Outline – (preface etc + first two pages of each chapter)

 An Outline

of

TAMING WAR

Culture and Technology for Peace 

Peace Power Press

 ANDREW GREIG was born in Jerusalem in 1943 and brought up in the United Kingdom. His varied career has embraced broadcasting, educational video production, public relations and health education. His many other occupations have included factory hand, bank clerk, laboratory assistant, school teacher, barman, nurse, lumberjack, deckhand, truck driver, dishwasher and construction worker – to name just a few. In 1994 he went to Zaire and Rwanda during the Rwandan refugee crisis as a member of CARE Australia’s advance medical team. This powerful experience provoked his ongoing interest in peace issues. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia.

The book Taming War – Culture and Technology for Peace was published by Peace Power Press in 2007
PO Box 724 Avalon Beach NSW 2107
Australia

Email  info@tamingwar.com

Website www.tamingwar.com

Copyright © Andrew Greig 2009

CONTENTS

PREFACE

PROLOGUE

Part 1:   THE ORIGINS AND NATURE OF WAR

Chapter 1       The Problem of War                                                                              1

Chapter 2       Conflict and Cooperation — Guilt and Genes                                    9

Chapter 3       Chimps, Hunting and Genes for War                                                23

Chapter 4       Learning to Kill                                                                                     41

Chapter 5       Cells, Cities and Empires                                                                     49

Chapter 6       Blades and Bullets                                                                                  61

Chapter 7       Bombs and Guns – Walls, Wheels and Wires                                   69

Part 2     The Effects of War

Chapter 8       What’s Wrong with War?                                                                     81

Chapter 9       The Bright Side of Strife                                                                      93

Part 3     Strategies for Peace

Chapter 10     Is Peace Possible?                                                                                101

Chapter 11     Controlling the Killer Drives                                                             105

Chapter 12     Channelling the Drives                                                                        113

Chapter 13     Arms That Don’t Harm                                                                        129

Chapter 14     Problems with Non-Lethal Weapons                                                 139

Chapter 15     Benefit without Bloodshed                                                                   149

Chapter 16     Confronting the Causes                                                                      155

Part 4     Peace Technology

Chapter 17     The Craft of Peace                                                                                 165

Chapter 18     Law and Peace                                                                                        175

Part 5     Pathways to Peace

Chapter 19     UN to Set the Scene                                                                              185

Chapter 20     Armies Which Don’t Kill                                                                    193

Chapter 21     Getting To Work on the World                                                          207

Chapter 22     Guns and Bullies                                                                                  217

Chapter 23     The Post-Lethal Age – a Culture of Peace                                        227

Chapter 24     World Government – a New Code of Peace                                        243

Chapter 25     Triggering the Change                                                                       257

Chapter 26     The Future                                                                                             267

Conclusions                                                                                                                    273

Acknowledgements                                                                                                         281

Bibliography                                                                                                                   283

End Notes                                                                                                                         287

Index                                                                                                                                  297

 

 PREFACE

War is a very poor way to settle differences. Most of us know it’s stupid, but war goes on. It seems a shame that we should spend any of our precious time on Earth in lethal conflict.

The aim of this book is to suggest some solutions to the problem. Warfare in the past was often highly unpleasant. Sometimes it was unspeakable. Today, with modern weaponry, it could exterminate the human race. This critical change has been brought about by developments in technology. I shall suggest that technology, which has given us the power to extinguish our species, could also give us the means to blunt and control the tools of war. As well, I shall propose some strategies for changing our whole culture from one of war to one of peace.

This book promises no golden age. Even if we can avoid a nuclear holocaust, humans will continue to be stupid, greedy and cruel – and also, quite often, intelligent, moderate and kind – because that is in our nature. Hurt and sorrow are unlikely to disappear from our lives. But we might, perhaps, be able to reduce some of the extreme damage and pain that we cause each other through warfare. There may be better solutions than those offered here, but what is certain is that we must change our thinking. If we are to have an acceptable future on this planet we have to learn to tame war.

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

My Scottish grandfather, Robert Greig, went to France in the First World War and spent many months at the trenches on the Western Front. He told my father that the horror was indescribable. Even worse than the ghastly sights and sounds (if that were possible) was the smell. My grandfather remarked that if somehow the civilian populations on each side could have all been brought together to the trenches to see, to hear and to smell the carnage, the war would have stopped that day.

I was born during the Second World War – in October 1943 – in the city of Jerusalem, in what was then called Palestine. Some of my earliest memories are of soldiers in khaki. One of my most vivid recollections is of being at a level crossing (with my Palestinian nursemaid) waiting for a train to pass. First to arrive at high speed was a small self-propelled trolley. It was noisy and frightening and passed by in seconds. A minute or so later the express train itself came roaring through. Either at the time – or it could have been years later – it was explained to me that the purpose of the trolley was to detonate any bombs put on the line by terrorists. Despite its benign intent the image of that terrifying riderless chariot has haunted me down the years. To me it will always represent the mindless violence of the machines of war.

At the end of the war I went with my family to the United Kingdom. The aftermath of war – bombsites and rationing – were very much in evidence. There was an air-raid shelter in our garden. On holidays on the Channel coast we played amongst old gun emplacements. Slowly, as I grew up through a happy childhood in peaceful post-war Britain, the talk of war started to diminish although there were the scares of the nuclear war, the conflicts in the Middle East, war on television and reminders of war in books and on film. By the time I became a citizen of Australia that nation had withdrawn from the Vietnam War (although the war seemed rather closer to my new home). However it was not until I was over fifty years old that I was directly confronted by the misery resulting from warfare – and also by its peculiar adrenaline.

