The lack of restraint
It was a Dutch man, Hugo Grotius who, in his seminal work, titled De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres (Of the Laws of War and Peace) published in 1623, wrote:
“Throughout the Christian world, I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war, such as even barbarous races should be ashamed of. I observed that men rush to arms for slight causes, or no cause at all, and that when arms have once been taken up, there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human; it is as if, in accordance with a general decree, frenzy had openly been let loose for the committing of all crimes.
“Confronted with such utter ruthlessness many men, who are the very furthest from being bad men, have come to the point of forbidding all use of arms to the Christian whose rule of conduct, above everything else, comprises the duty of loving all men.”
Today, we look at Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and see that not much has changed since 1623. So I asked the Dutch foreign ministry if we could look forward to a time when the West would, in the words of the Bible, turn its swords into ploughshares, and attempt to resolve conflicts through peaceful means, rather than military violence?
Meijer replied: “The Dutch government seeks to end conflict by peaceful means. The promotion of international rule of law is part of its constitution.”
Last month, Spain hosted 21 government and international organisation representatives at a conference to tackle issues of stability in Libya. Representatives of the Arab League, UN, AU, EU and the Mediterranean Union were present.
The meeting in Madrid took place a day after heavy clashes broke out between a former Libyan general’s forces and Islamist fighters in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least nine people. Yet, diabolical as it might seem, it is difficult not to speculate that the destruction and ensuing chaos we are witnessing, was what was planned for the country. Libya provides Africa with a lot of lessons to learn from.