A Contribution by Phyllis Creighton
Despite ongoing creation of legal instruments to constrain combat (from the first Geneva Convention in1864 to today’s Cluster Munitions Treaty), institutions to maintain peace (the United Nations, UN peacekeeping missions, Development Program addressing human needs that might fuel conflict, and Peacebuilding Commission), and structures to prosecute warmongers (the International Court of Justice (1945) and the International Criminal Court (2002), our world is not abandoning war. Global governance for security could usefully include a parliamentary assembly representative of Earth’s people (witness the World Social Forums).
But realism dictates other tasks. The drive to resort to force remains primary. World military expenditures stand at $1.53 trillion, while the UN, its agencies, and funds spend “about $30 billion each year” — not even three percent of the military total. The ideology of “peace through strength” holds sway. But the intent of its biggest spender for geo-political dominance is unmistakable, witness the some 735 American military bases outside the US. The profit driven military-industrial-political complex promotes warring. Belief in combat for peace holds NATO in thrall. If nuclear weapons are not abolished, by intent, error, or computer glitch they will one day be used, to devastating effect. Nuclear and conventional arsenals, destruction by wars, and the opportunity costs of unmet needs of humankind and Earth show our profound failure of imagination, morality, and spirit.
How can we undermine acceptance of war and the militarization of our world?
- Publicize the high costs of military spending, the social, economic, and environmental impacts of war, the suffering and devastation, the opportunity costs and theft of human well-being in militarism (to recall Eisenhower)
- Deconstruct the asserted reasons for war and publicize failures, to show the futility of resort to it
- Stir disgust through graphic stories and voices: the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Agent Orange victims, and more
- Use films, especially those on nuclear war, and drama such as the people’s court putting war on trial organized by the Voice of Women
- Spread American feminist Julia Ward Howe’s call to women to be of tender heart and cry out “Disarm, Disarm!” by publicizing her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation.
How can we deepen moral values and rejection of war?
- Employ the logic of the 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which used the possibility that war with H-bombs would put an end to the human race to establish the imperative to renounce war. Tackle the obstacles the manifesto identified: lack of realization of what war with nuclear weapons would do; resistance to limitations of national sovereignty required for abolition of war; the possibility that we “cannot forget our quarrels” — that we are hard-wired for conflict ending in violence; and people’s dim apprehension of humanity, “mankind” being a vague, abstract notion for people as is the danger to self and to future generations.
- Make “Shall we, instead, choose death,” or will we “remember our humanity and forget the rest” the question that must be answered now by using Sir Joseph Rotblat’s powerful reasoning. Rotblat observed that though we can and must get rid of nuclear weapons, they “cannot be disinvented.” “Moreover, future advances in science may,” he suggested, “result in the invention of new means of mass destruction, perhaps even more powerful, perhaps more readily available”; thus “to safeguard the future of humankind we have to eliminate not only the instruments of waging war, but war itself.”
To achieve a world without war, how do we undermine the ideology of armed violence?
- Help people understand that war and preparation for its deliberate killing and destruction destroy the very spirit of humanity
- Support non-violent resistance as the strongest power in the world, and tell others about its successes
- Help people understand that humankind is a part of the web of life, which is dependant on the biosphere – air, land, and water, the sea above all
- Help people realize that our greed and warring threaten all life and that, as the conscious, thinking part of that web, we have responsibility for its future
- Believe that through giving ourselves to the creation of life and culture and sustaining the bonding by which the human family has survived, we can one day put an end to war
- Practice, and teach, the self-giving and the ethic of care for earth and for all life that saving the future requires.