Originally Appeared at German Economic News. Translated by Susan Neumann.
For the first time in decades, all the major European powers, Russia, and the United States will exercise their hostilities in Syria. It’s not yet clear whether they’re together or against each other. The fact is that these wars have been raging for some time in one form or another. They have an enormous potential for destruction, because no one knows exactly how to separate friend from foe. It’s an extremely dangerous situation.
The military deployment in Syria of all the major European powers — Britain, France, and Germany — as well as the already-committed presence of the United States and Russia, leads to an extremely dangerous geopolitical situation. Many of the players are operating with a mask, anonymous, or by proxy. The escalation is the culmination of what has already been in the works for years, plans which have been fostered by military strategists, intelligence services, and radical groups. The former Austrian Vice Chancellor Erhard Busek — hardly a doomsdayer —said in an interview in autumn of 2015, “We are facing the creeping onset of the Third World War."
Strictly speaking, we are not dealing with just one world war, but four different levels of war that are intertwined.
The world’s interconnectedness has not, as was hoped, led to full liberation, to more justice, to more equality, to protection of minorities and to diversity. The Internet, once conceived by the military as a new communications structure, was seized by intelligence services, corporations, political agitators, and global profit makers. We’re experiencing destructive side of the technological, industrial revolution. The war has usurped all our modern age has made possible. Death through the use of technology seems to be the avant-garde, and the revolution is sweeping over the globe with it.
The first level relates to the real war. Using our technological means, it’s now possible to kill “neatly.” Drones are operated per remote; they can kill with a "joy stick” — what an obscene term in this context. There is no declaration of war. There’s no longer a distinction between civilians and soldiers. The originators of the so-called "targeted killings" never come out into the open. There are also no regular armies. Mercenaries are fighting everywhere and political sects are sent into proxy wars. The only people that don’t have a face are those that are forced to bear the consequences. Those killed are never revealed to us — unless their deaths are used to serve some propaganda purpose, in which case they’re abused yet again.
The silent accusers of these real wars do have a face: they are the hundreds of thousands of refugees who came to in Europe in 2015. They were driven out by wars perpetrated by those unknown. They've woken us up here in our cozy Europe to let us know that there’s war in the world.
The second war is the financial war. Thanks to the global network, it is possible to push the flow of money across the globe at the speed of light. Many of the acts of war that we’re brooding over today have long since been prepared in advance. They’re the result of targeted attacks on neighboring financial systems. The governments of great countries are busy commanding entire armies of finance warriors. These finance warriors operate undetected. They can wreak havoc on another government or a company at any time. They are put into position to manipulate, to attack, or to respond. You don’t see, hear, or know them, and yet these true weapons of mass destruction can bring down continents overnight.
The third war is the so-called cyber warfare. The Internet, the once craved-for “Eden” of geeks and garage-founders, is now the Limbo leading up to annihilation. Perpetrators and masterminds remain again, anonymous. Entire infrastructures can be paralyzed with the help of professional hackers. The fact that the US and China have recently started negotiations on a disarmament agreement proves how dangerous and how developed these structures now are. Both countries want mutual agreement that the destruction of dams, electrical power plants, nuclear power plants, and transport facilities should be excluded. The fact that there are negotiations between the major powers about refraining from this kind of destruction proves that they are already capable of carrying it out. The atomic bomb takes a backseat to these "smart" war options like the cudgel does for the fighter aircraft.
The fourth war raging in the technological age is the propaganda war. Actually, today there should be the possibility of never-before-seen freedom and diversity, and yet the economic crisis and the obliteration of past economic models have driven many newspapers into the arms of the spin doctors and PR-machines. Journalists today don’t have time, and more often than not, they lack professional competence. You have to eat from the hands of those who are interested in spreading misinformation; they're not interested in education. The public broadcasters in most European countries are supposed to inform the public about the failure of governments, but they’re controlled and forcibly funded by the same politicians that they should be denouncing. That simply cannot work.
So the media are drawn into the propaganda war that must orchestrate the real wars, the financial wars, and the cyber wars. Their resources are endless. Their unscrupulousness is universal.
Wars are never instigated out of ethical reasons. In the course of war, all parties share the guilt of the crimes they’ve committed. Of course some are worse than others. The Shoah; that is, the rationally planned execution of six million Jews in Europe. The murder of Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled people, and other minority groups was carried out with the same icy precision and is a one-time event in human history. With the plea, “War never again,” we have allowed the memory of the crimes of the National Socialists and their willing accomplices to serve as an all-important reminder, and this reminder has enabled Europe to enjoy an usually long period of peace and prosperity.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have not disappeared, however. They’ve only changed their tactic. Today, half a century later, this golden age seems to have come to an end. All countries are in the throes of the technical industrial revolution and have either just woken up, or they're already preparing themselves. They use the new possibilities to test the waters, to lightly sabotage, or to try to actually create new facts. The realities in the world have changed in recent years. Almost all countries have fundamental problems that are forcing them to act. Many think that the best means of confronting the problem head on is to go to war. New technologies enable countries to use violence in order to draw attention away from their own internal problems. They look for solidarity in their own people by creating new enemies to hunt.
All these forms of modern warfare are coming together in the war over Syria. It is not certain that it will truly escalate. However, Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet reminds us how quickly things can get out of hand. One has to be realistic and admit that if it were not in Syria, global hostilities would play themselves out somewhere else in the world.
The worldwide debt, demographic imbalances, the technological revolution and its applications, and the growing inequality between rich and poor are simply fuel for the fire in the age of globalization. It’s quite conceivable that we’re already in the middle of a modern, Thirty Year’s War. If these wars continue to escalate, the generations after us will only find a scorched Earth by the time it’s over.
This text is an updated excerpt from the new book by Michael Maier, the founder and publisher of German Economic News. In his book he analyzes the consequences of today’s modern war for Germany and Europe. The chief characteristic of this war is its anonymity. No one can discern between friend and foe. Fear and anxiety are becoming the new norm and serve as the ideal breeding ground for violence, repression, and totalitarianism. There are no more Isles of the Blessed.
Michael Maier: „Das Ende der Behaglichkeit. Wie die modernen Kriege Deutschland und Europa verändern,“ FinanzBuch Verlag München, 228 Pages, 19,99€.