Editorial Matters

The War, The War …

… Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins.
Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,
Capricious monotone
That is at least one definite ‘false note’.
T.S. Eliot

All we could do was listen, watch and read — half hypnotised despite ourselves — as the US Service chiefs threw us crumbs of information or misinformation at their pleasure. Inside us, the three-letter word resonated. Now it’s supposedly over, though the immense killing ground, devastation and the hatreds aroused will not easily be forgotten.

This was strange ground for Science for Peace to operate in. The very name of our organization signals our general or characteristic attitude on use of most if not all weapons of war. But this number of the Bulletin is not meant to add to our knowledge of how the weapons and strategies of the War functioned. Despite the communications Tower of Babel that overwhelmed one’s very senses, the news that emerged was too meagre for us to judge the real significance of what was happening.

One thing continues to haunt many Science for Peace members: the belief that everything might have been settled without a war (but see ‘E-Mail and the Gulf War’). And one more thing angers: that, in the Prime Minister’s own words, Canada will be unlikely to play a direct role in future peacekeeping in the region.

The present Bulletin concentrates on presenting certain material still of importance to the functioning of Science for Peace. Much of this material arose as a consequence of a remarkable discussion, with numerous contributions, that began on our computer network before January 15, 1991, and that soon afterwards reached a crescendo. Of course, those who have already seen this material may have little interest in seeing it again here. On the other hand, the attempt has been made to organize and select, so that the thematic thrusts of the several major positions presented become clearer. Furthermore, there is editorial comment on some aspects of the discussion. Some of the contributions to this interchange were by way of short papers. Three of these were by our President David Lorge Parnas, and one of them ‘Images of War’ is placed before other material in this Bulletin (Michael Steinitz’s response to ‘Images of War’ appears in Network Correspondence). Two more of David Parnas’ short articles — ‘How to Free Kuwait’ and ‘False Dichotomies: How the War is Sold’ — are also brought together following this editorial. All of us should feel gratified that we have a President who writes penetratingly and eloquently on what concerns us all. In this he maintains the standards and activity of his two predecessors George Ignatief and Anatol Rapoport. All these people have served Science for Peace splendidly — and we are very lucky to have had them as our Presidents.

This Bulletin also offers the text of a talk by Anatol Rapoport given recently at University College, U of T, and most of an article by George Lakof which appeared in the computer discussion.

Anyway … what, for Science for Peace, is the take-home message from the Gulf War? Simply that as a result of the colossal technical mastery that enabled the coalition forces to prevail so sweepingly and so totally over what had appeared to be a tremendously dangerous army, the armed services and the arms industries the world around — the military-industrial complex — will receive a huge popular boost at a time when it really appeared that their future might be in jeopardy. As someone said: ‘You ask what happened to the peace dividend. It went to the Gulf!’

In concluding, and in these times that can be so discouraging to those whose greatest wish is for a peaceful, prosperous and humane world, in which science would function as a beneficial servant rather than an agent of death — prospects that are sometimes made to seem terribly remote — four passages seem not inappropriate. The first: –

The answer to the question whether there can be a science of peace and whether this science could save humanity from extinction is yes. It should be understood, however, that the product of this science, unlike the products of natural science, would be not an increase of power over nature, much less over people, but rather enlightenment in the sense of emanicipation from supersitions which still plague humanity in contexts involving human relations, most significantly, prevalent ideas about conflict.

The hope is that this emancipation will crystallize in forms of effective political action that will eventually force the abolition of the institution of war. Institutions are not immortal. They do die. And they can be helped to die. This was the fate of human sacrifice, of the Holy Inquisition, of chattel slavery, of absolute monarchy based on the myth of the divine right of kings, and of the colonial system. This can also be the fate of the most pernicious of all obsolete institutions — war. Enlightenment aimed at enabling people to see the true role of war and of all its support systems in the present stage of human history should be a principal goal of the study of conflict.

— Anatol Rapoport, 1988, ‘The Study of Conflict’

The second is: –

I may have thought the road to a world of free and happy human beings shorter than it is proving to be, but I was not wrong in thinking that such a world is possible, and that it is worth while to live with a view to bringing it nearer. I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal; to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle: to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.

— Bertrand Russell, 1967, ‘Autobiography

The third is: –

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always – A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

— T.S. Eliot, 1963, ‘Collected Poems’

The fourth is: –

… Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, and stares, and alhat;
Tho’hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’that:
For a’that, and a’that,
His riband, star, and a’that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a’that.

… Then let us pray that come it may,
As came it will for a’that;
That sense and worth o’er a’the earth,
May bear the gree, and a’that.
For a’that and a’that,
It’s coming yet, for a’that,
That man to man the world o’er
Shall brothers be for a’that.

— Robert Burns, 1904, ‘Poetical Works…’ (written in 1794)

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)