Given the sorry state of the world, i.e. the multiple crises plaguing humanity and planetary life as a whole, you’d think that the top priority of the world-hegemon United States of America would be global cooperation and forging a consensus for collective action based on negotiation and rational problem solving. Sadly, it simply is not so.
President Biden just released his National Security Strategy document, a vision for the U.S. role in the world driven by expanded military power, geopolitical conflict with major powers Russia and China designed to “win the competition for the 21st century,” and an unprecedented level of “seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military.” In short, the document enshrines a vision of “a new world order” decisively dominated by the U.S. Russia and China (and notably the latter), the document makes clear, are our existential opponents.
Considering that other nations – most notably, again, the “major powers” of Russia and China, but also India, much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America – have ideas about a world order other than one in which they are subservient to nakedly nationalistic U.S. interests, Biden’s vision seems less a strategy for “winning” than for leading us into World War III. Should that war (a shooting war, and not at all the not-to-worry “new cold war” frequently referenced by the corporate media) in fact start – sparked perhaps by the widening confrontation in Ukraine, or by a face-off over Taiwanese autonomy from China – it’s hard to imagine that it will not rapidly escalate into a nuclear exchange among these same great powers. The inexorable result will be a nuclear holocaust, killing billions in short order, followed by nuclear winter; killing off the surviving remnant by sunlight deprivation, collapse of the remaining ecosystems, and starvation. The only peace such a war can bring about is the peace that no rational person can possibly want – the peace of a dead planet.
Social workers should not stand silent in the face of this horrifying and quite literally existential threat. We should – how can we not? – demand peace, and simultaneously demand the radical shift in priorities that might produce peace with justice. War, and especially nuclear war, can never be consonant with the core values of the profession.