Preparing for Peace
The website of the Westmorland General Meeting 'Preparing for Peace' initiative
The quest for global peace
The tragic events of 11 September have reminded us that “No man is an island”, no country can isolate itself from all the others. Our quest must be for global peace, because peace is indivisible; there cannot be peace in one part of the globe while war, or acts of terrorism occur in another part. We live in a world of ever-increasing interdependence of all inhabitants of the earth, an interdependence largely due to the advances in science and technology. Globalization – whether in its positive or negative aspects – has brought about a situation whereby events in any part of the globe affect us all: in economic, cultural, or political issues, and certainly in military matters; in matters of war and peace.
This is so because other advances in science and technology have resulted in the development of weapons of unprecedented mass destruction, the omnicidal weapons, first demonstrated in 1945, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destruction of these cities heralded a new age, the nuclear age. The chief characteristic of the nuclear age is that for the first time in the history of civilization we have acquired the technical means to destroy our own species, and to accomplish it, deliberately or inadvertently, in a single event. In the nuclear age the human species has become an endangered species.
Most of the people alive today – the post war generation – do not seem to appreciate the enormous gravity of the Cold War years; they are unaware that on a number of occasions we came perilously close to the ultimate catastrophe. Even now, twelve years after the end of the Cold War, the danger of a nuclear holocaust is still with us, and it will be with us as long as nuclear weapons exist.
We must sustain the pressure on the nuclear powers to fulfil their legal and moral commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to proceed to nuclear disarmament. There is no reason for any delay on this.
have the technical means to dismantle and destroy all nuclear warheads within a
decade. There is a draft of a Convention
that would make the possession of nuclear arsenals illegal in international law;
we also have the outlines of a safeguards system to ensure that there would be
no cheating on the Convention. Its
implementation may take some time, but it will never come unless a start is
made. There is the need for a call
loud and clear: all nuclear
arsenals must be liquidated; any use of nuclear weapons in war must be declared
a crime against humanity.
But this would not be enough. Nuclear weapons can be physically destroyed, but the knowledge of how to make them cannot. We cannot disinvent these weapons. Should there be a serious conflict, in the future, between the great powers of the time, nuclear arsenals could be rebuilt and we might find ourselves back facing the dangers of the Cold War. Moreover, research in science may lead to the invention of entire new weapons of mass destruction, perhaps more readily available than nuclear weapons.
How can we deal with the danger? How can we assure that the human species will not be brought to an end in a future war? The only sure way is not to have any
that technological achievements have given us the potential for
self-destruction, war must cease to be a recognized social institution; war must
people view the concept of a war-free world as Utopian, a crazy idea of some
fantasists. I am not surprised that people should think so.
Our whole upbringing, our education, our political system, are all geared
to the notion that our security demands military preparedness.
The diabolical concept that in order to have peace we must prepare for
war has been ingrained in us since the start of civilization.
So much so that we have begun to believe that waging war is part of our
natural make up. We are told that
we are biologically programmed for aggression, that war is in our genes.
a scientist, I reject this thesis. I
see no evidence that aggressiveness is genetically built into our behaviour.
In the distant past, under the harsh conditions in which primitive Man
lived, he often had to kill for survival, in competition for food or for a mate.
Later on, when communities were formed, groups of people killed other
groups of people for the same reason, and war became part of our culture.
But now this is no longer necessary.
Thanks largely to the advances in science and technology, there is no
need for people to kill one another for survival.
If properly managed and distributed, there could be enough food and other
life necessities for everybody, even with the huge increase in world population.
The problem is that the resources are not distributed evenly, and thus
many people are still starving, many children are still dying from malnutrition.
We have still much to do before the basic cause of war is removed, not
just virtually, but in reality.
moving towards a war-free world, even if we do not do it consciously.
We are learning the lessons of history.
In the two World Wars of this century, France and Germany were mortal
enemies. Young people of these
countries – and many others – were slaughtered by the millions. But now a war between France and Germany seems inconceivable.
The same applies to the other members of the European Union.
There are still many disputes between them over a variety of issues, but
these are being settled by negotiations, by mutual give-and-take agreements.
The members of the Union have learned to solve their problems by means
other than by military confrontation.
same is beginning to take place in other continents.
Military regimes are on the decline; more and more countries are becoming
democracies. Despite the terrible
bloodshed still going on – the recent tribal genocide in Rwanda; the “ethnic
cleansing” in Bosnia and Kosovo – the number of international and internal
wars is decreasing. This is a fact. We are gradually comprehending the futility of war, the utter
waste in killing one another.
Having presented such an optimistic picture, I must remind you quickly that we are still a long way from our goal. The trends that I have described, are still very tenuous. They need to be consolidated and given more substance by systematic measures aimed at increasing confidence in relations between nations; enhancing adherence to international laws; and strengthening the United Nations apparatus for peacekeeping.
for the concept of a war-free world to become universally accepted and
consciously adopted by making war illegal, a process of education will be
required at all levels; education for peace; education for world citizenship.
We have to change the mind-set that seeks security for one’s own nation
in terms which spell insecurity for other nations; we have to think about
security in global terms. We have
to develop and nurture in each of us a new feeling, a feeling of belonging to
members of the human community, each of us has acquired loyalties to groups
amidst which we live. In the course
of history we have been gradually extending our loyalty to ever larger groups,
from our family, to our neighbourhood, to our village, to our city, to our
nation. This is where it stops now.
The time has come to extend this loyalty to the largest group; to the
whole of mankind.
this respect too the prospects are becoming brighter.
To a large extent this is due to the growing interdependence between
nations. The fantastic progress in communications and transportation
is transforming the world into an intimately interconnected community, in which
all members depend on one another for their material well-being and cultural
fulfilment. More and more people
are acquiring the technical means, such as the internet, to talk to one another
wherever they may be. This helps to
remove prejudice and mistrust which stem mostly from ignorance.
We must utilize the new tools of communication to overcome chauvinism and
xenophobia, those malevolent fomenters of strife and war.
the threshold of a new Millennium we are facing a tremendous challenge, a
challenge largely created by the advances in science and technology.
We have now the means for everybody to live comfortably, in peace.
We also have the means for everybody to die horribly, in war.
Which is it to be?
believe that we will make the right choice.
A world without war is an idea whose time has come.
We can achieve
it and we will achieve it;
but we must work for it. Making war illegal is an urgent task: Remember your humanity
and abolish war.