In July 1994 I joined CARE Australia as a medical aid worker and almost immediately was on my way to the town of Goma in Zaire. It was here only a week earlier that half a million Rwandan refugees had swarmed over the border. As we drove out of Goma airport we began to notice bodies by the roadside. By the end of that day we had seen hundreds upon hundreds of corpses. For nearly thirty kilometres out of town we were not out of sight of a body. These people had mostly died not of war wounds but of cholera. However their deaths and the total misery and destitution of the survivors were a direct result of the Rwandan conflict between two major tribal groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis.

Over the next few weeks I witnessed further death and misery – a woman who died of cholera as I put a drink to her lips, a pit full of bodies, their limbs twisted and intertwined and other limbs on malnourished children, matchstick thin.  The Katale refugee camp was on a volcanic lava flow with thousands of flimsy plastic shelters pitched on the sharp black pumice. The acrid smoke of ten thousand cooking fires mingled with a distinct tang of decayed human flesh. This odour came from the bodies thrust down volcanic fissures in the earliest days of the camp.

Compared to many people’s experiences of war mine were quite mild. I did not see shots fired in anger. I saw shell damaged buildings and empty villages but I did not have to confront the actual slaughter. Even so what I saw was enough to convince me that there must be better ways of resolving conflict.

Part 1: THE ORIGINS AND NATURE OF WAR

Chapter 1 – The Problem of War

Most people in most societies know about war.  Even if we have not experienced it ourselves we have usually met someone who has. War is in our histories, in our monuments and on television. We are all too familiar with the images of mangled bodies, shattered houses and endless lines of refugees. War seems to be an inevitable part of the human condition.

We vary in our understanding of war. For some people war seems romantic – an arena of excitement and heroism. Very often such individuals have never been to war. However most people who have experienced war directly know that it is nearly always sordid and quite often horrific.

A vast amount has been written about war. Sadly it has been central to the myths and legends of the human race. War has been a continuing lethal thread of history. There are fewer writings on peace than on war – but the literature is still very substantial.  In spite of all this knowledge we still have not been able to prevent war.

Early on in the twentieth century, ‘the war to end all wars’ was waged. It was at the time also called ‘The Great War’ but there was little great about it except for the number of casualties and it did not end further wars. Only twenty years after it finished, as another major war descended on the planet, the name of the ‘The Great War’ had to be changed to ‘The First World War’, the war my grandfather went to. World War Two truly was a world war, fought by nations around the planet. It killed more than twice as many people as World War One.

The total body count for the twentieth century from war, genocide and other human decisions (such as the purges of Hitler, Mao and Stalin) has been estimated at up to 226 million – the bloodiest century to date. The slaughter in the first half of the century with its First and Second World Wars was immense. We therefore tend to think of the second half of the century as being relatively peaceful. But even in this latter period, from 1945 – 2000, it has been estimated that there were at least one hundred and seventy wars with over fifty million people killed.[1] This century witnessed the greatest wars in human history. Even worse it saw the birth of the nuclear technology that threatens the very survival of our species.

It was of course a time of huge changes for humanity. New inventions included the aircraft, television, the computer, the atomic bomb, the space shuttle, the mobile phone and the genetically engineered crop. Ironically the technology which allowed the slaughter of millions upon millions also gave us the capacity to greatly improve the human condition. Advances in medicine and agriculture now promise longer healthier lives and fuller bellies. New medical techniques and new drugs have greatly reduced the physical pain and disability of the kind suffered by previous generations. Mass communications and cheaper travel have given us an opportunity to become much better educated about the world around us.

In spite of its problems, the electronic age has made us more aware of war and has improved human rights. It is quite hard to hide famine and bloodshed from the television screens of the world. Democratic government is almost certainly more widespread around the globe than it has ever been before. In spite of continuing abuses (and we should not minimise the appalling injustice and oppression that is still occurring in almost all societies) human rights are probably more widely accepted – in principle at least – than they have ever been. Overt torture and public execution if not extinct are very rare. Almost nowhere do we still burn people at the stake. We may not in the foreseeable future rid the world of unnecessary pain and of injustice, but we are making some progress.

For many of the problems we confront we know the solutions – even if we do not always apply them. Population control is achievable – and through a combination of rising living standards and family planning is beginning to be achieved. Famine is slowly being overcome through improved farming practices.

Environmental degradation is a very serious issue and is still widespread across the planet. However the problem is almost universally recognised and is at last being addressed. Pollution control, recycling, reafforestation, energy conservation and a range of other measures are all being applied and we are beginning to see some positive changes. There are some people who believe that we are already too late and that world environmental disaster from global warming and other factors is inevitable. While taking their views extremely seriously and working as hard as we can to reverse the problems, we must hope that they are mistaken in their forecasts.

There should be little debate, though, about an area in which we do not seem to have moved very far ahead.  That challenge is the control of war.

We could argue that since 1946 we have had no world wars. (Of course if we had none of us might now be around to discuss the matter!). We have also made some progress in nuclear disarmament among the great powers, although the weapons that remain could still wipe out the world as we know it.  We might also agree that – with all its faults – there is the United Nations. It is far from perfect but without the UN we would have seen many more conflicts or even the outbreak of a Third World War.

Thankfully there have been no massive conflicts on the scale of the World Wars and there is some evidence that armed conflict declined substantially during the 1990s.[2]  But there have still been many other wars – in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Middle East and all over Africa. Even in Europe, we have all too recently seen war in the Balkans. War is still with us and few people have any expectation of alternative approaches to global conflict. Most people still accept the inevitability of war. Most nations of the world maintain forces that are trained and armed to kill people.

