War Is Better Than Peace Essays

Here I want to look at the changing nature of war and peace, and to briefly consider PPU's role in this process. However, before doing so, we need to look back a little, to assess the situation now, near the end of the twentieth century.

the war and peace debate
Martin Ceadel argues that the twentieth century's most urgent issue is the prevention of war. Since few would initially countenance the 'horrors' of war it seems surprising that we should consider the question of why people disagree about war prevention. Yet this often neglected question is basic to the 'war and peace debate'. Ceadel's answer here is that people disagree because they have different ideological perceptions. This is, I think, an interesting and important point, and moreover one that we tend to overlook. There are people holding strong and sometimes entrenched ideological positions out there. One of the lessons of history is that people are not going to change their attitudes and opinions overnight. Even 'revolutions' take time and careful planning and organisation. One could argue that the war and peace debate is long running well into the next century. I believe, like Ceadel, that the debate needs a general interpretive framework through which we can probe deeper, examining the underlying assumptions, world view, and views of human nature etc., that comprise particular ideological positions. The role of education is vital here, since one of its tasks is to encourage analytical skills necessary for examining the formation of ideological positions. However, while it may have been customary to introduce peace education or education for peace at this point, I would argue that in order to do this we should also undertake the 'education of war'. This may serve to militate against what for many is the 'reality' of war , its representation on television - a point made by Marigold Bentley in an earlier article in Peace Matters (Spring 1995).

education of war
Hicks emphasises the importance of educating for peace in the 1980s, yet what will war and conflict be like in the twenty-first century? We need to consider this because the changing nature of war could have important implications on how we view peace. For example, in their recent work, futurologists Alvin and Heidi Toffler posit warfare by computer. Here the 'battlefront' is no longer that of millions of soldiers facing each other over fortifications dug from the soil. It is fought in offices more akin to the launching site at Cape Canaveral. In offices such as these the enemy's military and political command centres are 'taken out', isolating the leadership, cutting it off from its troops in the field. This is not futuristic. It is a description of part of the Gulf War, in which there were more than 3,000 computers in the war zone directly linked to computers in the United States. Whilst such developments clearly involve killing, albeit potentially on a smaller scale than previous twentieth century wars, an intriguing further development is that of 'smart' weapons. These include a host of new technologies which exist, or soon could, designed to defeat an enemy with minimal bloodshed and, possibly, no fatalities. Currently such weapons lie outside the military frame of reference, with its traditional emphasis on killing. They do not include chemical, biological or other weapons whose use is restricted by international law, treaty or convention. However, they are designed to maim a human being. For example, infrasound generators, designed initially for crowd control, emit very low frequency sound waves that can be tuned to cause disorientation, nausea and loss of bowel control; laser rifles can temporarily blind an enemy, allowing 'calmative' or 'sleep' agents to be sprayed into their faces. Some who manufacture such weapons argue that war will always be terrible and that it can never be made humane, clean or easy. Fine sentiments indeed, yet I have the feeling that the goalposts may have moved here. Pushing for weapons that minimise rather than maximise the destruction of life may serve to shift the debate from issues of death to those of human rights. What I am arguing here is that future developments such as these may have implications which members of peace movements, let alone those concerned with peace education, will need to consider.

Related to this, Paul Rogers recently outlined some future causes of conflict in Peace Matters (Summer 1995). He suggested three factors likely to influence trends in international peace and security. These were first, the increasing polarisation of the world's population into rich and poor, second, the environmental constraints and the limits on natural resources which can sustain human activities. This limitation can result in competition for strategic resources such as oil (and water). Third, the legacy of cold war militarisation and the future scenario that some nations will seek 'new' threats in order to justify maintenance of, or at least the avoidance of, cuts in defence budgets.Thus there are, it seems to me, ready markets for the arms sales of the new, and future, weaponry outlined above.

war, power and capitalism
The dangers of war, the paths to violence and the need for peace have been well documented. The global human catastrophe unleashed by the Second World War is very likely the largest in human history. Truly this should have been 'the war to end all wars', yet since 1945 we have witnessed an increasingly sophisticated technology whereby the brutalisation of people through innumerable wars, increased violence, the operation of 'death squads, testifies to the escalation in global hostilities. Does this mean less concern for the ravages of war? Has peace become marginalised in the consciousness of many people?
As we move toward the twenty first century one issue of global concern is the struggle to make the world safe for capitalism, or, to put it another way, the international implications of the global reach of capitalism. In this respect the USA appears to have taken on the role of 'guardian of the world capitalist order'. This involves a continuing American influence and intervention in the affairs of other countries - including support for repressive regimes with disreputable records in human rights - in the name of the struggle against 'Communism'. Numerous post-1945 examples of such intervention in developing countries include Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, the destabilisation of the Cuban regime, the war in Vietnam and, more recently, with the need for more 'democracy' everywhere (dictatorships being 'out of favour') the Gulf and Bosnia. War is the ultimate means whereby power holders seek to achieve their own purposes. As major powers like the USA construct new enemies (other than 'communists') future scenarios for the next century seem all the more sinister.
the need for peace education

