It is impossible to write about peace. The future may well be more murderous than our past. In the modern world the label ‘war’ has been applied to complex situations including the ‘war against terror’, ‘trade wars’ or ‘the war against drug cartels’. El Chapo’s trial requires the Brooklyn Bridge to be closed daily during his transit. Inside the Ecuadorian embassy Julian Assange is an asylum seeker. A Dance Macabre in Istanbul finishes with a Crown Prince bewildered by the vanishing of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate. Were the operations in Northern Ireland a war, as the IRA held, or an attempt to maintain orderly government? Since a formidable local police force alongside a national army were mobilised against the IRA for 30 years, many conclude that it was a war managed like a police operation.
Security in the 21st century will depend on economic stability. The avoidance of internal armed violence hinges on the performance of national governments. Spain cannot take for granted the unarmed civilians who choose the barricade in Catalonia over the ballot-box. Ceuta and Melilla are two cities in Morocco occupied by Spain. Such are the complexities and confusions of the relations between peace and war at the start of the new century.
During the 20th century war associated deaths was about 10% of the world’s population in 1913. It was a period of uninterrupted conflict between axes and alliances. The contrast between the two World Wars is sharp: only 5% of those who died in the first were civilians; in the second, the casualties reached 66%. Today 80 to 90% of those affected by war are civilians. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has pushed 14 million people to starvation. The Blair-Bush blunder in Iraq has unleashed an ISIL Wahabi Black-Flag plague upon the earth. Hobbes defines war as consisting ‘not in battle only or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known’. Teheran, Havana, Caracas and Pyongyang share a lucid appreciation of this actuality. Today military operations are conducted not by conscript armies, but by irregular troops operating high-technology weapons reducing the risk of incurring casualties and with no compassion for the collateral damage in theatres in Syria and Afghanistan. The Rohingya genocide captured on the phones of the victims makes the world pause to ponder the façade of Aung San Suu Kyi who stands idly by. Even journalists are jailed. Mala Yousafzai audaciously criticizes her fellow Nobel Laureate for an identical inability, ineptitude and ineffectiveness in the Swat Valley. The peace process confronts a Taliban stronger than any time since an American-led military coalition deposed them 17 years ago. There is now a complete absence of any effective global authority capable of settling armed disputes.
Globalisation has advanced in almost every respect – economically, technologically, culturally, and even linguistically – except one: politically and militarily. The UN stands for a ‘United Nothing’ as Crimea is annexed on the shores of the Black Sea. Before this annexation there was a Crimean War in 1853. The Russian Empire lost this war to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. During this war Mary Seacole, a Jamaican woman, set out to build a hospital called the ‘British Hotel’, near Balaclava, which would be a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers during the conflict. Seacole visited Florence Nightingale at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari where she slept for one night. She salvaged driftwood, debris, abandoned metal, packing cases, iron sheets, and even retrieved architectural items such as glass doors and window-frames from the village of Kamara, using hired local labour to build her dream. She found a site at a place she christened Spring Hill, near Kadikoi along the main British supply road from Balaclava near Sevastopol about a mile from British HQ. The ‘British Hotel’ opened in March 1855 at a cost of £800.
Since the end of the cold war, the management of peace and war, has been improvised. In the Balkans, armed conflicts and peace have been managed by third party armies. As WW II came to an end, 156 German U-Boats surrendered. 221 blew themselves up and U530 commanded by Otto Wehrmuth and U977 commanded by Heinz Schaffer slipped away to Argentina as a ‘Ghost Convoy’. Wehrmuth arrived in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in July 1945. U977 docked one month later. Three months later on October 2nd 1945 they were received by Commodore Courtlant Baughmann- commander of the U.S. Naval Station in Chaguaramas. The two Captains were imprisoned at Wallerfield. On that day, a 210ft. long 1200 ton tugboat thrusted through the Third Boca leading Task Group 21.4 bringing the German U-Boats- U530 and U977 into the Gulf of Paria.
During the war, Royal Dutch Shell in Curaçao produced 11 million barrels of oil per month. The Pointe-à-Pierre refinery was the largest in the British Empire. England needed fuel and most of it came from Venezuela, through Curaçao after Italy blocked the passage through the Mediterranean Sea. November 4th 2018 marks the onset of new sanctions on Iranian crude. Teheran plans to close the Strait of Hormuz if its ships face a US naval blockade. Direct US intervention in Venezuela remains a fringe idea. Venezuela may have the world’s largest oil reserves, but its economy is weak with annual inflation at about 400,000 percent. Trinidad and Tobago holds a strategic military position because of Venezuelan oil fields in the southeast, the Panama Canal in the southwest and the 750,000 barrels of oil per day which ExxonMobil will produce in Guyana by 2025.