Two centuries ago the metal bullet and the explosive bomb – with some assistance from the blade – were the main implements of war. Today apart from huge sophistication – and a much lesser role for the blade – little has changed. An AK 47 fires more quickly than a musket.  A laser guided missile is more accurate and far more devastating than a grenade. But when nations come into conflict they still try to kill each other’s citizens by bullet or explosive. In spite of all our technological progress in other fields, when it comes to conflict between nations we continue to be locked into the same barbaric tussles.

Could there be other ways? We have created space modules that can navigate through the rings of Saturn or land on Mars. We can build heart pacemakers and palm-top computers. Could we not create new technologies for resolving conflict – technologies that better suit our species than bullets and explosives? We have shown ourselves to be immensely competent at coordinating our international airline schedules and our communications systems. We can market and distribute a particular brand of soft drink to the remotest corner of the globe. Could we not employ these same amazing skills in achieving a culture of peace across the planet?

Most strategies for preventing or arresting war have focussed on political and diplomatic approaches. These can be extraordinarily helpful in preventing the onset of conflict. But despite all diplomatic and political efforts war still continues to break out and to cause untold misery when it does.

Can we do anything?  A central thesis of this book is that we can.

A NEW APPROACH

In recent years a new and rather different approach to the problem of war has begun to emerge. This confronts the problem from a different angle. It starts with the view that for the immediate future at least some wars are inevitable. Having accepted that war will happen, ways are sought to reduce the damage to those involved. In other contexts, such as drug abuse, this kind of approach is described as ‘harm-minimisation’.

Many of the objectives of a traditional war can be achieved without killing or injuring people. Supplies can be cut-off or destroyed. The enemy’s weapons and ammunition can be eliminated. Cities can be besieged. Troops can be surrounded and captured.

A new addition to these age-old tactics is the use of technology to create so-called ‘non-lethal weapons’.[3] The concept of ‘non-lethal’ weapons has been developed by various military analysts and is being explored in particular by the US Military. Non-lethal weapons are devices that disable the enemy but do not kill or cause lasting injury. They may include agents that temporarily stun or entangle troops or disable guns, tanks, missiles and other equipment.

Of course even if we can create effective non-lethal weapons the technology is only half the story. Linked to that new technology has to be a completely fresh approach to warfare – a whole new culture of non-lethal conflict resolution.

The concept of non-lethal weaponry will be one important focus of this book. But we shall also examine some of the origins of war and some of the innate drives which seem to push us into the mutually lethal behaviour that we know as warfare. As well, we shall explore some ways in which we might employ our formidable organisational and communication skills to channel these dangerous instincts into more productive outcomes.

Humans have probably talked of ending war since the dawn of history and it will certainly not happen overnight.  We should maintain a healthy scepticism about any quick fixes for global conflict – about any instant world peace.  On the other hand we must never give up our efforts to get rid of war. We must never let go of the vision.

We should not expect to get rid of all conflict amongst humans. Conflict (as opposed to lethal warfare) is an inevitable and essential element of existence. We should not therefore try to eliminate this kind of clash. However, while accommodating non-injurious conflict (in political debate, for example, or in trade and in sport) we may be able to find ways of greatly reducing the damage from war as we now know it. And of course one day we might even look towards eliminating all death and injury caused by deliberate acts of war.

Two hundred years ago the disease of smallpox was greatly feared. It was disfiguring and often deadly. Who then could have foretold that smallpox would be defeated by vaccination and then effectively be eradicated? Today, the virus only exists in few glass phials in cold storage. Poliomyelitis may soon follow a similar path.[4] In the same way, although we can’t expect to eradicate war by the end of the week, perhaps we might hope to do so within the next few centuries. Meanwhile we may be able to curtail war’s lethality. In so doing we will need to create a new culture – a culture in which we are less violent to each other and yet in which we still experience the physical and mental challenges that our instincts demand.

Those who say that war can be completely abolished are often accused of being naive. This book takes the view that nature is frequently ruthless and that, of all creatures, humans can be amongst the most cruel. It also ventures that we humans, with all our faults, have proved quite remarkably resourceful and that we could be ingenious enough to solve the problem of war before it is too late.

Let’s not deceive ourselves. The efforts of the majority of the citizens of the world to create a safe and peaceful existence may be overtaken by the stupidity and greed of just a few of our leaders plunging us into complete annihilation. I suggest that we should be aware that this might happen, but at the same time try everything we can to prevent such a senseless and tragic outcome.

AN OUTLINE OF THIS BOOK

In this book we shall first look briefly at some of the origins of war and then investigate the nature of war itself. We shall review the dark side of warfare, looking at all the damage it causes. We will then study its benefits, such as they are.

From there we shall examine strategies for achieving peace. As mentioned above, we shall consider how we might handle inevitable conflicts so that they cause minimum damage. We will investigate the possibility of ‘war without death’.

We will consider the role of an ‘army of the future’ which can remain an effective guardian of last resort and yet also devote most of its energies to productive community development. We shall look at how all these initiatives might be considered in the context of what we shall call peace technology.

Finally we will discuss some strategies that will combine these approaches. New technologies, in partnership with improved democratic structures and supported by strategic communication, may allow us to resolve conflict without bloodshed and build a worldwide culture of peace.

 

Chapter 2 – Conflict and Cooperation — Guilt and Genes

 

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional. — Max Lucade

Mount Kilimanjaro stands across Kenya’s southern border. If you standing on the lip of its crater at dawn facing east you will be able to see a good-sized chunk of East Africa. It is a fine view indeed and a reminder of the magnificence of our planet. And it is here, in East Africa, that we shall begin our investigation of war.

The plains and forests of this part of the world are significant in several ways to our enquiry. First of all there is strong evidence that this is the place where pre-human apes and then finally ourselves, Homo sapiens, evolved. If we began here, so too may have our habit for war.

