Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Wars or food: an unacceptable alternative

It seems to me that, given the rebel conflicts besetting the Middle East and parts of Africa that are involving the whole world, it would be more than appropriate to encourage and support agricultural production systems in Europe – and in other developed countries – in order to make abundantly available those basic commodities needed to feed everybody. It would be necessary therefore to draw on the “common values” that also coincides with the necessity of giving real answers to problems that cannot be solved with violence. 
In fact, looking at the situation, it goes from the bombs on Iraq and Syria to the pseudo-democratic revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia caused not so much by a desire for freedom as by the rise in the price of wheat due to the 2010 Russian ban on exports following a devastating fire in the steppes west of the Urals. Add to that the massacres in Libya and in the Islamic Caliphate that thrives in a land of poverty and ignorance as well as the despair of the Eritreans and the Somalis and, together with the events in Nigeria, you will have a tragic picture of the situation in a significant part of the world.
The answer to the turmoil in the Middle East and the menaces to security in the US and, to a lesser degree, in Europe, consists actually in choosing a lesser evil (repression and the techniques used Guantanamo on the alleged terrorists) compared to the greater evil (danger that the attacks will spread throughout the developed countries and be beyond control). Starting from the 21st-century terrorist attacks, the Canadian politician, and human rights expert Ignatieff recognizes the necessity of violating some basic rights to protect the state’s interest, understood as the general interest. In an age when the risk of attacks is very high he – and many Americans with him – does not seem to understand the difficulty of identifying the limit of this “lesser evil” choice and the extreme importance of the question of who has the power, right and legitimacy to choose.
All in all, this solution creates some problems that are difficult to overcome since, recalling just recent cases, Guantanamo prisoners were tortured, also with lethal effect, and a system of duress was considered essential for US security, according to obviously wrong choices made by parties who acted outside, or rather, against the law, without having to answer for their actions to anybody.
As has been pointed out, by “raising targeted killings (...) to acceptable legal and moral standards, they become part of the legal action of the state, part of a list of counter-terrorism techniques with the result that any sense of horror at the act of murder is lost.” And the fact that Ignatieff considers these actions as a counterweight to the terrorist attacks, and that he deems it necessary, unlike the above mentioned example of Guantanamo, that his proposed system must undergo a preventive public debate, does not in any way make state murder or torture acceptable. In the same way, neither is the death penalty, a formally legal means in many states, again adopted to eliminate those parties considered so dangerous to society as to justify the overall “lesser evil” of their physical extermination.
There is no European response and the attempts carried out not by Europe but by the German Chancellor and, at times, the president of the French Republic have had no results so far in another critical area, Ukraine. Elsewhere, the economic giant of the sole currency (for almost all its members) does not exist at all in foreign policies. The Mare nostrum and Frontex events show the powerlessness of the adopted solutions, as we have again chosen the “lesser evil”, which ends up being just a colossal mess, almost an incentive for migrants to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to be “welcomed” (a clearly euphemistic term) in Italy to soon flee elsewhere. 
On the contrary, good should be chosen, in other words, we should resume the foreign policy of the 1980s and 1990s that sent food, medical and educational aid to countries struck by wars. There is no doubt that if that had been done earlier, the solutions would be simpler. However, other possible solutions are not on the horizon. We certainly cannot continue supplying arms right and left, even to alleged friends who may change sides at any moment, and have any hope of beginning to solve a problem that concerns millions and millions of people, both those involved in conflicts and those forced by hunger to flee their countries to reach more hospitable lands.
In conclusion, the 2003 CAP reform – always made worse afterward, though apparently improved in its more recent version – should be abandoned to return Europe to being one of the world’s granaries. Doing so would respect the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which the current CAP grossly violates. It could resume the aid and subsidized export policy that was restricted as a result of the Marrakesh Agriculture Agreement, which nonetheless had to be renewed for at least 10 years. Instead, Negotiations are languishing. So the result, at least for those countries most stricken by poverty, could well be the resumption of a generous policy useful to everybody, including us. 

Luigi Costato -