is particularly hazardous for Israel, with Iran consistently threatening to ‘wipe Israel off the map’[8] where former Ambassador to Syria Hojatoleslam Akhtari stating, “[t]he only way to subdue the enemies is by refusing to compromise on the goals of the resistance and to remain strong; the future of criminal nations such as the Zionists will be erased from the history books.”[9] Consistent deterioration in diplomatic processes on the nuclear question with Iran vis-à-vis violations of the Paris Agreement – a framework by the United Nations on climate change with assessments on nuclear infrastructure as part of the mitigation strategies to reduce global warming – raises legitimate concerns as to just how dangerous Iran’s military capabilities has become.

untitled

Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider (LRS-B) Long Range Strike Stealth Bomber

The United States’ place in the Middle East is not without its controversy, particularly its involvement in Iraq, oil politics and its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Operation Desert Storm in January, 1991 was a military operation against Iraqi forces in Kuwait where over 100,000 people were killed. Though a strategic success, it was ultimately a failure in the aftermath since the violence continued long after; following the encouragement of minorities in Iraq – including the Shiite and Kurdish minorities – to weaken the regime through rebellion by supplying armament, the United States was party to the ultimate massacre of women, children and men as part of Saddam Hussein’ brutal suppression. The USA grossed $36.2 billion on foreign weapons sale in 2014 and controls almost 50% of the global market on weapons, with Russia coming in second.[10] Is it just an economic battle – one that would afford the greatest power – between two states utilising the differences in political philosophies to justify the onslaught of continuous violence and displacement of millions of lives? Following the Ba’ath party’ successful coup against the leadership of Abdul al-Karim Qasim with the support of the USA, by 1968 a bloodless coup led by General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr meant that the relationship and position of USA deteriorated in favour of the Soviet presence.[11] To challenge this, the USA sponsored – along with the support of the Iranian government at the time due to border disputes – the Kurdish people with armament and the initiative to rebel in exchange for autonomy. It was a fatal and unfilled promise for the Kurds.[12]

The relationship between the United States and Iran dates long before the Iranian revolution, the former known to having a hand in the 1953 coup d’état where documents verify how both the USA and Britain assisted the coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq and replaced by the preferred Shah.[13] It was not long after that oil in the region was privatised with the USA and Britain in control. The growing Soviet influence only compelled further attempts to infiltrate power in the Middle East, including Lebanon where the 1958 crisis exposed President Camille Chamoun’ close relations with the USA and despite the growing frustration between sectarian groups and pro-Western imperialism, President D. Eisenhower nevertheless intervened under what was considered the need to protect Lebanon and the Middle East from the ‘threat of communism’. It is the same reason for the United State’ funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Iranian Revolution solidified a massive shift in the region when the Islamic Republic of Iran was born through the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, and though the latter publically confessed an incompatibility between Islam and Communism, deteriorating relations with the United States only compelled closer ties with both China and Russia. Iran shifted toward a coalition that included Syria and soon found itself participating the foreign factious politics as seen with Houthi rebels in Yemen – a Shia Muslim minority – whom they support to aggravate Saudi Arabia. This led the Saudi government in a multi-national coalition of predominately Sunni-Arab states to restore president Abdrabbuh M. Hadi  of Yemen following the rebellion, leading to the deaths, injuries and displacement of tens of thousands of people and a widespread humanitarian catastrophe of an already impoverished state.