Chimpanzees provide our second connection to this place. It was in East Africa that research on colonies of chimps first showed that warlike behaviour may not be confined to humans.

Our third link to this region is far more hypothetical – one of myth rather than science. It is that East Africa was the site of the original Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lost their innocence.

War has many causes. Firstly there are the religious, political, social and economic factors – the ones studied by historians. Secondly, from a different perspective, there are the psychological factors – the province of behavioural scientists, psychologists, anthropologists and the like. We need to ask two types of question – first, why do nations go to war? And second, why are individuals led to kill each other in this way?

Obviously we kill each other, but are we naturally warlike? And if so, does that make us different from any other creatures on the planet?

In this book I will be supporting the view (now widely accepted) that war is a part of our nature and is not unique to humans. I will argue further that we need to come to terms with the fact that we have drives within us that may lead us to make war.  But most importantly, I will suggest that we have the capacity to redirect those drives so that we avoid destructive warfare.

CONFLICT AND COOPERATION

We tend to associate war with conflict – and certainly war arises from conflict between groups of humans. But there is nothing inherently wrong about conflict itself.  It is the essence of the universe. Conflict is evident in every aspect of existence both in the inanimate world and in living beings, even at the level of the cell. But there’s an even more elementary level. Many biologists now consider the basic unit in the competition for life to be the gene.

Genes have been described as ‘selfish’ because ultimately they seem to have no ‘loyalty’ to the organism that carries them – or even to the individual cell in which they reside. This theory has been extensively developed by Richard Dawkins in his landmark book The Selfish Gene. [5]

A gene ‘does not care’ what else survives but acts only and ruthlessly for itself. War between humans could therefore be regarded as yet another expression of the ruthless competition and conflict that we see between genes.

But although genes exemplify ruthless self-interest on the very lowest rung of the ladder of life they also have a friendly side! In many circumstances total ruthlessness does not pay. For example a plague germ that kills every human it infects will soon run out of hosts. It will not do so well in the long term as will a bug that makes people sneeze and sweat but allows them to survive…

 

Chapter 3 – Chimps, Hunting and Genes for War

 

The different species of great apes are a small but select family.  They include gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans…and us! By zoological classification, we humans are great apes. Studying other great apes, our near relatives, should give us important clues about our own make-up. For a long time these animals were mostly studied in the artificial environment of zoos.  In the last thirty years this has changed.

Chimpanzee communities have been observed in the wild for long periods in work pioneered by Jane Goodall.[6]  Similar studies of the Mountain Gorilla by Diane Fossey were portrayed in the popular film Gorillas in the Mist. The technique when studying apes is for human observers to get to know and recognise individual animals who come to tolerate the scientists and finally, mostly to ignore them. The scientists follow the animals – sometimes for weeks or even months at a time – recording their behaviour. Years of patient and detailed observation have revealed many new facts about ape behaviour.

I had the privilege of visiting a troop of mountain gorillas in Central Africa in 1994. Our group of aid workers took a rest day from the Katale refugee camp and followed the trackers up into the forest. We sat very still in a clearing as the rare and extraordinary creatures emerged a few at a time from the bushes nearby. The youngsters skylarked around us while the adult gorillas examined us solemnly with their uncannily human eyes. It felt just like a family picnic at the wildlife park – in this case, they being the picnickers and we the wildlife. This encounter confirmed to me how very close we are to our great ape cousins.  As we reluctantly made our way back down the mountain, the community we were leaving seemed wonderfully peaceful compared to the war damaged refugee camp we were returning to far below.

They appeared very peaceful to us, but that troop of gorillas almost certainly had its conflicts. It was thought for many years that gorillas and chimpanzees, so close to us in many ways, were animals that did not kill their own kind. Recent studies have now altered this view. Gorillas are vegetarians and on the whole seem quite gentle in their treatment both of other animals and of their own kind. But they are not entirely unaggressive. Mature male gorillas, the ‘silverbacks’, sometimes fight each other over leadership of the family groups. It has also been found quite recently that male gorillas practice infanticide..[7] They will try to kill the offspring of other males. There is a curious and rather shocking twist to this tale.  If a male gorilla is successful in killing the baby sired by another male, very frequently the mother will leave the troop and elope with the child’s killer. This may seem appalling from a human perspective but it might have some logic to it in terms of the biological survival of gorillas.

With chimpanzees it appears to be a rather different story. It was thought for a long time that chimpanzees do not usually kill other chimpanzees. But in recent years evidence has been found that they do sometimes engage in warfare. Gangs of chimpanzees will waylay lone members of other troops and attack them.

The first recorded incident of this kind was in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania in 1974. A troop of seven males and one female was observed to attack a lone male from another troop. Wrangham and Peterson in their fascinating book Demonic Males describe how a chimp named Godi was eating alone when he was attacked and chased by the group of eight. One called Humphrey grabbed his leg and held him down while the others beat him for ten minutes. They left him lying face down in the mud, finally throwing a large rock towards him. It was the last time the researchers saw Godi and they were fairly certain that although he might have lived a few days, he would soon have died. [8]  This was the first such savage attack to be witnessed, but a number of other similar observations in several different chimpanzee communities have followed…

 

Chapter 4 – Learning to Kill

 

But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage…

William Shakespeare – Henry V

Is it natural or easy to kill someone else? What happens when it’s ‘either you or them’? There is ongoing debate on these matters. As we have just discussed, it seems that a tendency for war making is embedded in our genes.  In other words natural selection, until recently at least, has to some extent favoured warlike behaviour.  In contrast much of our social evolution (our education and culture) has been directed at counteracting such behaviour. And indeed it is when social structures break down that the worst excesses of war seem to emerge.

