The United Nations Charter and the norms of international law, the European Convention on Human Rights, other continental human rights conventions and a multitude of state constitutions each commit societies and governments to peace and to respect human rights.
It is often difficult to enforce peace and the respect of human rights in practice, as defined in these fundamental treaties and laws, or to sue for them. With regard to peace, many of those responsible in politics and the judiciary simply lack the political will to do so. With regard to international law and many aspects of human rights, however, there is also a lack of legal regulations or the corresponding institutions to implement the above-mentioned fundamental laws and treaties in practice. Although the UN should actually develop international instruments to enforce its own Charter and international treaties, in many cases it remains a toothless tiger for several reasons.
Within the UN, there are clear hegemonies in favor of states that are involved in wars and leading arms exports worldwide. In addition, there are governments that try to circumvent international jurisdiction by not recognizing instruments such as the Rome Statute and the Court of Justice in The Hague. These include the USA, Turkey, Israel, China and Russia. That leads to the fact that the Court of Justice in The Hague tends to be used predominantly to judge actors of domestic conflicts in African countries with a colonial mentality; meanwhile, regimes like the Turkish government can commit war crimes, use chemical weapons and violate international law in Rojava and Northern Iraq permanently without having to fear legal prosecution.
Calls like those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to maintain a global ceasefire during the “Corona crisis” do not go unheard but unheeded. In the capitalist system, the power of the military-industrial complex is so distinct that hardly any government dares to oppose the demands of the arms lobby and nationalist hardliners.
According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global spending on the armed forces increased by around 2.6 per cent to 1.98 trillion US dollars in 2020. This is more than ever before since the institute began making comparable calculations in 1988. The “West” continues to set the standards. The United States spent 778 billion US dollars on its armed forces, 39 percent of all military expenditure worldwide. The EU spent another 378 billion US dollars, 19 per cent of the global total. Russia came to 61.7 billion US dollars, about one-twentieth of the total Western military expenditure.
Those who produce weapons also want them to be tried out and used. Thus, the spiral of wars turns not only on the basis of geostrategic and imperialist interests but also on the basis of pure profit-making. Without new wars, there will be no sufficient sales markets; this is the simple but deadly slogan of the producers.
Drones and artificial intelligence – harder to control than landmines
One danger that experts say is more uncontrollable than landmines is the development of artificially intelligent weapons and drones. And landmines are outlawed because of profound knowledge about their danger.
At the moment, drones are becoming more and more decisive weapon systems in wars worldwide. For example, the war over Nagorno-Karabakh was decided by Turkish drones in the hands of Azerbaijan against the Armenians. Turkish drones are also playing an increasingly important role in Rojava and northern Iraq. Drones are used to kill YPG/YPJ or Yezidi fighters as well as civilians.
The best-selling Turkish combat drone Bayraktar TB2 is equipped with cameras from the German company Hensoldt. The drone is manufactured by Baykar, whose namesake and founder is Selçuk Bayraktar, now the son-in-law of the autocrat R.T. Erdogan. Hensoldt was formed after a spin-off of various divisions of the aircraft and defence company Airbus, including the radar, optronics, avionics and electronic device jamming businesses. As a company of outstanding security policy importance, the German government had secured a blocking minority in Hensoldt. The Ukrainian army also uses the Bayraktar drone in the conflict in Donbas.
Airbus, which is based in Hamburg, besides other locations, tested the escort of fighter aircraft by drone swarms on the Baltic Sea in October 2017. The drones shall support aircraft crews from 2025 on by “reconnaissance, jamming enemy radar and communications, and also engaging targets themselves” – provided they are armed. Airbus will also be involved in the production of the joint European Air Defence System FCAS (Future Combat Air System). FCAS is an armament program that combines various weapon systems and is a further step towards networked and automated warfare. FCAS includes, among other things, a new nuclear-capable combat aircraft as well as weaponised and autonomous drones. The development costs are expected to be around 100 billion euros, which will be shared by the participating countries Germany, France and Spain.
The Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS) increased the pressure in February 2021 to push through the procurement of combat drones. If the Bundeswehr wants to “remain an operational force” that can “also hold its own against a well-armed conventional opponent”, then the procurement of combat drones is “indispensable from a military perspective”, according to a BAKS working paper. The author of the paper derives this necessity from an analysis of the war on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2021, which according to Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was “the first real drone war in history”.
The BAKS paper expresses in clear words the cynical ideology of the arms lobby. It refutes the repeatedly used claim that combat drones only serve to protect German soldiers. The author comes to the conclusion that modern drone wars cost an “enormous loss of manpower and wear and tear on material”, and therefore he cynically calls for a whopping “increase in manpower and material,” – rather than a ban on drones—profit over people.
Humanists worldwide categorically reject the transfer of decision-making power over life and death to machines and artificial intelligence in arms. Left-wing parties are also calling for a binding ban on these weapons under international law.
World War III?
The people in Rojava and northern Iraq have been living in a “World War III” for years. This is now really threatening worldwide. The Western countries are in the midst of a major global economic crisis that is affecting them severely. This is also the reason for the escalation of the “Ukraine conflict” on the part of the NATO countries. The ever-growing economic power of China and the increasingly successful foreign policy of Russia are endangering the hegemony of the USA and NATO. The aim of the US government and NATO to push Russia and China into military conflicts in order to re-establish not only the military but also the lost economic hegemony has recently become increasingly clear. The German government is also getting involved and, among other things, is now provocatively sending troops to Lithuania and the navy to the Indo-Pacific. What is worrying is that increafsingly dull war propaganda is hardly being countered, at least in the German mainstream. Almost all actors are going along with it.
Under capitalism, worldwide and lasting peace is not possible, since the pursuit of profit and competition are anchored in the capitalist system and war in this system is merely the most ruthless form of asserting one’s own interests – beyond respect for the lives of others based on structural and actual violence.
The oppressed and exploited population groups, the wage-dependent workers and all humanists must urgently organize themselves internationally worldwide and oppose the warmongering of the ruling elites with a perspective of living together in solidarity and respect for the diversity of cultures in peace and on the basis of applied international law and practising democracy. If we do not do this, it will soon be too late. Every person can and must contribute to this in the individual as well as in the social framework.
*Martin Dolzer is a former German parliamentarian, a journalist and has written for Junge Welt and Neues Deutschland. He is the author of ‘The Turkish-Kurdish Conflict. Human rights, peace, democracy in a European country?’