The Saudi influence in the region is undeniable and their stratagem in Syria – by supporting the Islamist rebel fighters in Syria – clear along with Qatar and Turkey. Muslim theologian Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab and author of Kitab at-tawhid or the ‘Book of Unity’ and fundamental to the teachings of Wahhabism, took a puritanical approach to the teachings not just of the Qur’an but also of the hadiths and became the primary power in the Saudi region following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The Saudi State has long promoted Wahhabi Islam, an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam, and is a major provider of military and financial assistance toward a number of group that adhere to Islamist ideology, channelling assistance through ‘charitable’ funds to poorer, Islamic states that often aid in the construction of mosques and training Imams. In a damning report, the European Parliament[14] identified the Saudi Wahhabi regime along with the Salafi – which is known to be an extension of the former – as supporting global rebel groups with arms and fiscal provisions and thus making them better equipped and capable to fight effectively on the ground, which is a clear advantage in areas of the Middle East for instance. “From the most nebulous organisations to the most organised ones, from smaller cells to the most complex networks, no country in the Muslim world is safe from their operations, crude or sophisticated as they always aim to terrorise their opponents and arouse the admiration of their supporters.”[15] I hardly think a country where women have no rights and people continue to be beheaded for supposed crimes such as witchcraft would have the moral standing to cultivate an ethical approach to international relations.

United Nations Security Council Resolutions on the civil war in Syria where consistently vetoed against by both Russia and China, including S/2016/846 whereby Russian representative Vitaly I. Churkin stated: “After destroying Libya, the troika of permanent Western members of the Security Council had turned its sights on Syria. Furthermore, the French delegation had not put forward a single constructive initiative,” statements that were furthered by United Kingdom with Matthew Rycroft reacting with, “[t]he current tactics being used in Aleppo under the guise of combating terrorism were turning the situation into a catastrophe. The Russian Federation’s commitment was hollow and a sham. Instead of investing in peace and diplomacy, it had cooperated with the Syrian regime, and it was Syrian civilians who bore the brunt of that complicity.”[16] Accusations that the Russian Federation were derailing the resolutions and preventing diplomacy to immediately end the bombing of Aleppo, but Syrian representative went on to defend Russia purporting that the draft text from France was intended to fuel the crisis and enable France the “golden opportunity to revive its colonial power.”[17]

Really, just France? It is clearly not the only country that cares little enough for the millions of innocent women, children and men in the Middle East to say qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

Water politics is certainly controversial as the Taurus mountain regions in Turkey sources the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that provides the water for Syria and the Persian Gulf, threatening the water supply with the effective control of its flow through the construction of dams including the Atatürk Dam funded in part by the United States. The risk is not a joke neither do deterrence theories protect the probability of an outbreak of devastating consequences as exemplified by the drought in Iraq following the Keban Dam built in Turkey and the Tabqa Dam (built in response with the support of Russia) in 1975. In 1990, threats to bomb the Atatürk Dam following vehement protestations from Syria and Iraq due to the temporary reduction – thoughts its effects certainly felt by the two states – of the Euphrates river to fill the dams reservoir had Turkey threatening to completely cut the flow of water; the water flow is currently at 2/3rds of its former capacity prior to the dam. The scarcity of water in the region itself has had devastating effects and to utilise the dam as an instrument of war could lead to a much greater struggle and risk; the former, further displacement, sanitation and environmental disasters that may result in the deaths of millions of lives, whilst the latter and of greater concern, the direct involvement of China – who supports Russia, Syria and Iran – directly into the conflict.

 atatu%cc%88rk-dam-turkey-courtesy-dursun-yildiz

Atatürk Dam has reduced the water flow down the Euphrates-Tigris by 1/3 than what it was prior to its construction.

It would almost appear that since the decline of Ottoman power – an empire that stretched for hundreds of years in the region – the Middle East as become a hunting ground for gruesome Western hands salivating over the accessible fiscal rewards, manipulating authoritarian puppet states, fuelling religious tensions and sponsoring sectarian divisions that result in a monopoly of power struggles that intensifies hatred and has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. The religious divisions between Shia and Sunni Islam only enabling foreign interference. Now with Trump inaugurated as President of the United States of America, one wonders how his mindless leadership supported by the conservative evangelical Christians who have monolithic, premillennialist ideas of the Second Coming as well as a very strong influence on US Foreign Policy, will effect pre-existing adversaries between the superpowers? And what about China, sitting passively in the background as it watches from over the Caucasus Mountains? Are they believed to be Gog and Magog, the devil ousted from Heaven and who deceives (does anyone suspect?) the nations ‘to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea?’ One wonders about the Chinese army multiplying and the consistent increase in spending on military growth with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) the world’s largest standing army. Was Napoleon Bonaparte a military genius or a prophet when he said: “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will tremble the world.”