Biological evolution is a relatively slow process. It takes a certain number of generations for a particular gene to assert itself (or in contrast to be submerged). Even social evolution takes time. The problem for humanity in recent times has been the extraordinary acceleration of technology. If the technology of the rifle, the machine gun and the atom bomb had developed slowly over a period of, say, ten thousand years we might have adapted better to the new challenges. Instead, in just a few generations, we have moved from a society in which war was unpleasant but not always lethal to one where we have weapons that threaten the very survival of the race. Our social evolution is struggling desperately to keep up.  We can usually limit the damage inflicted by a crazed person with a knife. In contrast, while the ammunition lasts, a disturbed adolescent with a gun can shoot plenty of classmates. A psychopath at the missile control desk could kill us all.

 

A RELUCTANCE TO KILL?

The question of an individual’s capacity to kill is therefore very relevant. Most of us, if pressed hard enough and there were no other way to survive, would probably kill an aggressor. But although killing may be in our genes it seems that the actual act of killing does not come easily to many of us. As an Australian veteran of World War Two said recently:

I never developed a will to kill someone. Some of the men did it without blinking. And a lot of us kept our heads down and our fingers out of the trigger guard. Contrary to what a lot of women think, most men, in my view, don’t want to kill. In the thick of fighting you just try to get through it.   [9]

There is significant evidence indeed that despite our genetic disposition for war we usually have to be ‘taught’ to kill.  It was realised in the First World War and confirmed in the Second that a significant number of fully trained troops did not actually fire their weapons. Even in the Korean War it was found that half of the pilots in the renowned 51st Fighter Wing had never fired their guns. Of those who had fired them, just a tenth had ever hit anything.[10] Ingenious research on the American Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg has revealed that many of the troops continually reloaded their weapons rather than fire them.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman in his powerful and fascinating book On Killing examines this phenomenon in detail.[11] As one might expect the closer the contact between opponents, the greater may be the reluctance to engage. As Grossman describes, the military has recognised this ‘problem’ over many centuries and military training has been much concerned with turning citizens into killers. Trainee warriors over the ages have been subjected to strict discipline, mindless drills and brutalising exercises. Uniforms, flags, marching, music and war dances have all been used to stir up the martial spirit.  Despite all this conditioning when it has come to the actual conflict very frequently soldiers still have not fired their guns. Perhaps in earlier times some soldiers never wielded their swords…

Chapter 5 – Cells, Cities and Empires

Assuming we accept that we have a genetic (and often a cultural) predisposition to war let’s now take a different perspective – let’s look at the social and environmental causes of war. To put it more simply, why do nations go to war?

Many books have been written on this subject, for there seem to be many causes of war. Depending on circumstance, the reasons can be extremely simple or highly complex. Let us try to cut through this complexity and identify some main themes that we can examine for solutions.

We’ll go back in time to the birth of the species Homo sapiens. Natural selection ensured that only those hominins who could defend themselves against rival species – who could hold onto their patch of territory, fight off the sabre-tooth tigers and win their share of food – would survive to breed.

DEFENDING THE TRIBE

At some stage, perhaps within the last hundred thousand years, there came the turning point when it became evident that Homo sapiens would be the ruling race. Humans would dominate and competing hominins like Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus would move towards extinction. Whether the final cause of the extinction of other hominins was their deliberate slaughter by Homo sapiens, or was a result of other factors – such as competition for food – though significant, does not concern us here. It was the outcome that was momentous. From now on, Homo sapiens would have no direct competitor.

Once the threat of all other rival hominin species had been removed the new human race still faced many external challenges. There was the battle to survive cold and heat and disease, to find food, to escape other predators and to avoid accidents. But internal conflicts also now began to develop within the human race itself. No longer competing so much with other species, tribes of humans competed amongst themselves – for hunting grounds, for agricultural land and for sexual partners.

Balancing the drive for the domination and survival of the individual was the drive for the survival of the family and of the tribe and later of the city and the nation. Fighting within each group had to be contained if the whole group were to survive. This balance between competition and cooperation is an almost universal characteristic of nature.

Let’s look back down towards the bottom of the evolutionary ladder. As we mentioned in Chapter 2, without cooperation, even at the most elementary level, complex organisms could not have evolved. The proper functioning of just a single cell involves cooperation between the different structures within that cell. Multicellular organisms are successful because they result from cooperation between a number of cells. In the human body dozens of different types of cells, each with specialist functions, form tissues that cooperate to allow the amazingly complex behaviour that we see in ourselves. So using the analogy of the different types of cell in our bodies let us consider the concept of cooperation between different types of humans – in families, tribes, cities and nations.

We’ll liken an individual human being to a cell. Humans, like individual cells, can operate on their own but not usually indefinitely. Almost all humans rely in one way or another on cooperation with other humans. The smallest human ‘multicellular group’ is therefore probably the family. Looking back to the earliest humans we can imagine that they would have organised their lives rather as do the present day great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas…

 

 

Chapter 6 – Blades and Bullets

An Engineering joke: What’s the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? Mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets

 

We have seen how warfare has helped to shape civilisation. A complementary factor in the development of civilisation has been new technology. The developing technologies of agriculture, building and transport have all had a profound and ongoing effect on civilisation. So has the technology of war. Technologies developed initially for warfare have often had a ‘spin-off’ effect in other areas, for example in aviation. In addition to the general effect of war on civilisation – for example the building of new roads, harbours and fortified cities for the purpose of making war – there has been the added effect of the stimulus to technology provided by the development of weapons. War is often very profitable to those who make and distribute armaments.