If many people are becoming immune to the horrors of war, then peace, and peace education, is all the more necessary. Capitalist exploitation, based on aggression and war, continues apace. Consequently, here I consider some aspects of education for peace in the light of what I have discussed earlier.
First, the kind of peace education that we need should take account of inequality , discrimination and their relationship to violence, aggression and warfare. Peace can only be achieved by reducing, or eliminating, division and discrimination. When one begins to examine the causes of conflict in society then economic, as well as social, political and cultural, divisions are paramount. Defining peace should therefore include the absence of both personal and structural violence.

Second, it follows from what I have argued above that in studying peace we need to look more closely at the war and peace debate. Ceadel classifies this debate as a competition between five 'war and peace theories' - militarism, crusading, defencism, pacificism and pacifism.

the war and peace debate
Ceadel argues that militarism is the view that war is necessary to human development and thus a positive good. All wars are justified, even aggressive ones. Crusading whilst often indistinguishable from either defencism or pacificism, is distinctive for its willingness, under favourable circumstances, to use aggressive war to promote either order or justice, as those who follow this ideology conceive them. For them an aggressive war will help to prevent or abolish war in the longer term. Someone taking a defencist position may argue that aggression is always wrong, but that defence is always right, therefore maintaining strong defence is the best way to prevent war. Pacific-sm maintains that war is preventable in time, and that other reforms are also necessary, such as justice in domestic politics. This position derives from reforming philosophies such as liberalism, radicalism, socialism, feminism or the green movements. Finally, pacifism as an ideology maintains that support for war is always impermissible. However, there are, according to Ceadel, three varieties of pacifism. First, an optimistic version which argues that pacifism is the most effective defence policy to adopt because non-violence can deter or repel an invasion. The assumption here is that the international system is more a community than a society, possessing even stronger norms and institutions. Second, a mainstream version. Those arguing this believe that pacifism is not yet practical politics, but that it will be in the future. Meanwhile pacifists should, so far as their consciences allow, support pacificism as a step in the right direction. The assumption here is that the international system is already a society, but is capable of evolving into a community. Third, a pessimistic version which believes that pacifism is a faith rather than a political strategy. Consequently such pacifists can merely bear witness to those profound values which will be widely adopted only in the very long term when people eventually undergo a change of heart. This stance has been seen to occupy the 'moral high ground'. Ceadel argues that it views the international system much like domestic politics - as 'a vale of tears'.

Ceadel offers a fairly clear outline of the various positions on war and peace. It is one of the tasks of those involved in peace education to discuss and develop aspects such as this, for only through a clear understanding and critical analysis of such underlying assumptions can we hope to advance the cause of peace.

positive future developments
Initially, it appears that peace education has been limited by political factors, for example the additional constraints imposed on teachers and schools by the introduction of the National Curriculum and by the 1988 Education Reform Act. Whilst we have to work within these constraints there is nevertheless room to develop relevant educational materials based around issues of violence, war and peace. Key stages 3 and 4 of the National Curriculum in History focus on war and issues related to it. Moreover, other disciplines at both GCSE and Advanced Level provide room for the discussion of the kind of issues I have raised. These subjects include English, Religious Studies, General Studies, Politics and Sociology. Additionally, emphasis on skills such as knowledge and understanding, interpretation and evaluation (considering the strengths and weaknesses of studies and arguments) can be developed using peace education material. The promotion of values such as tolerance, respect for reason, fairness, balanced teaching and learning, are also prescribed through the changing curriculum. Together they provide a challenge for those such as PPU who are providing material for peace education. There is, I feel, sufficient scope for us to respond to this challenge.

Whilst this has important implications for the kind of educative materials PPU intends to promote in the future, nevertheless, teaching a controversial issue such as peace raises some difficulties. Politically, PPU is firmly in a position of dissent, of providing challenging ideas and information designed to encourage people to think for themselves, rather than being led by dominant ideas. Material on war and peace is politically sensitive - some may even say that it is 'against the national interest'. As such peace is an issue which divides society. This raises numerous problems about the kind of material we produce and how it is presented and so on. I do not intend to discuss this further here, since it also involves questions concerning how to teach peace education. Together, these would require a further article.

I have outlined some of what for me are important issues in peace education. Peace is more than the absence of war since it also involves the absence of inequality - social , political , economic -and discrimination (class, race, gender) and structural concerns. Yet as we move toward the next millennium we appear, according to the Tofflers 'to be plunging into a new dark age of tribal hate, planetary desolation and wars multiplied by wars' (A & H Toffler). Indeed, for the first time in two centuries, the world of the 1990s lacks any international system or structure. Since 1989 dozens of new territorial states appeared without any independent mechanism for determining their borders. The only 'international' power left that would have been seen as a great power in the sense in which this word had been used in 1914 is the USA. All this, it seems to me, provides a recipe for the proliferation and escalation of conflict and war. This is why the role of the PPU, in its educative and other capacities, is so crucial. Movements for peace education may not have the influence and resources that they had in the mid 1980s but in many ways, they are more necessary now.

