We live in extremely perilous times. The unjustifiable Russian invasion of the Ukraine – criminal, albeit instigated by decades of NATO’s eastward expansion, threatening the perceived security interests of the Russian Federation – has empowered the bellicose neoconservative sector of the National Security State. These are the very warmongers that brought us the disastrous, murderous, criminally, financially and morally corrupt Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They are the same voices that simultaneously insist on confronting a “Hitlerian” Putin while loudly asserting a kind of global and guiltless Monroe Doctrine: The “exceptional” United States, self-appointed “leader of the Free World,” has the right to do whatever it chooses to do in order to defend its own hegemonic and imperious “democratic” world order.
The extreme peril lies in the push for escalation of conflict. Feel free to disagree (please! I would like nothing more than to be wrong about this), but I am convinced that the US and NATO want the war to continue, for many months, if not years. Biden let the cat out of the bag in his Warsaw speech, blurting out the prized objective of regime change in Russia. The failure of Russian forces to rapidly subdue Ukraine has convinced Western war hawks that a continued escalation can result in a full military defeat and political-economic destabilization of the Russian regime, with the end goal of Putin’s rejection by Russian elites and masses alike, and his replacement by a leadership faction receptive to Western corporate-capitalist economic penetration of the Russian land mass. The path to success lies, unfortunately but necessarily, in protracted war, trapping Russia in a Ukrainian cul-de-sac and effectively bleeding it out, militarily and economically.
To say that such a strategy is “risky” is a world-historical understatement. Escalation has a mad logic of its own, all too readily spinning out of control, no matter anyone’s “good intentions.” What is now a de facto “proxy war” between NATO and Russia can easily transmogrify into a full-scale conflict – i.e., World War III, and the all-too-real possibility of a nuclear exchange, the result of which would be, in all likelihood, the end of civilized life, if not all life, on our beleaguered planet.
Here’s the rub: The only logical, moral, and ethical position for social workers to take is unequivocal opposition to those agitating for war – most notably in Ukraine, but everywhere, and, indeed, anywhere. We cannot insist on respecting the rights, respect, equality, and dignity of all persons while either advocating for war, or passively accepting war and its consequences. We are, and must be, insistent agitators for peace. We are, and must be, antiwar.
Which prompts the pressing question: Where are we now in the antiwar movement? What is our presence in Code Pink? What is our presence in the ANSWER Coalition? What is our presence in Peace Action, or in any of the dozens of other U.S. and international antiwar organizations insisting that war is not, and never can be, the solution to the so, so many ills and contradictions that ail our hurting world?