Warfare almost certainly preceded weapons. Although they are known to use sticks and stones marauding parties of chimpanzees appear mostly to use their limbs and teeth in their attacks on other chimps. Limbs and teeth can of course be lethal, but the development of weapons greatly raised the stakes. The possession of a better weapon has often encouraged nations to attack a supposedly weaker rival. And just as they have done with other technologies, humans throughout the ages have worked and experimented to develop the tools and skills of warfare. Some weapons such as the bow-and-arrow and the spear were used both in hunting for game and in war. As time went on weapons were developed exclusively for war. A broadsword, for example,  has little value in  most  types of hunting.  In many

communities, as agriculture developed, hunting for food diminished in importance. Because hunting weapons were less widespread weapons for warfare had to be specially manufactured.

The most obvious technologies of war are the tools and machines for killing – the weaponry. However various other technologies, like those of transport, architecture and communications, are profoundly important to war. But we’ll look first at weapons and in particular at the materials from which those weapons are made.

EARLY WEAPONS

We think of the earliest weapons as originating in the Stone Age. Many of the very earliest human conflicts would have involved bare hands but they must also have included technology. Weapons, such as spears, cudgels and missiles, definitely predated Homo sapiens. Fossil remains of earlier hominins are associated with stone tools that quite likely would have been used in warfare. We can surmise that there may even have been a technology based arms race between different pre-human species. The group that first perfected the sharper stone axe-head may have been the group that survived its competitors. In fact weapons pre-date all the hominins. As we noted above, other apes are now known to use rocks and sticks in battle with each other.

The Stone Age proper is characterised by deliberately fashioned stone tools. These can be made by chipping a rock such as flint with another rock. The tools can be honed and polished by rubbing them on abrasive rocks and in sand. Some materials, including flint and obsidian (volcanic glass), often fracture into tool shaped fragments.

The earliest stone tools identified so far were found at Gona in Ethiopia and have been dated at between 2.6 and 2.5 million years old.[12] The first member of the genus Homo, Homo habilis, appeared to have manufactured crude stone tools in the form of flakes of broken rock…

 

Chapter 7 – Bombs and guns – Walls, wheels and wires

Contemporary urban warfare seems dominated by explosives. On our TV screens the recent footage – from Kabul and Baghdad and from Gaza, Haifa and Beirut – has shown the rubble and ruptured flesh caused by the violent expansion of superheated gases. Whether the chemicals that cause the explosion come from tank shells or from rocket grenades, from car bombs or from cruise missiles, the damage to human beings – and their personal and sometimes precious possessions – has been exactly the same.

Explosives have brought a new dimension to weaponry. They are used as weapons in two different ways. Firstly they can be employed at a distance from the victim to power projectiles – in other words in guns. Secondly explosives can be used much closer to the victim – in exploding shells, mortar bombs, grenades, aerial bombs and landmines. Explosives are of course very useful. Without them we would be burdened with much greater drudgery in digging our mines and tunnels. But in war they seem to gain a particular malevolence. Too often we unleash them without responsibility or control.

A popular tool of today’s terrorists, which can exact huge damage, is the car bomb. Often it causes the death or injury of many innocent people. Another gruesome contemporary use of explosives is by suicide bombers who strap explosives around their bodies and blow themselves up amongst the ‘enemy’. While many might describe such an action as misguided terrorism the bombers and their supporters consider it to be heroic warfare. Suicide bombing is a complex issue. Perhaps, understandably, many people think that suicide bombers must be social misfits or religious fanatics. Careful research has established that this is not the case at all. Contemporary suicide bombers appear mostly to be well-adjusted ‘normal and ordinary’ people. They obviously have very strong ideals, but they are not necessarily religious. Suicide bombing started with the Tamil Tigers who are a secular group. The common aim amongst suicide bombers is to remove occupying troops from their homeland or the homeland of close allies.[13]   Appalling as the strategy is, it appears to have its successes. The lesson for us is that territoriality is an incredibly powerful drive. Invasion and occupation of your land by armed forces threatens you at the deepest levels.

We can speculate as to exactly what it is that drives the suicide bomber. It may be that it allows the expression of total involvement. Much modern warfare is conducted remotely. The cruise missile operator presses a switch in almost complete safety, hundreds of kilometres from the target. In contrast, the suicide bomber does not shrink from intimate engagement with the enemy. Perhaps for some of the bombers this is a kind of atonement for the destruction that they cause. Knowing that they may be harming at least some innocent people, they make up for this by sacrificing themselves as well. Suicide bombers are nearly always relatively young people. It is an unforgivable indictment of their older mentors that, like so many war-mongering politicians the world over, they are prepared to sacrifice youth but not themselves. Car bombings are also terrible, but they illustrate how people with few resources can resist an aggressor vastly more powerful. In the end of course, neither side is the winner.

Let’s now trace very quickly how this fiendish technology of explosive weapons has evolved. The earliest effective explosive, gunpowder, seems to have been invented in China some ten centuries ago and came into use in weapons at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The development of gun technology was quite rapid. Early cast iron cannon progressed to more mobile bronze artillery culminating in the massive steel land artillery and battleship turrets of the twentieth century…

 

 

 

 

Part 2 THE EFFECTS OF WAR

Chapter 8 – What’s Wrong with War?

 

War has been around a long time. So far we have survived it and you could argue that there are worse things in the world. There is hunger, pain, chronic illness, extreme poverty – and much other tribulation. You could contend that in comparison, the ‘clean heroic conflict’ of the battlefield might not be so bad. So perhaps we need to remind ourselves of what war can do.