Has the trumpet been blown?

 

 

[1] Article 14, The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
[2] Article 1 (a)(2)
[3] Brahma Chellaney, Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis, Rowman & Littlefield (2015) 50
[4] Syria Regional Fact Sheet: http://www.care.org/sites/default/files/documents/CARE_Syria_Regional_Crisis_Fact_Sheet_22092015.pdf
[5] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/02/syrias-refugee-crisis-in-numbers
[6] https://www.rt.com/news/361586-russia-s300-supplied-syria/
[7] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/americas-lethal-new-b-21-vs-the-b-2-stealth-bomber-15352
[8] Mark A. Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Indiana University Press (1994) 393
[9] Dwight Jones, The Judas Factor: As Judas Betrayed Christ, America Will Betray Israel, Charisma Media (2015) 113
[10] http://time.com/4161613/us-arms-sales-exports-weapons/
[11] Bryan R. Gibson, U.S Foreign Policy, Iraq, and the Cold War 1958-1975, A thesis submitted to The London School of Economics and Political Science (‎2013)
[12] Bryan R. Gibson, Sold Out? US Foreign Policy, Iraq, the Kurds, and the Cold War. Palgrave Macmillan (2015)
[13] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/cia-admits-role-1953-iranian-coup
[14] European Parliament, “The Involvement of Salafism/Wahhabism in the support and supply of arms to rebel groups around the world” Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union, Directorate B [Policy Department]: EXPO/B/AFET/FWC/2009-01/Lot4/23 June/2013.
[15] Ibid
[16] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12545.doc.htm
[17] Ibid.

 

 

Are All Men Cowards?

I often remark on the necessity of moral consciousness, what I deem to be the correct representation of the ambiguous notion of ‘love’ where one is capable of rationally reflecting on moral judgements toward the principle aim of reaching the ideal [Platonic] Form of Good or God and what one can only achieve once they have transcended to posses a mental state of autonomy. That is, one who can transcend socially expected codes of conduct relative to their culture and what they are expected to conform to toward guiding themselves in a state of rational freedom, setting standards and responding with moral principles according to their own understanding of duty and good-will. This transcendence toward an authentic and independent way of thinking without the interference of our subjective fears and outside influences is determined by the courage to face the separateness of ourselves from others and to take responsibility for our decisions and actions; the greatest obstacle being the angst produced within us by the alienation from everything we had been taught to believe is our reality. It is to face our individuality. This angst is a type of subjective pain and we end up with a difficult choice in the attempt to end the pain; as mentioned, we either transcend and begin taking self-reflective responsibility through developing an independent moral consciousness, or we give up and conform to patterns of social behaviour. This conformity, however, can be religious or gang-related, it can be following your partner or friends and family to following neo-Nazi ideology, whatever is accessible that would enable the individual to avoid exercising independent and rational judgement. This decision is nihilistic since reasoning and acting consciously is the nature of our existence and failing this confirms a belief in a meaninglessness for ones own life. The ‘soul’ of the individual is in despair because the conscious conformism is against our very nature and to silence this blind submission, feelings of powerlessness and of weakness, his nihilism and hatred for himself projects outward to the world around him. He loses his humanity and what is left is nothing but a wretched person who has conformed to the rules of his environment that artificially protects him from exposing his state of mind, or lack thereof. This subjective cowardice to take that natural step toward transcending to an independent moral consciousness by abandoning self-reflective responsibility is an archetype of cowardice in all its forms, which is why it could render a man capable of violence and even murder of a woman behind closed doors, to those who are physically weaker, and who are dependent on them. Why would they take responsibility for others if they are incapable of doing so within themselves?

