UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the corona pandemic the greatest crisis of our age. It is the biggest challenge the world has faced since the United Nations was established 75 years ago. This is not only about containing the virus, but also a matter of basic human solidarity, of helping people to cope with the economic consequences. Guterres speaks of a choice: When the crisis is eventually over, we can either go back to how things were before, or we can resolutely set about changing the things that make the world vulnerable to pandemics.
Rarely in recent history has the global community felt as exposed, as vulnerable as it does today. The virus has spread globally, causing the deaths of more than one million people, and placing serious constraints on economic activity, education, culture and religious life. It is directly impacting on the lives of everybody, in Germany and around the world. Containing the coronavirus demands tough decisions. A balance must constantly be struck between different goods and values such as health, liberty and human dignity, the needs of the economy, global solidarity, and responsibility.
Governments have reacted differently to the crisis, which in turn has weakened the basis for international cooperation, for example in the WHO or EU. The result is a confused situation, with still no end in sight even after almost a year. So what does this mean for international relations? Will the economic impact of the pandemic make global inequality worse? Will this lead to new violent conflicts, humanitarian emergencies and refugee movements? Can the corona pandemic, from a geopolitical perspective, be seen as a catalytic process from which new orders will emerge? What are the ethical dimensions for policymakers and their armed forces, in combating a virus that is spreading in democracies and authoritarian regimes alike? How is the Bundeswehr dealing with the challenges of the corona pandemic?
The authors of this edition of “Ethics and Armed Forces” discuss these and similar questions from ethical, theological and security policy standpoints – in the midst of the pandemic. The data and analyses therefore represent a snapshot in time.
The past months of the corona period have given new cause for reflection on life, lifestyles and the question of what is essential. Markus Vogt, one of the authors in this edition, believes this holds great potential to permanently strengthen the “social immune system” against future crises. In an article for zebis, he continues: “Solidarity is one of the most important resources for a resilient society. Cultural and religious traditions can help to define basic attitudes and patterns of thinking that are needed to seek solutions from a perspective of solidarity, and to mature in crises.”
Just a few weeks after his encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis addressed an urgent appeal to Europe: “I dream of a Europe that is inclusive and generous” – one which reflects on its founding values and is less influenced by national unilateralism.