How many people have been killed in war? Estimates seem to vary. One authority calculates that between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, the estimated totals of conflict-related deaths per century were respectively, 1.6 million, 6.1 million, 7.0 million, 19.4 million and 109.7 million.[14] The huge increase of war deaths in the twentieth century is of course partly related to the increase in total world population, but it must also be the result of more effective weapons. Another authority (1994) estimated that ‘some 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly in the 25 largest instances of collective violence in the twentieth century, 60% of those deaths occurring among people not engaged in fighting.’[15] But, as quoted at the beginning of this book, when one includes the so-called ‘democide’ of the political purges of the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong, even that horrendous figure has been revised dramatically upwards to some 226 million.[16]

The ultimate argument against war is that it now has the potential not just to do us damage but to extinguish the whole of our race.  Leaving aside the possibility of this final horror, war can still inflict immeasurable suffering. We may think we know how bad war is. But, even if we have been directly involved in it, as time passes we may also forget. Sixty years ago many people throughout the world had either direct experience of – or at least some knowledge of – the Second World War that had just been fought across the globe. Since then, although there have been major wars like the ones in Korea and Vietnam – in which the USA and Australia were closely involved – those of us living in the West have had increasingly less direct exposure to war.

Apart from the Falklands conflict, the North and South American continents have generally escaped war in the last half-century as has most of Western Europe and the Pacific region. Matters changed only recently in Europe when war revisited the Balkans. Other regions of the world have not been so fortunate. There have been dozens of small wars and not a few quite major conflicts. There has been war in almost every quarter of Africa, in the old Soviet Union, in the Middle East, on the India/Pakistan Border, in Afghanistan and in South East Asia. A number of wars, for example in Sri Lanka and in Angola, have essentially been civil wars.

Those of us in the West see some of this war on television. But once its newsworthiness declines all too often it disappears from our sight. For instance civil war has been going on in the Southern Sudan for much of the last thirty years and yet, because the area is remote, we rarely had news of it until the recent troubles in Darfur in Western Sudan aroused awareness of the region. The Rwandan crisis in 1994 captured attention worldwide when about a million people were killed. Since that time it’s estimated that a further two million have died as a result of conflict in Central Africa, but we rarely hear of it or see it in the news…

 

Chapter 9 – The Bright Side of Strife

 

It’s been said that sometimes we are more afraid of a boring peace than of an exciting great war. In peace time we rarely seem to achieve the unity, the cheerful sacrifice and the determination that we summon up in wartime.[17]   World War Two was horrific in many ways, but unlike many wars, it did have some moral purpose, namely to defeat the Axis powers. Perhaps for this reason it has not been uncommon for veterans of this war to say it was some of the best years of their lives. War has its attractions.

If you are totally amoral, you are on the ‘winning’ side in a war, you do not suffer many casualties and you are not disturbed by the death of other human beings you might argue that war is a good thing! However there are also some other more morally based arguments about the benefits of war.

THE ONLY COURSE OF ACTION?

Before we examine how war can have its ‘good’ side, we should consider the situation where war seems to be the only appropriate course of action. Even though such war may not be ‘good’ it may be better than the alternative. The earliest forms of war in humans – skirmishing between small bands – were in a sense often legitimate. If the population was greater than the food supply, there was a risk that your family might starve. For you and your family, war that displaced rival bands from the hunting grounds, or even killed them, was ‘better’ than starvation. Today, with contraception available, that argument would not hold.

Again, if you were being severely oppressed you might well argue that war is better than oppression and slavery. Liberation groups in many parts of the world often use this kind of justification. (As we discussed in relation to suicide bombing such groups may be described either as freedom fighters or terrorists depending on whose side you are on!) If your nation is being invaded without good cause and no other nation is coming to help you then you could argue that defending your country with necessary violence is the only solution – and thus acceptable if not actually good.

Very early in the history of Homo sapiens ‘war’ with competing tribes might in some ways have been considered ‘good’. Taking a very ruthless view a person from this era could have said that such war was removing the threat of another tribe overwhelming their family. Perhaps it would also have allowed them access to more hunting grounds. Where intermarriage between tribes could not take place peacefully, the killing of the males and the acquisition of the females could have widened the gene pool. We could not justify this view today but we should acknowledge that in earlier times it sometimes had a certain logic.

Warriors who fought against invasion and protected the tribe were identified as being good and heroic people. Unfortunately noble warriors can all too easily become involved in unjust wars. A tribe that has successfully defended itself against aggression can go on the offensive and attack its neighbours without provocation.

As cities developed and nation states evolved the role of the warrior was further glorified. The Greek or Roman soldier could be seen as a protector of civilisation against ‘the Barbarians’. Ironically as empires over-ripened and decayed it was often the barbarians who in the end triumphed, resulting in the destruction of allegedly ‘civilised’ and peaceful ways of life…

 

 

 

 Part 3

STRATEGIES FOR PEACE

Chapter 10 – Is Peace Possible?

 

The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein

It could be argued that humans have fought and killed each other in war from the dawn of history and therefore they always will. But is this necessarily so? In the last sixty years we humans have climbed the highest mountains on Earth, dived to the furthest depths of the sea and journeyed to the moon. Could we perhaps learn to stop killing each other in war?

One could contend that even if we could find a way to stop all war today, sooner or later either ourselves, or our descendants, would forget the horrors and return to fighting. Perhaps from our present perspective there is no way that we could firmly guarantee that war would be permanently abolished. I would suggest though, that even if we cannot make peace last forever, we can at least try to achieve it for as long as possible – and who knows, perhaps eventually war will be eradicated completely.

Part One of this book examined the origins and nature of war and Part Two the effects of war. This third part develops some strategies for peace.

