Rhetoric of the open letter: negotiations instead of arms deliveries

VNegotiations and compromises or arms deliveries? A shrill debate seems to be concentrating on this binary alternative, which hardly continues in this form. No further contribution should be made here, but rather a look at the constellation of the debate itself.

On the one hand, we observe simple thinking that varies a suggestive conclusion: More weapons lead to more military violence. It is often said that the appeal to weapons has already accepted Putin’s logic, such as Hartmut Rosa on “Spiegel online”. In an interview in the FAZ, Reinhard Merkel behaves like a leader of a battle who shifts the parties around like tin soldiers so that one comes out saving face and the other with a future prospect of solving “tricky questions”, so to speak from the position of an arbiter who can interrupt the game (which the interviewers even pointed out to him). Harald Welzer recommends contrasting the logic of war with the logic of negotiation and compromise, and so on.

The simple thing is that this is thinking in terms of constellations and desirable results. It is a stationary thinking that behaves like the excluded third party of a process that you look at from the outside and think you just have to implant the appropriate motives in all the actors involved. It’s authorial thinking, like that of a novelist, who assigns the protagonists to their roles and can even coordinate their inner worlds. Ultimately, it is even autocratic thinking because it thinks it is in a position to be able to create such constellations. That is why some of Ukraine hardly forgive their will to self-defense.

If such debates already claim the intellectual for themselves (a similarly unprotected designation as therapist or influencer), then one can expect to have a closer look at one’s own constitution of the object. It would then not be possible to behave as a kind of excluded third party with a controlling attitude who can shift troops and motives from the commander’s hill. A serious position thinks less in a stationary way and more operatively, i.e. in the form of moves, of mutual perceptions, and not in a generalized overall view, but in the real time of those actions and communications that specifically refer to one another.

Operational perspectives are necessary

One can then see, for example, that the demand for a “compromise” says nothing more than that there are parties that have to move. Thus, as a pure ideal, compromise already presupposes the state that one wants to create through compromise. It is somewhat similar to the problem of all contract-theoretical justification of social order, which must already presuppose those symmetry conditions of the contract that it wants to achieve.

If, on the other hand, one puts oneself in the perspective of the combatants, one tends to think in terms of the resources, interests and possibilities of the conflicting parties. And then you will see that “negotiation” and “arms delivery” or “compromise” and “military force” are no longer binary opposites, but elements in the creation of those symmetry conditions that make a viable compromise possible in the first place. Only then do the alternatives become really interesting, because both Claudia Major’s excellent reconstructions of the possible moves and Wolfgang Merkel’s reference to the escalation dynamics of violence then take on a serious meaning beyond a staid pro and contra.

If an “intellectual” contribution to the situation is really needed, then these operational perspectives are more likely. The difference between the two ways of thinking in no way reflects the alternative for or against arms deliveries. It is the media that are more interested in the visible alternatives than in their justifications – which they cannot be accused of. But if protagonists appear as intellectuals, as scientists or as experts, then one can expect that they empirically take note of the operative, real-time, resource-dependent and, last but not least, interest-led perspective of the actors.

This expertise fails, however, if it is only interested in the derivations from sentences, habitus formulas and moral principles to which it has become accustomed itself and whose gesture of superiority resembles the position that the authorial narrator has towards his literary creatures. He grants them a stubbornness only to the extent that he is their author. Perhaps there is a difference between a purely intellectual and a scientific attitude towards things.

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