Vaclav Havel says that to achieve the seemingly impossible you must first be unafraid to dream the seemingly impossible. World peace can be achieved in incremental steps breaking the endless cycle of war and terrorism. At any one time, there are about 30 wars taking place.
The first step is recognition of the limits of military power and, second, a willingness to make serious efforts in pursuing non-war strategies to achieve national and world security.
A look at the U.S. efforts in Iraq is enough to see the limits of military power. Human rights organizations could list several dozen brutal dictatorships that deserve regime change. The top ten are North Korea, Burma, China, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Cuba and Swaziland. The difficulty is that there are not enough soldiers from the "good" countries to accomplish regime change by military means, much less enough resources to rebuild societies under occupation. If the old saying that the law is a blunt instrument is true, then, military power is even blunter.
Furthermore, military power is useless in dealing with challenges to man’s existence on earth. A disturbing Pentagon report shows the possibility of abrupt global climate change touched off by melting the ice caps. The North Atlantic Current would be shut down and by 2020, Great Britain’s climate could be similar to Siberia’s. The report is not a prediction but a plausible scenario. The report "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security" can be downloaded from the Global Business Network’s web site http://www.gbn.com. The lesson is that all the bombs and bullets in the world are useless to prevent the ghastly effects of this possible climate change – famines, diseases, floods and droughts.
General Douglas MacArthur advocated the abolition of war. The following are quotations from his address to the U.S. Congress on April 19, 1951:
"I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes."….
"Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."
In his memoirs, Albert Speer, Third Reich armaments minister, concluded that mankind must abolish war or war would abolish mankind.
As a teenager, I heard of pacifism but never met a pacifist or read anything written by one. This seemed like noble but naive idea. How could the Allies beat the Axis powers or to contain the Soviet Union by abolishing the armed forces? In college years, I read about the concept of graduated unilateral disarmament. The United States could reduce military spending or the number of warheads by a significant but not critical amount. The State Department would inform the Kremlin that if the Soviet Union were to perform similar measures, then the U.S. would consider future reductions. Leading by example would be faster than tedious negotiations.
From now on, we must deal with conflict by commerce, diplomacy, science, technology, education, international law and human investment.
An old saying is that you cannot have peace as long as you have injustice. Our Declaration of Independence was a response to British injustice symbolized by George III. Colonists in the 18th century took certain truths to be self-evident. People in the 21st century rebel against injustice too. The Declaration of Independence has been a justification for independence movements ever since. It can be moral to use violence to change the established order. The difficulty is the one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.
World peace can be achieved if there is serious attention to the root cause of conflict and terrorism. A second Marshall Plan for the world’s poor will achieve far more than airport security and anti-terrorism measures. Desperate people do desperate things. The first Marshall Plan restored participating countries’ economic output to prewar levels by 1951. The second Marshall Plan will take more time and resources to raise the standard of living of the world’s poor. More than two billion people live on less than $2 per day. A long term effort to build societies with access to jobs, housing, food, health services and education with environmentally friendly guidelines will be a major step to achieving world peace.
The rich countries will carry out the second Marshall Plan for a variety of motives, just like the usual foreign aid. Humanitarian or religious feelings combined with national interests have been the driving forces. Some U.S. efforts were made to limit Soviet expansion. With all the efforts made since 1945, we have a good idea of what works and what does not.
European based groups have been establishing a second Marshall Plan. Refer to: www.globalmarhsallplan.org and www.club-of-budapest.com.
The first Marshall Plan cost $12.4 billion over four years. This would be about $75 billion in today’s dollars. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, projects an additional $50 billion per year from the rich countries for the second Marshall Plan that would provide universal primary education, ensure environmental sustainability, provide access to safe drinking water and reduce extreme poverty. Since Americans spend more each year on garbage bags than 90 of the world’s 210 countries spend on everything, this is something that we can afford.
Since the International Monetary Fund has a record of burying the poor in more international debt and the World Bank has been serving corporate interest rather than the public good, I recommend starting entirely new institutions, probably a new United Nations agency, to administer the second Marshall Plan.
Other measures will help. The United States could start a one-year moratorium on weapons research. There would be no research and development expenditures for computers, aircraft, tanks, bullets, radar, star wars or anything else. None. Existing weapons could be upgraded. There would be no new weapons contracts issued during the moratorium. The condition to extend the U.S. moratorium would be that a significant number of other countries have to start a moratorium too. Since the United States spends about as much for defense as the rest of the world combined and has the most advanced weapons technology, there is little risk to such a moratorium. About $62 billion a year for research and development could be at least temporarily to peace making activities.
The world’s armed forces could start disaster relief training for their own and other countries. Learning the logistics of bringing food, medical service and temporary shelter to flood, earthquake, tornado or hurricane victims is training for logistics when there is actual combat. Rebuilding roads, communications systems and power are what soldiers do. Learning the language and culture of different countries will be beneficial to maintain or restore peace. Logistics experience gained on disaster relief missions will serve well for the real thing.
By international agreement, there would be a sales or transaction tax on international arms sales. The tax may start low at 2 % and slowly rise to 50% of the arms value. The revenue would go to an international development fund.
Each country has a war department. It may be called something else. In the United States, it is the Defense Department. It is time that every country establishes a peace department. HR 1673 envisions proactive work in disarmament, Peace Academy graduates trained in nonmilitary conflict resolution, development of policies addressing domestic violence, promotion of racial and ethnic tolerance and other such task.
The sad fact is that war and preparation for war are activities with powerful constituencies. Defense contractors have many well paid lobbyists that make powerful arguments for new weapons systems, more sophisticated equipment along with the more mundane supplies of food, clothing and transportation. Peace advocates are almost always fighting after the fact. Oppose this war, reduce defense spending and advocate humanitarian programs. Since the United States spends as much on defense as the next 20 countries, reasonable people can conclude that the spending levels can be reduced without incurring significant risks. A peace department will enable strong constituencies dedicated to reducing conflict.
Mankind must break the cycle that makes war inevitable.
It is possible. The American abolitionist movement in the 19th century, the U.S. civil rights movement and the solidarity movements in the 1980s started with few people but grew to bring about the social and political changes that they sought. Make that happen now for the peace movement.
Other institutions have fallen by the wayside – monarchy, slavery, selfdom, judicial torture, human sacrifice, Jim Crow laws, imperialist empires and Soviet communism. Each of the institutions was an integral and normal part of society. In each case, there came a time when the effort to maintain them surpassed benefits achieved.
After the fall of France, Winston Churchill announced that when Allied victory came, the world would be able to walk in broad sunlit uplands. A song in the 1960s by Tommy James and the Shondells gave a wider picture of world peace in "Crystal Blue Persuasion". Others through plays, poetry, song, literature and movies will evoke more profound powerful visions that are necessary to engage the human spirit to end the vicious cycle of unending death and destruction.
Give peace a chance.