By René Wadlow
“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad” was an insight of the classic Greek period.
There is obviously a form of madness in the Turks destroying a Russian fighter-bomber which may have entered Turkish air space along the frontier with Syria. The Turkish authorities knew that the Russians were going to bomb in Syria and not attack Turkey. “Air space” is a relative concept in a frontier area. When the Russian plane crashed, it crashed in Syria.
During the First World War, the French Prime Minister, George Clemenceau, said “War is too important to be left only to Generals”. Today, for the moment, the generals at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are meeting and the Russian generals are meeting on their own side. The political leaders are in contact. However, peacemaking is too important to be left only to political leaders who created the violence in the first place.
There needs to be movements and efforts beyond and outside the governments in conflict to help bring about negotiations and a climate in which peace measures are possible. For the moment, political authorities in both Russia and Turkey are trying to lower tensions and take the word “war” out of the vocabulary which is all to the good. However, the potential for conflict remains and so non-governmental efforts need to continue.
As citizens of the world, we are particularly called to help create such a climate for negotiations in good faith. We know that violence can spread, and that mutual escalation can slip out of control. We need to use our worldwide links in a creative way to reduce tensions and to keep avenues of communication open so that peace measures are possible in the wider Middle East.