Lunch for me on most days is me walking into the house from the bottom of my garden and preparing a light meal, often an omelette shared with my wife. I often turn on the TV to catch up on the sports news or watch a bit of sport, which now is mostly the Cricket World Cup. My partner loathes cricket but that doesn’t compare to the level of invective aimed at the TV when an ad for a ‘shoot em up’ video game appeared on the TV recently. Her searing claim ‘that men start wars and when they’re not fighting them, they’re playing video games that mimic war’ is hard to argue with.
Earlier today my Scotwork colleague Alan Smith mentioned in a WhatsApp that he’d stopped listening to the news, understandable. For many years my work day would start with being woken up to Radio 4, which has ceased since my commuting career finished in early 2019. However, with the war raging in parts of the Europe and the Middle East, an enquiry looking at the calamitous picture being painted about the current UK government’s management of the pandemic on top of all the other stuff that makes news sometimes scary, but it has encouraged me to put my phone away and start listening again and can only be Radio 4 (I am aware other news outlets are available).
Good news outlets understand that the news is one element, but good analysis is the key to build depth. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is over 600 days old and with any modern conflict attention and dissipates over time. The news cycle is now dominated Israel’s response in Gaza to the attack by Hamas on October 7th. A recent Radio 4 interview featured Lord (Peter) Ricketts, who was on the Arab/Israel desk when Israel embarked on a not dissimilar foray into Lebanon around the formation of the PLO in 1982 and later became the British Ambassador to France. He remarked that there are several similarities to 1982 with his central thesis that military operations (he didn’t use the word war) don’t achieve political objectives, will always come to an end and what is left is a vacuum of how the invaded territory will be governed when the operations end and what incentives can be developed to give the people left behind a sense of a brighter future.
War, yes let’s use the term, can be described as the ultimate means of imposing your will on another country or territory to fulfil a certain objective – eliminate Hamas, return Ukraine to the Russian people. History tells us that the absence of realistic strategies once the initial objective has been met often results in years of further pain for the people left behind in a political vacuum and can also lead to greater security issues in the longer term. As negotiators this helps us understand the futility of unilateral action leading to a successful resolution to a conflict.