Yes, we are at war. Or rather, we are all now in the war. We hit them, they hit us. After another attack — and, sadly, probably before others — we pay the price and bear the grief.

Every dead person, of course, is irreplaceable.

What kind of war is this?

It is not easy to define because different kinds of military ambitions have stratified over time, and all of them now seem intractable. We have wars between states and other states (or rather pseudo-states, like ISIS). There are national and transnational civil wars. Wars between “civilizations,” whatever you consider that to mean. Wars of imperialist interests and patronage. Religious wars and sectarian wars, or wars justified as such.

This is the great stasis of the 21st century, and in the future — provided the species continues — this period will be compared against ancient examples: the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years War or, more recently, the “European civil war” between 1914 and 1945.

The present war, caused in part by U.S. military interventions in the Middle East, before and after Sept. 11, 2001, has intensified with subsequent interventions, later joined by Russia and France, each country with its own objectives.

But its roots also lie in the fierce rivalries among states that all aspire to regional hegemony: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and, in a sense, Israel — the only nuclear power so far.

In a violent collective reaction, war descends upon all the empires’ non-paying accounts: oppressed minorities, borders drawn arbitrarily, expropriated mineral resources, disputed areas of influence, huge arms contracts. The war searches for and finds necessary support among unlucky populations.

Worse, perhaps, is that it reactivates thousand-year-old “theological hatred”: the schisms of Islam, the clash between the monotheistic religions and their secular substitutes.

No religious war, let’s be clear, has its causes in the religion itself: There is always a subtext of oppression, power struggles and economic strategies. The greater the riches, the greater the misery. But when the “code” of religion (or “anti-religion”) is deployed, cruelty exceeds all limits because the enemy is anathema. Monsters are born, reinforcing the folly of their own violence — like ISIS with its beheadings, sexual violence against women and destruction of mankind’s cultural treasures.

But other, supposedly more “rational,” barbarism also proliferates, like Barack Obama’s drone war. The Nobel Peace laureate has killed nine civilians for every terrorist.

In this nomadic war — indefinite, polymorphic, asymmetrical — the populations on both sides of the Mediterranean become hostages.

Paris, Madrid, London, Moscow, Tunis, Ankara and other great cities are victims, and their neighbors are hostages.

Refugees who find asylum or death — in the thousands, at a short distance from European shores — are hostages. The Kurds targeted by the Turkish army are hostages. All citizens of the Arab countries are hostages to the iron pincer of state terror, fanatical jihadism and the bombings of foreign powers.

What to do then?

First and most importantly, reflect. Resist fear, generalizations and instincts of revenge. Of course, take all measures to protect civilians, and employ the military, intelligence and security necessary to prevent terrorism or counter it, and, if possible, also to judge and punish its perpetrators and accomplices.

But, in doing so, require “democratic” member states to apply utmost vigilance against acts of hatred toward citizens and residents who, because of their origin, religion or lifestyle, are referred to as the “internal enemy” by self-proclaimed patriots. And then require member states, when safety is restored, to respect the individual and collective rights from which they derive their legitimacy. This seems obvious, but the examples of the Patriot Act and Guantanamo show that it is not.

[do action=”citazione”]Put peace at the center of the agenda, even if it seems so hard to reach. I say peace, not victory[/do]

But above all: Put peace at the center of the agenda, even if it seems so hard to reach. I say peace, not victory: lasting peace, made not of cowardice and compromise, or counter-terrorism tactics, but of courage and intransigence. Peace to all those who have a stake in national, religious, colonial, neo-colonial and post-colonial conflicts.

I have no illusions about the chances of achieving this. But I can’t see any other way beyond specific policies inspired by moral impetus. I’ll give three examples.

Three examples

For one, we could restore the effectiveness of international law — and, therefore, the authority of the United Nations. The rule of international law has been reduced to nothing by unilateral sovereignty claims, by confusion between ‘humanitarian’ and ‘security,’ by being subject to globalized capitalism and by politics of patronage. It is therefore necessary to revive the ideas of collective security and conflict prevention. That means reorganizing the structure, starting with the General Assembly, removing the ability of dictators to veto resolutions.

Another step: Strengthen civil society initiatives across borders to overcome conflicts between faiths and between the interests of communities. This implies the ability to express views safely in public. Nothing should be taboo, and no point of view should be imposed; by definition, the truth does not pre-exist the conflict.

It is therefore necessary for European secular culture and Christians to know what Muslims think about the use of jihad, and to consider what means they have to resist from within. Similarly, Muslims and non-Muslims in Arab states have to know how people in once-dominant European states regard racism, Islamophobia and neo-colonialism.

Above all, it is necessary that East and West build together the language of a new universalism, assuming the risk of talking to one another. Closing the borders at the expense Europe’s multiculturalism is already a step toward civil war.

But from this perspective, Europe has a virtually irreplaceable function, despite all the symptoms of its current decomposition. These ills it must urgently remedy. Each country has the ability to drag everyone else to an impasse, but together the countries could pull themselves out and devise safeguards for the future.

After the “financial crisis” and the “refugee crisis,” war could kill Europe, if Europe doesn’t stand against war.

This continent can work toward the re-establishment of international law, to ensure that the price of security in a democracy is not paid with civil rights, and to see in the diversity of its communities new fountains of public opinion.

Is it asking the impossible to require nations — that is, all of us — to live up to their duties? Maybe. But it is also said that we have a responsibility to do what is still possible, or that which may become so again.