When I saw a poster written by activists following the brutal murder of 20 year old Özgecan Aslan in Turkey by a man who attempted to rape her, where it wrote “Biz kadın gibi yaşamak istiyoruz,” which translates to we want to live as women, I unequivocally understood what that meant. There is a trend that one will notice as you continue to read, that the most vulnerable in our society, those that require protection and support are turned away, ignored and ultimately become the victims of violence and exploitation. These perpetrators who seek out the vulnerable epitomise cowardice defined not as one who is afraid of the dark, but rather one who is afraid of his moral responsibility that in the process discards morality and becomes a ‘worm’ as Kierkegaard calls such men. “For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God.”[1] Power is a critical variable and often those who abuse their position of power or authority are the members of a household who make the decisions.

The global number of people trafficked per year for labour and sexual exploitation is staggering, with 75 per cent of the 20.9 million[2] exploited being women and children;[3] 4.6 million are victims of sexual slavery. In 2012, accounting 14 per cent of all homicides were deaths resulting from intimate partner or family member abuse,[4] with 50 per cent of all female homicide victims – a total of 43,600 women – killed from domestic violence. 95 per cent of perpetrators of all global homicide were male.[5] It is estimated that globally, 35% of women have experience violence either physically or sexually. Women with intellectual disabilities are regularly victims of physical and sexual abuse that forced sterlisations continue to be performed and the impact on children who witness or experience domestic violence includes “a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These can also be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life,”[6] as well as an increased risk in health issues.

The situation is not something one can dismiss and domestic violence by intimate partners and family members resulting in the overwhelming number of fatalities is clearly disproportionate between genders, just as much as sexual exploitation. Whilst it may be possible to quantify the number of deaths or reported crimes, it would be difficult to verify the actual number of women and children who have experienced violence and further still, it is even more complex ascertaining the causal roots of this tragedy. By taking into account the socio-political and cultural conditions, and even the psychological and behavioural perceptions of masculinity, we may shed light on ways to establish normative changes to current state practices on the prevention of interpersonal violence.

Disparaging views against women is not an uncommon phenomenon, in fact, it continues even academically where traditionally male-dominated disciplines such as the sciences and philosophy consistently disregard the canons of female representatives while subjecting them to hasty generalisations and mockery that prolong pre-existing gender bias without consideration to the historical and continued subjugation of women’ rights. Some stricter patriarchic societies have normalised violence against women in addition to the mental health effects caused by the glorification of abuse where violence is used as an instrument to engender notions of masculinity and power. This is clearly the case in Turkey, where the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy revealed that almost 86% of a population of over 38 million women in the country has suffered from physical and psychological violence.[7] My home country, Australia, also has staggering results where it has become the leading cause of preventable death and illness of women aged between 15-44 following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, however comparably it is not as pervasive. When such widespread violence becomes a cultural norm, it verifies why 64% of women in Turkey remain married to their abusive partner. The effects of domestic violence has a devastating impact on the mental health of victims as seen with patterns where clusters of Turkish women experience major depressive disorder, phobic and post-traumatic stress disorder[8] that can often be considered a normal female feature.

It is not normal.

I recently spoke about a memory where my father was standing outside of a bedroom door when I was a child, wielding a large kitchen knife and screaming at my mother, who had locked herself in the room, telling her to get out so he can kill her. This is followed by another memory of him reading a poem he wrote for my mother about the love he had for her. Psychological abuse stands at the forefront of violence against women and children and is used as a tactic for several reasons; the first is to control the victim through feelings of guilt, confusion and fear and the second is to deflect blame and responsibility for their own actions. This includes tactics such as economic control and isolation from any support mechanisms including friends and family, making excuses such as exhaustion due to work obligations, criticising her appearances and intellect, and mind games such as gaslighting taken from the 1944 film Gaslight starring Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton who slowly convinces his wife Paula played by Ingrid Bergman that she is going insane. It is the gradual tactic that sows psychological doubts of ones own sanity. My father came from a Turkish/Arabic culture that glorified violence and where violence against a wife and other men were promoted as a symbol of his capacity to protect his family unit [his parents and siblings].

