“The following letter appeared in the Financial Times last Wednesday (10 September 2014,
can avert disaster
From Prof Dennis JD
Sir, History is prologue. After reading Geoff Dyer’s dire
assessment of the Ukraine crisis (“Obama faces dilemma as Putin holds all
the cards”, September 5), it is difficult to avoid
recalling that, 100 years ago, the monarchs, statesmen and generals of Europe
blundered into a catastrophic war that no one wanted.
The similarities between now and then are striking: Alliance commitments
(Nato’s Article 5-based “all for one and one for all” collective defence
guarantee); a nearly deterministic action-reaction escalatory dynamic that
renders rational human agency all but inoperable, and the impact of
threat-based stress on the complex relationship between the limbic (emotional)
and neocortical (thinking) parts of the human brain that, at some critical
tipping point, allows the emotional to trump the rational.
Revisiting the Great War can be instructive here. What did the
protagonists, including the three royal cousins – King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm
II and Tsar Nicholas II – not do then that may have staved off the outbreak of
war in August 1914? They never met face-to-face to attempt to defuse tensions.
Neither have US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A
heart-to-heart, man-to-man dialogue, in which Mr Obama presents Mr Putin with
an offer he cannot refuse, may remain the only way now to arrest the trajectory
towards another major European conflagration.
Dennis JD Sandole,
Professor of Conflict Resolution and International Relations, School for
Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, VA, US
Source: Final Times