“The brute force of war muscle shatters reason”

In an opinion piece published in The Nation, Arias Sánchez investigates the springs of war and the political maneuvers that throughout history have shaken democracy and peace. It begins with an approach to the novel War and peace, by Leo Tolstoy, and his look towards a conflict that can be avoided, but that fails where language fails, dialogue fails. Hence, he assures that “Vladímir Putin would have plunged the noble Tolstóy into blush and shame”.

Describing the unjustifiable nature of a war that is not supported by weighty arguments, he defines it as “the brute force of war muscle shattering reason.”

He explains it this way: “Putin invaded Ukraine under cover of two pretexts: the demilitarization and the ‘denazification’ of the country. How could Ukraine be a Nazi nation when President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish? This line of argument falls down as absurd: it is like try to hold the water in a wicker basket”.

That is why he adds, accurately, that “in this war, as in almost all wars, one of the basic components of the human psyche has been missing: humility.”

As he concluded in his assessment of the war, at the end of the conflict “destroyed weapons will have to be replaced, and the arms dealers will once again be the big winners.”

Below is the full text, originally published on The nation.

peremptory silence of arms

There is not a single idea or political cause that is worth what a molecule of life is worth

The war has inspired many of history’s most egregious pens, including Tolstoy, whose novel War and peace captures the horrors of the Napoleonic campaigns against mother Russia, and those turbulent fifteen years that extend from 1805 to 1820.

War and peace it is, indeed, an epic novel, but, more than anything, it is an enormous reflection on war, its avoidability and the collective anger it usually generates. In fact, the final part leans more towards an essay than a novel.

Be that as it may, one thing is certain: Vladimir Putin would have plunged the noble Tolstoy into blush and shame. Is it that Tolstoy’s novel has been useless? Have the great despots learned nothing from her? To this one would have to reply that, on principle, great despots do not usually read.

With regard to the armed conflict that today has us plunged into terror and anxiety, I convened nine Nobel Prize winners around a document entitled “Supplication for Peace.” I firmly believe in the power of reason and in the strength of dialogue.


In an ideal world, any conflict or difference between countries should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. The use of military force must always be the last resort. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

trading desk

In these days that have passed since the beginning of the aggression by land, air and sea against the Ukrainian people, we have heard, fundamentally, about the sanctions taken against the Russian population and the clamor of the Ukrainian government for the shipment of all the weapons possible so that the brave Ukrainians can face the Russian attacks. However, it is urgent to go to a negotiating table to dialogue and negotiate a ceasefire as soon as possible to silence the cannons.

Although there have been meetings on the border between Belarus and Ukraine between officials from both parties, these have been low-level and without decision-making power on important issues. I believe that the time has come to go to a negotiating table to discuss and negotiate a ceasefire as soon as possible that allows us to reach the agreements that lead to the end of this conflict.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned after the signing of the Peace Plan among the Central American nations is that the interlocutors must be of the highest level: foreign ministers and, preferably, heads of state. Achieving peace will never be an easy task, but we must not lose hope even when the solution seems distant.

In the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine we have a ruthless aggressor who uses the fallacious euphemism of “a special military operation” to refer to his immoral war. This is how he has sold his people the massacre he is perpetrating in the Ukraine.

Putin closed all private media: we can well say that the Russian people are the most uninformed in the world on the issue at hand. Only state broadcasters work, and they present a lying and accommodating version of the war.


Putin invaded Ukraine under cover of two pretexts: the demilitarization and the “denazification” of the country. How could Ukraine be a Nazi nation when President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish? This argumentative line falls for absurdity: it is like trying to retain water in a wicker basket.

Precisely because of this, Putin opted for war, since he had no rational justification for invading Ukraine. It is the brute force of war muscle shattering reason.

The Ukrainian people feel nothing but a unanimous rejection of Russia. They absolutely do not want to be annexed or associated with it, despite sharing a common historical past, culture, religion and, in much of the territory, language. Putin has mobilized a nefarious ideological force, and this has been proven by history: an exaggerated nationalism.

When I watch Putin give his statements on television, I am struck first of all by his messianic and despotic arrogance. In this war, as in almost all wars, one of the basic components of the human psyche has been missing: humility.

It seems that Putin never recovered from the geopolitical catastrophe that meant the disintegration and disappearance of the Soviet Union. He now tries to go down in history as a kind of neo-tsar, a Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible or Aleksandr Nevski: legendary characters, inhabitants of that interstice that opens a space between history and fiction.


the real winners

After the war is over, who is going to rebuild Ukraine? In this case, there is no room to rely hopefully on a new Marshall Plan that will heal its war wounds and the dilapidated state of its economy and its infrastructure.

What will become of our Ukrainian brothers? Putin has put us all in HG Wells’ time machine and sent us back eighty-three years in history, to the dawn of World War II. Worse still: he has reissued the horror of the Cold War.

In this war, as in almost all wars, it is the arms manufacturers who are “making a killing”. Not only they are partying, but also the merchants of death, Bertolt Brecht’s Mothers of Courage who live parasitically from war conflicts, from the corpses and remains scattered on the battlefield.

At the end of the war, the destroyed weapons will have to be replaced, and it will be the arms dealers, again, who will be the big winners.

It is peremptory to silence the weapons. It is urgent to reopen the path of dialogue. It is necessary to put an end to this carnage: there is not a single political idea or cause that is worth what a molecule of life is worth. Putin is a seriously ill man: he is a sociopath, he is a megalomaniac. We can expect anything from him. But even this new czar can be dissuaded through dialogue and negotiation.

This war was avoidable, was always avoidable, and the potentially long-term over which it threatens to spread is still avoidable. I pray to God that the rivers of blood dry up, that the crying of mothers with dead children in their arms cease, that the weapons remain silent in order to hear the painful, atrocious moan of their victims.

That is the only thing that counts, the only thing on which we must concentrate our efforts for now. Those “silent” screams, those mothers who moan in pain with the corpses of their children in their arms are in Picasso’s Guernica.

This is a work that is worth seeing again in detail and with a magnifying glass. It is the right and proper time to return to it. The pain that Picasso captured on his canvas is the same that Ukraine experiences. Everything has changed in the world. Everything has changed, except the pain of the human creature.


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“The brute force of war muscle shatters reason”