Whilst we have feminist studies, cultural ideals and notions of masculinity seemingly go under the radar. An environment that promotes notions of masculinity through defined attributes such as physical strength, breadwinners [domestic power] and professional prestige effect perceptions on how a man should appear and behave. When constructions of masculinity is defined as much as beauty is to the identity of the feminine, a dichotomy is by extension coupled with this definition whereby feelings of emasculation are formed when one fails to adequately adhere to the required qualities that define this image of a ‘man’. Masculinity and the concept of gender itself is a social construct.[9] He assumes failure and develops a sense of insignificance and a way to overcome the sense of subjective powerlessness is through acts of aggression since it is envisioned as a form of power. This is also the case with sexual violence and why 58% of trafficking cases globally account for sexual exploitation, not to mention the crime of sexual violence as a weapon of war. As with definitions of masculinity, notions of feminine purity often shift the blame to victims of sexual violence. 

article-sexworker-1109

A haunting glimpse into the reality of sex-workers as it almost exposes the monstrosity behind men who have lost the depth of their humanity by willingly engaging in sexual exploitation of women and their failure to adhere to the responsibility toward morality.

The effects of my experiences as a child witnessing the violence included feeling guilty for what was essentially the abuse against me, as well as being afraid of and distrustful of men that I never approached intimate relationships. Instead – in my isolation – I focused intently on understanding the conflicting challenges between what was moral and loving in principle to eliminate what was programmed by my environment and experiences. I saved my own life because of this. I changed my name and chose to lead my own life independent of all institutions and social requisites including my past experiences and developed a new life or ‘church’ under my own direction. Most continue being subject to or inflicting violence, careless of themselves and denying any problem with their circumstances, hence the prevalence and prevalent acceptance of violence against women. What needs to be understood is that any form of violence can never be justified unless it is in self-defense and even so there are strict rules as to what may be adequately considered thus. Any man who raises his arm against a woman or attacks, exploits or abuses someone vulnerable is exposing nothing more than his mental health and moral defects and utilising psychological games by blaming the victim to deflect responsibility or by using the cultural normalisation of violence as a justification cannot change that very fact.

Only a man who self-regulates his own behaviour and adheres to his own moral principles consciously along with his own independent view of selfhood would never feel emasculated even with a woman who may be professionally or academically more successful, because he becomes a man in his own right rather than what is socially constructed. I was forced to fend for myself, to fight through constant injustice and to surpress my feminine attributes to survive, hence why “Biz kadın gibi yaşamak istiyoruz” is saying that a woman wants to be a peace enough in her life to be herself. While patriarchic cultures may be to blame, it is the fact that violent men have serious mental health issues vis-à-vis their failure to take moral responsibility for their behaviour. It is to wholly accept the fact that violence equates to mental health problems, particularly in light of children who are exposed to violence and are likely to inherit the same behaviour later in life. It is not just that women and children are currently going through an invisible catastrophe, but on the whole people have turned their backs on morality and our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community.

The trend here is that people have turned their backs on love.

[1] Douglas J. Soccio, Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy, Cengage Learning (2015) 401. See Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life
[2] See United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012
[3] Ibid.
[4] See United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), The Global Study on Homicide 2013
[5] Ibid.
[6] World Health Organisation, Violence Against Women: Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against Women Fact sheet (November 2016) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/
[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarabrynn-hudgins/a-chronic-problem-violenc_b_13649898.html
[8] Simsek Z, Ak D, Altindag A, Günes M. “Prevalence and predictors of mental disorders among women in Sanliurfa, Southeastern Turkey,” J Public Health (Oxf). 2008 Dec 30(4): 487-93.
[9] See Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, Simon Watson, Carrie Mae Weems, Constructing Masculinity, Psychology Press (1995)