Russia has been characterized as acting like a Nineteenth Century power and embracing a “might makes right” mentality since the beginning of the Ukraine Crisis. At the heart of this argument is the Putin government’s blind pursuit of its own interests without regard for the interests of other nations. Where this writer has discussed the topic in terms of resovereignization while those who see the potential for war fear nationalist movements and patriotic fervor within countries like Russia and China, it is also important to recognize the harm caused by another trait of traditional powers.
When countries fought wars in the past, their leaders would rally support by fostering hatred of their enemy. By vilifying, and even demonizing, the enemy, leaders dehumanized the populations of their revival nations and legitimized the wrongs done against their enemies in the name of war. This process may well have helped bolster support for one’s home country, even if the conflict was only in the interests of the government and hurt the general population, but it also made it more difficult to heal divisions once the war was over. In the age of the globalization, current campaigns to vilify revival nations, cultures, and religions make it far more difficult to sustain a stable, peaceful International Community.
Modern powers wage wars based on their national interests and the perceived wrongs of others. Although humans are naturally inclined to hate their enemies, modern national leaders legitimize war based on threat assessments and international law, not the need to destroy the hated enemy. Unfortunately, anti-American propaganda out of Russia and China, for example, seeks to cultivate hatred of the United States. Inversely, hatred of Russia is quickly growing, which is why this writer has made efforts to emphasize the need to take punitive measures against the Putin government for its policies without vilifying or declaring war against the Russian People.
Furthermore, hatred of the enemy may inspire people to fight alongside their fellow compatriots, but it also blinds them to the wrongs of their allies. In doing so, people open themselves up to be manipulated by those who wish to do wrong for their own gain. Hatred is the ultimate means of polarizing people against each other. Under conditions of extreme polarization, the enemy’s enemy becomes a friend. In the propaganda war against the Islamic State, the Assad government is being framed as an ally against violence and that is wining over some Western support for the Assad regime, even though it was the Syrian rebels who came to the defense of victims when Assad started bombing protesters.
Inside the US, as another example, extreme polarization and hatred of President Obama has left political rivals to even compliment Putin for his “shock and awe” style-campaign against America’s Free Syrian Army allies. Looking at the long running Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the hatred of the Kurds drove Turkish President Erdogan to provoke a return to war against the Kurds even though the Kurds are needed to fight the Islamic State. The pure hatred between the Israelis and Palestinians has left them unable to move beyond their traditional conflicts in order to fight the common threat that is the Islamic State. Pakistan, India, and China share similar dynamic with North Korea using hatred to indoctrinate its People to embrace perpetual abuse at the hands of their government.
Consequently, inspiring people to hate their enemies only perpetuates conflicts and rationalizes the wrongs done against revivals. When trying to build and maintain a peaceful, stable International Community, hatred drives people away from necessary cooperation. Instead of teaching others to hate their enemies, the world needs to teach people to see their enemies as people who do wrong and to teach people to defend against the wrongs of others. In other words, people need to learn to “hate the sin; love the sinner.” In declaring war against the harm being done by people, we also avoid being coerced into supporting those who seek to manipulate us for their benefit while making it easier to resolve conflicts in the long run.
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