The Universal Man

When a person studies “policy” and specialises in such an open-ended and vague field as I did a number of years ago, the main task of a policy specialist or a policy wonk is to distill the essentials of virtually every field or subject and then bring all of these essentials together as a unified whole. But due to a whole-of-government policy stemming out of Washington over the course of the last three decades which in turn overshadowed the entirety of international affairs, one particular issue or subject requires a laser focus and a lot more emphasis than any other issue or subject, namely, the commercialisation and commoditisation of war in the United States. This phenomenon, issue, or subject requires a laser focus because it was this particular phenomenon, issue, or subject which had ripple effects throughout the socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions of virtually every society.

The commercialisation and commoditisation of war is an entirely American phenomenon and was to a large extent a European and modern phenomenon. But it has more so been an American phenomenon as evinced by the last three decades. However, as Clausewitz argued, war is merely an extension of politics by other means in order to achieve limited and specific political objectives and to uphold limited and specific interests. Modern international law since its conception — with its conception being the ‘Treaty of Westphalia’ in the 17th century — essentially limits the scope of the legal justification for war which states can use. The legal ‘metes and bounds’ of war are essentially tailored towards the preservation of clear, limited, and specific economic, political, and security interests on the part of states. But with its commercialisation and commoditisation, war has become the end in and of itself, and the means have become the ends so to speak. In other words, the means have become detached from the ends, and have become the ends themselves.

The effects of Washington’s de-linking of war and warfare from their actual ends have been disastrous for the entire global community. American weapons merchants and the American “military-industrial complex” comprise of highly intelligent yet highly barbaric people, which is yet another paradox out of the many paradoxes of life. I have encountered a few of these weapons developers and weapons merchants, and the experiences were not pleasant. And it is their blood-thirst which stands as the main obstacle — if not the sole obstacle — towards peace and stability in the relations between major powers such as America, Russia, and China and thus the world, given that the stability of the international system hinges on the nature of relations between the world’s major powers. American weapons developers and weapons merchants completely manufactured a war ex nihilo when the Cold War came to an end in the early 1990’s. Thus, American weapons merchants are the direct cause of the economic, political, and social woes which people have been feeling over the course of the last three decades.

In sum, war is defensive by nature. Military experts throughout history have reduced war to a set of core principles, or a “manual” of sorts. These core principles are:

1. The objective of war

2. The nature of the offensive taken on by a military force

3. The mass of a military force

4. The economy of forces

5. The manoeuvres employed by a military force

6. The unity of command within a military force

7. Security

8. The element of surprise

9. “Simplicity”

Success of a military operation depends on a “pre-war engagement” with these principles. Apparently, these are the core fundamentals and principles of war which are taught in military colleges and universities around the world. The French-Swiss military general Antoine-Henri Jomini also fostered a three-point criteria for a military offensive. For one, the theatre for war has to be advantageous for the offensive force. Second, the topography has to be familiar and it has to be understood by the offensive force. And third, the manoeuvres employed by an offensive force have to be decisive, rapid, and swift. The longer a military offensive drags on, the more costly and difficult it becomes to sustain it. As someone once said: “Strategy is for amateurs, and logistics is for the professionals.” Jomini also summed up “The Art of War” into six parts: statesmanship, strategy, “grand tactics,” logistics, engineering, and minor tactics.

But in the end, war can never be reduced to an exact or rational science, even if philosophers and theorists reduce the “Art of War” to concrete and identifiable principles. Plus, the psychological and spiritual dimension of war — which is far more important than the physical and material dimension of war — is virtually impossible to teach from a book or a text or a manual. As a relative once told me, a book cannot teach you how to swim.

Moreover, offensive wars and the “wars of hegemony” which were carried out by Washington thus far in the 21st century contradict the defensive nature of war. But due to the major cash heist that was going on in Washington over the course of the last couple of decades, everyone ignored the basics, fundamentals, and principles of politics and war. Moreover, there was no clear political objective to America’s 21st century wars except to loot government coffers and blow a government surplus, thus the abysmal outcome of these wars. In turn, the abysmal outcome of these 21st century wars combined with the recent tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have exposed the West as an “unhinged fringe” of Russia and Asia, to borrow from Walter Lippmann.

Neither did these 21st century wars fit the criteria of a “Just War” as developed and set out by legal jurists, philosophers, and scholars throughout modern history. Napoleon summed up the “Art of War” as a collection of defensive movements, which culminate into a surprise action that puts an end to a war. Machiavelli’s “Art of War” — if applied and internalised today — would amount to a scathing renunciation of Washington’s actions and policies since the end of the Cold War. The ancient dispositions, generosity, and liberality which Machiavelli described as the key characteristics of a true politician and warrior make it difficult for people with a natural acumen and penchant for politics and warfare to maintain equilibrium and health in a socioeconomic and sociopolitical environment defined by anomie, corruption, decadence, dishonesty, disenchantment, and nihilism.

