Colouring, War, and Peace

David Parnas’ Presidential Address to the AGM, Colouring, War, and Peace, made a profound impression on everyone who heard it. It is not possible in a brief summary to convey the impact of this eloquent and scholarly paper, but perhaps the following synopsis will encourage those who did not attend the meeting to obtain a copy from the Science for Peace office and read it for themselves.

David used “colouring” as a metaphor for many of the most serious problems facing the world today. In the first part of his address, “Colour it fuzzy”, he discussed the lines dividing areas of different colours on maps. These give an impression of sharp differences between the people of different sides of a border, where such differences really do not exist. Much suffering has resulted from attaching too much importance to these lines, and from drawing new ones. (Sometimes too, erasing these lines can lead to tragedy.)

In the second part,“Colour it blue”, he discussed the value of blue-helmeted UN troops, rather than national armies, in keeping peace. He called for the establishment of a truly international UN army, subject to the control of the General Assembly and governed by strict legal agreements as to how and when it should be used.

In the third part, “Don’t colour them red”, he noted that red is associated with the devil in western culture, and discussed how individuals, groups, and nations have often been “coloured red” in order to generate an emotional atmosphere in which wars or other evils become acceptable.

All three sections were illustrated by pertinent examples drawn from recent history. Some of these were surprising, and even shocking, to many of the listeners.

In his concluding remarks he said:

“If it is lives we want to save, we have to stop trying to draw sharp lines, we have to build and use a blue, peace-keeping, security guaranteeing, force, and

We have to stop creating devils. In other words, we have to : colour it fuzzy; colour them blue; refuse to colour them red.”