Commentary. The Italian premier excludes the possibilities of peace, thus demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the right-wing thinker Carl Schmitt, who warned against a fragmented world war.

Meloni’s ‘prepare for war’ strategy in Ukraine pushes the unknown limit

The Prime Minister, in her response to Parliament regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, invoked the famous maxim by Vegetius: Si vis pacem para bellum (“If you want peace, prepare for war”).

Her position, in other words, is that if one wants to support a “just” peace process, one must keep the conflict going, continue the war, until a substantial balance between the parties is reached. Of course, she would do this without ever uttering the word “ceasefire” or saying who should be leading the efforts to secure it (even worse, calling Cardinal Zuppi’s mission to Moscow “delusional”).

If we take into account who the contenders are, this results in the “unknown limit” discussed many times in this newspaper being dangerously pushed further and further.

Regarding that scenario, let us try to provide Premier Meloni with some elements for analysis, which we will draw from Carl Schmitt, a constitutional law theorist beloved by the right, and nonetheless a thinker of great depth and lucidity when it came to examining the constants of history and the types of geopolitical relations that arose from them. In particular, in his Nomos of the Earth, he meticulously describes, with almost prophetic foresight, what would happen after the United Nations’ formal banning of war: the advent of a variety of asymmetrical conflicts, which, in his view, would result at some point in a true “global civil war” (Weltbürgerkrieg).

This “abysmal conclusion,” as he called it, stems from the realization that it is certainly not enough to abolish war through legal formalism to avoid it in the reality of historical events – quite the opposite. This is precisely because war is no longer “the continuation of politics by other means,” according to Clausewitz’s famous definition; in other words, it’s no longer regulated by clear norms shared by the belligerents. Accordingly, Schmitt predicts a multiplication of conflicts of all kinds. In the end, this is a foretaste of the “piecemeal world war” of which Pope Francis speaks – it is no accident that he sent the president of the IEC, Cardinal Zuppi, to Moscow on a peace mission.

Thus, in the face of this possible scenario, which Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine recalls today with its feared global implications, the need is to “rethink wars” – that is, to redefine them in an organic framework that can give an overall vision of the real elements of a scenario that conservative forces would like to impose, including by the force of a “constituent global war.”

In this regard, we will call upon Schmitt’s reflections on the entry of the U.S. into World War I. It was the “humanitarian” motives that struck him the most: Wilson committed the United States to fight against “warfare against mankind” by Germany, “a war against all nations,” a “challenge to all mankind.” This verdict leads the U.S. president to commit his nation to “the vindication of human right,” “to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world,” fighting for “peace and safety for all nations.”

On the basis of this analysis, in which all the building blocks of the current geopolitical phase we are experiencing are already present – the denunciation of a war started by one side against all of humanity, the related judgment of moral condemnation, the intention to bring freedom and peace to all the peoples of the earth by opposing this enemy – Schmitt argues Germany was declared “hostis generis humani,” a category until then normally used for international organized crime such as piracy, and therefore considered an enemy against whom neutrality was no longer morally legitimate, as well as “ineffectual,” “impracticable,” “no longer feasible or desirable,” in Wilson’s words.

Schmitt’s reflections add up to a final, apocalyptic prophecy: the advent of a “total asymmetrical war of annihilation.” These reflections sound like they come from a think tank analyzing what is happening on the global stage. Schmitt is thus opposed to the conceptions of those who present their own wars as wars waged in the name and for the benefit of values common to all humanity. But what is to be done at this point?

First and foremost, with this framework firmly in mind, we obviously need to avert the possibility of setting off new conflicts. Prevention is better than treatment – thus, it is criminal and senseless to continue diverting resources from the Sustainable Development Goals, as advocated by members of the 070 Campaign and ASVIS, meant for fighting poverty, illiteracy and climate change, which are the main causes of the wars of today and tomorrow, to support the arms race instead.

Second, we need decisive multilateral action to drain the muddy swamps of the various regional conflicts, often proxy wars, which often arise from situations of failed development, broken promises of aid and shadowy interests that thrive on chaos. Third, but not least, we need to restore the role of the United Nations as the guarantor of global security – not removing its power in favor of military alliances of certain countries, but rendering it a stable and politically supported peacekeeping body, no longer just failing miserably but able to demonstrate that dialogue is more useful for resolving conflict than weapons – as we could see with a common war won by all mankind, the war against Covid.

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