The pages of history have been turning with incredible speed during the last year, and their story has, on the whole, been extraordinarily encouraging. The initial cry that ‘The Cold War is Over’ seemed perfectly appropriate as a heartfelt wave of relief most people could rejoice in. But its endless repetition, sloganized for use as a springboard for scores of press articles, and almost as an incantation by people in their everyday conversation, surely betokens an all-too-common tendency to simplify complex issues and an excuse to put aside related matters that actually loom as seriously as ever and will never disappear without dedicated and ceaseless human effort (see ‘The Historic Moment’ by J. McMurtry in this issue of the Bulletin). The writer has encountered, even among some members of Science for Peace, a too-general, an undue, optimism — as though all international problems were automatically reduced in proportion to positive changes in East Europe and the Soviet Republics.
Of course, we should be more optimistic as a result of the amazing events that have occurred. After all, if the world’s major military superpowers can be influenced merely to intensify and persist in their discussions and negotiations on arms control and limitation as a result of perceived reductions in tensions between nations and states, it is a good thing — and a sign of hope. But let us understand also that, in terms that Science for Peace would approve, the process that could bring us to a just and peaceful world has not begun. Elimination of arms, in the true sense of discarding them, not just replacing obsolescent ones with new ones (perhaps fewer, but notably more dangerous), still has to happen. The reduction of armies and the shrinking of arms industries are being talked about — that, really, is all. And meanwhile there is a world of hostilities and threats in which, at any moment, events, unanticipated by governments and ordinary citizens alike, are apt to explode with stupefying speed and violence.
The above is, of course, just a prefatory note to the most recent — and current — world crisis. From the standpoint of Science for Peace, Iraq’s move against Kuwait is a paradigm case of the importance of Third World ambitions, territorial demands, perceived historical imperatives and the like, seen no longer either as appeals for help or as curses and threats, but as acts of great magnitude with the distinct possibilities of massive regional warfare and, by extension, global involvement.
This is not the place for dissection of the justice or injustice of Iraq’s claims to Kuwait. What should largely concern Science for Peace are the following: (i) Why did not the countries that armed Iraq or that tilted in its direction in the Iraq-Iran war forsee that Iraq would become a major military power as a result of their assistance? (ii) If now the US, Britain and other powers are so condemnatory of Hussein, why was his regime backed against that of Iran? (iii) We hear that US ‘think tanks’ on international strategic questions are currently and urgently studying the mid-Eastern situation. Why should their views be given credibility if no substantive anticipatory modelling of the present crisis was previously forthcoming? And if it was forthcoming, why were Western and Arab nations alike evidently so ill-prepared to understand and attempt beforehand, by diplomacy and, especially, through the United Nations, to head off what has now happened? (iv) Why, having obtained a condemnation of Iraq’s actions from the UN Security Council, did the USA, Canada, Great Britain, France, Australia, Egypt, Turkey and others act in their capacity as separate sovereign states to exercise direct military intervention by way of armed confrontation and with the possibility of lethal action against Iraq, instead of initially acting through the UN Security Forces? (v) In particular, as Canadians, Science for Peace members need to know why the Canadian Prime Minister has committed an apparently feebly-equipped force of Canadian service personnel to the supposed defense of Saudi Arabia without any parliamentary discussion and, it would appear, essentially at the request of US President Bush?
The entire question of Western involvement in this Arab World Affair is coming under increasing criticism by many of its inhabitants. Their already apparent disdain for many aspects of Western existence and attitudes is sure to foster increased disgruntlement, anger and resentment in the future.
Meanwhile, and for Science for Peace, this is the punchline in this whole sorry mess: If a war does now break out, it will be powered, on both sides, by armaments made by the great military powers of the West and the USSR and fought by troops many of whose commanders were taught their battlefield skills in the West or in Russia, and also their strategies in politics, polemics, espionage and sabotage.
Down the road we can expect to see many Iraqs. That, as members of the developed world is our fault and the price we shall continue to pay for declining our responsibilities as human beings towards our fellows. Even if war is no longer possible in Europe, still less between the USA and the USSR, the military powers have armed the Third World. India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq are all, despite general poverty, militarily powerful states. Within a small number of years the latter three, in addition to India, may be nuclear-armed. None of these countries is in any way foresworn against the use of the most dangerous weaponry. They are either poor in all ways, or poor except for one or a few resources which makes them anxious and vulnerable — and now makes them dangerous. Various South American states may be expected to become internationally threatening, too, in the years to come.
It would, indeed, be wonderful if Science for Peace members, along with the whole community of antiwar groups, could drop out of the picture, take things easy, and get on with their lives. But, really, all the events in Europe have done is to have shown us that some progress can be made — in the sense that a change in certain basic attitudes may eventually lead to a process of genuine disarmament. This is far from actually happening in Europe and the US as yet. But even if it does come about, there will be scant cause for celebration as other countries increasingly flex the military muscles that have been bestowed on them by those whose dearest wish may eventually become that they could somehow expunge from their history and from the world, the very notion of war.
A few last words on rhetoric and bellicosity. Anyone reading or listening to the media since Iraq invaded Kuwait will have been struck by the reemergence of the language of cold warriors: ‘The Butcher of Bhagdad’, ‘A New Hitler’, declared readiness to give Hussein a ‘bloody nose’ if he merits one, and so on. It is evident that those that have been impelled to lie low by the events of the last year are still there, hiding beneath the detritus of history, all too delighted to leap again to centre stage for yet one more sterling performance of the superhawk. What a shame they have no shame and can again find the nerve to speak in so cheap and inflammatory a fashion of issues that may yet produce wholesale human misery and slaughter.
A Note on the Arms Lobby
Finally, we recently received the following material from an article in Abendzitung, August 11/12, 1990 translated from the German by Marion Dove, former (and first) National Coordinator! Secretary of Science for Peace –
It’s certain that some circles have an interest in armed conflict. In the past 10 years (Saddam) Hussein has spent 80 billion Deutsch Marks on weapons. And the West has supplied him with whatever he wanted. Now, when the East-West conflict is losing its meaning, the armament lobby is saying: ‘We must remain strong. For the Third World has the weapons of the First World. For this reason we must continue to develop our weapons in the future.’ When these systems are developed they come by often dubious ways into the Third World. As a result the argument of the armament lobby is perpetually valid. This leads to a vicious circle.
This extract comes from an article entitled ‘The Armament Lobby is delighted by War’ based on a interview with Elmar Schmaeling, former fleet admiral.
Alan H. Weatherley