We watched a movie the other day – ‘The Attacks of 26/11’ at midnight. I couldn’t sleep for a long time after that. I do know it’s a dramatized version of what happened on that day in Mumbai and that RGV has a flair for violence, but, the chilling truth that 168 people were killed and more than 200 were injured was inescapable. As that ad which (runs on TV) shows a young man sharing photos of all his trips suddenly dies in a bomb blast, terrorism can happen anywhere. No place is safe – be it the streets of Britain, the markets of Karachi, 5 star hotels of India or the mountains of Afghanistan. But, it hit close to home when two bombs went off in Hyderabad a few months back, at a bus stop killing commuters right at the place I used to stand waiting for bus.

Violence is in vogue these days – from mafiosos to maoists, from right wing activism to honour killing. Arnold said it right in ‘Terminator 2’ – “it’s in your blood to destroy each other”. I never understood the rationale behind killing innocent people in the name of ideology or religion. Everybody has a reason to justify their act, but, is killing a solution to everything? Social injustice? Kill people. Ideological differences? Kill people. Apathetic to your cause? Kill people. Turf wars? Kill people. Killing today seems to be a popular solution to everything. But, killing a person just destroys him, it never ends the ‘idea’ of the violence/hatred the person harboured in himself. It is the root of the evil that needs to be hacked, not people. This situation reminds me of a scene from ‘Batman Begins’ when Ra’s Al Ghul asks Batman to kill a criminal explaining purging (read killing) the scum of society is the only way to cleanse it. But, Batman refuses saying it is the root which needs to be attacked, not the criminals who need to be destroyed.

The world we live in is made up of different people from different backgrounds, opinions and beliefs, this diversity is what adds beauty to life. Society always runs on the opinions of the majority, and for sure, there will be injustice, (’cause what the majority likes may not be what I like) but, an amicable solution, for any differences, needs to be attained through civil dialogue and not through barbarism, this is the precisely why we are called a ‘civil society’. What is the point if we look and act like civilised people, but, opt for violent solutions to our problems? ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’ said the Mahatma. We all could do well with a generous dose of tolerance.

Wow! I sound so naive to myself. Would I still believe the same even if I’m personally wronged? Would I want revenge (or justice as some would call it)?

What would the apostle of peace, Gandhiji say, if Hitler was directly attacking India or if Osama was constantly bombing the country? Would he still adhere to the principles of non-violence? (Gandhiji actually wrote two letters to Hitler (which did not reach him) asking him to stop the war) Would he confront them with his ideology? No matter how much I love his philosophy, I strongly feel trying to argue with these men so bent on destruction, would’ve only been useless. What would Buddha do, if confronted by a murderer? Preach him the doctrine or act for self preservation?

Killing Hitler never put an end to the idea of war just as killing Osama never put an end to terrorism. But, there’s no denying that the world is a better place without them. So, doesthat mean it is ok to kill someone, if it’s going to save countless others (akin to the famous “trolley problem” conducted by Michigan University – would you kill one to save five)? When can (if at all it can be) killing ‘for greater good’ be justified? ’Cause, everyone who kills believes they are helping society by eliminating their opponents.

According to individualist Auberon Herbert, in a just society, there is no conflict of interest when it comes to fundamental rights of people (my freedom of speech doesnt negate my neighbours‘). No matter what our cast, creed or religion is, we all have the same rights as humans. So, only in a world where rights are not universal, where one person’s peace means destroying the other persons’, does the need to sacrifice individuals to a greater good arise. Otherwise, in a just society, there’ll never be a situation which demands ‘killing’ for greater good. This means, unless and until the fabric of the society is threatened by someone, and where all efforts to talk/dissuade the individual or party from creating havoc have failed, should we resort to ‘violent’ measures to contain the situation. But, even after all channels are exhausted, another attempt to bring-in the individual should be made to put him in rehabilitation, giving them a chance to correct themselves. Otherwise, what would be the difference between us and them? And, only when it is believed that the individual might never change, ending his/her life should be thought of.

The only other situation where ‘violence’ can be justified is if it is perpetuated on the grounds of self defence. Everybody has a right to fight back if an attempt is made on their life, but, only in self defence.

And, whatever might be the other issues, it is through proper dialogue that we should solve our differences.

I end this article taking cue from Lord Sri Krishna. Before the Kurukshetra war began, he tried his best, even going as a peace envoy to the Kauravas, to dissuade them from war, it is only after all attempts were made that war was declared. This should be the path even we need to follow. Violence should never be a preferred solution, it should be our last resort.

Sarve jana sukhinobhavanthu (peace be unto all)

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