But in any case, politics, politicking, warfare, and warmongering are largely out of style in this day and age. The difficulty for most people, however, lies in adjusting or reinventing themselves in response to these evolving socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions and thus towards a new style of living. The transition from the modern age and war to postmodernism and peace is by no means easy or smooth. If anything, the transition from one epoch to another is painful and torturous. Also, given the nuclear dimension of warfare since the midpoint of the 20th century as well as the cyber dimension of warfare over the course of the last few years, the basic DNA and nature of politics and warfare has changed, and people have to reinvent themselves in order to adjust to the novel manifestations of politics and warfare. A diminished focus on Afghanistan and the Middle East means irregular warfare is also largely out of the picture indefinitely.

Also, the commercialisation and commoditisation of war in the United States had unethical and immoral roots, given that Nazi scientists played a fundamental role in the commercialisation and commoditisation of war in the United States. Ironically, the “Nazification” of America’s war industry has now become directly linked to the slow-moving genocide of the Palestinian people. After all, Zionist discourse is largely an extension of liberal discourse, and liberal discourse lacks a reckoning with death and what happens after we die.

Furthermore, war should never be central to the life of a society or the focal point in the life of a society, as it has been in the United States since the beginning of the Cold War. During a seminar I attended at a youth conference at The Hague a number of years ago, an American girl who was a few years younger than I am spoke about how America has been at war for as long she could remember. Thus, an entire generation of Americans have been living in a state of war and have yet to experience a true sense of peace.

A lifestyle that is balanced between commerce and trade from an economic perspective, along with religion and community from a social perspective should ideally shape the basic essence of a society. Hedonism and war stemming from the mass bureaucratisation and mass mechanisation of society with the aim of commercialising and commoditising war has altered the basic essence and nature of human life for the worse. In turn, life has become much more hectic and fast-paced than it should be because of mass bureaucratisation and the mass mechanisation of society. Only a puppet with no will of their own could be driven by the carnal desires or by a sense of desperation which enables a puppet to conform to the bureaucratisation and mechanisation of life as it stands currently.

As Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno argued, freedom means not having to work. But upon reflection — and especially when one takes the aforementioned points into account — one can argue that the fostering of current socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions around the world is by design. Arguably, none of these conditions occurred through happenstance. Big bureaucracy combined with the mass mechanisation of society leads to the hypercentralization of power in the hands of just a few bureaucrats, while the rest of society becomes socially fragmented. In turn, social fragmentation leads to social phenomena such as populism, a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness on the part of young people, and anti-government sentiment from the entire range of the political spectrum, which includes independents, the left wing, and the right wing of the political spectrum. Thus, anti-government sentiment becomes a whole-of-society phenomenon and it stems from the hypercentralization of power in the hands of just a few self-serving and shadowy bureaucrats who have done more harm to the world than good over the course of the last few decades.

And what is missing in international society is a leader who can weave a common thread through the various socioeconomic and sociopolitical strands in international society and in turn put a certain level of pressure on the handful of self-serving and shadowy bureaucrats who have essentially monopolised power in American society. On one hand, Donald Trump put the pressure on these individuals when he became president. But Trump could not weave a common thread through the various strands of international society. Thus, Trump ended up becoming more of a divisive and polarising figure than a unifying figure. Before Trump, George W. Bush empowered these shadowy and self-serving bureaucrats, and Barack Obama very much danced to the tune of these bureaucrats. And even now, Joe Biden is very much the puppet of these shadowy and self-serving bureaucrats.

Theoretically, the leader who embodies the common thread between the various strands of international society is the one whom the Islamic tradition calls “The Universal Man” or ‘Insan-al-Kamil.’ Because the ‘Insan-al-Kamil’ serves as the common thread between the various strands of both his domestic and international society, it is largely this figure who grasps the complexities and nuances needed to effectively manage and shape international affairs. Shakespeare alluded to this type of figure in a poem titled “A Lover’s Complaint,” when he wrote: “O most potential love! vow, bond, nor space, In thee hath neither sting, knot, nor confine, For thou art all, and all things else are thine.”

Arguably, the “Great Man” of the Continental European tradition is somewhat analogous to the “Insan-al-Kamil” of the Islamic tradition, given that both traditions envision the emergence of an influential and powerful figure shaping international affairs in a postmodern epoch. Thus, the appearance of hypercentralization stands in stark contrast to the reality of hypercentralization in a postmodern age. Those who actually wield power and are pulling the strings are not very inclined towards being visible, nor are they inclined towards herd mentality. As the Quran states: “There are those who have been helping you, though you were unaware.” Also in terms of visibility, the Quran states: “God knows who helps him and messengers, though they are unseen.” And the unseen task which is placed upon such an individual is no easy task. As the Quran states: “If this task were given to a mountain, it would crumble into dust.” Hence, when one takes the ‘Insan-al-Kamil’ or “The Great Man” out of the big picture, everything which is left over amounts to mere “political theatre.”

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