So far we have found that a capacity for killing each other is deeply embedded in our species. We have looked at the damage that war does. We have also looked at the benefits that it can bring to society. We have examined some of the reasons why humans kill each other and why nations go to war. Keeping all this in mind can we design strategies that will restrain individual humans from killing one another and deter nations from embarking on war?  If despite all efforts war does break out can ways be found to minimise the damage caused by such conflict?

Let us summarise our findings so far:

•   Humans have deeply embedded instincts to kill their own species. These traits – which are by no means unique to humans – have been inherited from our primate forbears and have been reinforced by learned warlike behaviour over much of our history.  The instincts to kill coexist with the cooperative drives that lead us to help other humans, particularly those most closely related to us. Many people have an initial reluctance to kill another individual, but the pressure to survive (or be killed) often overcomes this. This reluctance can also be reduced by desensitising military training.

•   Most warfare causes huge damage, pain and suffering. With our recently acquired nuclear technology we even have the capacity, through warfare, to exterminate our own species.

•   A few aspects of war bring benefits to society, such as social unity, comradeship and technological change.

And as discussed earlier, in Part One,

•   Damaging as it is, war is a means that we have evolved for the ultimate resolution of conflict. It arises from a combination of our innate instincts and of the structures (usually nation states) that we have created to govern our society…

 

 

Chapter 11 – Controlling the Killer Drives

 

As we have seen, the potential to be a killer is deeply embedded in our genes. Both as individuals and in groups almost all of us have the instinct – if sufficiently motivated and aroused – to kill. How can we control and also transform this energy into productive action? You might argue that the killer instinct should just be controlled through self-discipline. And indeed in a peaceful, democratic, law-abiding society this drive is controlled or at least suppressed for most of the time. In humans this control is probably a mixture of inherited behaviour patterns and learned social protocols of behaviour.

In the animal kingdom as a whole – from ants to chimpanzees – probably the great majority of animals are capable of killing their own species.  However to do so, except in certain rare circumstances, is not biologically advantageous. For this reason various safety mechanisms have evolved. Most animals, most of the time, do not kill or injure others of their species nor do they kill their own young. They may recognise their own species by scent or perhaps by some behavioural rituals. They then establish either a cooperative existence or a hierarchy by which they can live together without hurting each other.

There are exceptions to this rule. Some female spiders will eat the male after they have mated. Lion cubs are only safe with male lions who are their biological fathers: given the opportunity, a male lion will attack and kill the offspring of another male. Rutting stags will sometimes fight to the death. This apparently aberrant behaviour can however often be explained as a reflection of the extraordinarily powerful influence of the ‘selfish gene’.

Hierarchies or ‘pecking orders’ are recognised through certain types of behaviour.  In a pack of dogs, once the top dog has established his dominance through fighting, other dogs will cower at his approach or even roll on their backs, as puppies do. If conflict does break out rather than fighting to the death there will be a brief contact and then one animal will either run away or adopt a submissive posture. This often happens when two pet dogs fight in a park. On many occasions the conflict ends before the owners have time to intervene.

Such signs of submission are still used by humans – looking away, cowering, bowing, kneeling and so on. Mutual bowing is a sign of peace. A handshake, with the hand that might normally carry the weapon, is a sign of mutual submission (‘we are not going to harm each other’).

Like other animals humans also avoid conflict by adopting hierarchies. We do this either instinctively or through planned social structuring. For example although you may occasionally – or even quite frequently – feel like defying your boss you know that to do so would mean losing your job. You choose to accept the hierarchy in return for your meal ticket.

Hierarchies in humans are reinforced in all sorts of ways, for example through seating plans or dress codes. In democratic egalitarian societies we may tend to play down these hierarchical distinctions although in general we accept that they are necessary in some circumstances. For example in an office building we would usually feel quite happy that during the fire drill the volunteer fire warden wears a red helmet.

THE ROLE OF LAW

Another reason that we do not give vent to unrestricted aggression and kill each other is because the community does not allow us to…

 

 

Chapter 12 – Channelling the Drives

 

Moving around is a high priority for most animals.  For both the whip-tailed protozoan and the Mediterranean villager on an evening promenade, there is often a biological advantage. They may find food, or useful information, or both. It’s true that some animals, like oysters, can stay in one place, but the water moves around them, bringing them their food. We humans of all animals are some of the most restless and we are also – so far – amongst the most successful mammals. Our drive to explore has taken us to every corner of the globe and even into space.

The value of this drive is that we continue to find out about our environment. In addition to new sources of food, we may discover better shelter, or new escape routes for future emergencies.  But moving around also means that we are likely to meet other members of our species who may be competing for the same resources. When a community is fully engaged in survival, in finding enough food and adequate shelter, there is little energy left to direct at other humans  (unless of course that survival means defending oneself from other communities or, on the other hand, stealing their resources). Therefore in a community in survival-mode people are probably less likely to have the energy to attack each other.  Only when there is a degree of leisure can there usually be sufficient capacity for aggression.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow expressed this ranging priority of drives as the ‘hierarchy of needs’.  This hierarchy – often shown graphically as a layered pyramid – ranges from the most basic physiological needs, such as air, food and water, up to the very sophisticated needs of a civilised society. Only when the basic needs

are fulfilled will an individual move on to satisfy the next highest needs in the hierarchy. A person who had adequate water, food, clothing, shelter, security and sexual fulfilment might then perhaps feel the need for diversion.

In a hunter-gatherer society the instinct to hunt is expressed and satisfied in daily living. It is no accident that recreational hunting has always been so popular. It answers a deep and powerful drive within us. In many countries today recreational hunting still enjoys huge support even though it is not necessary for survival. We cannot all go hunting to satisfy our instincts. There is not enough game and there are not enough hunting grounds left in the world to satisfy even a small fraction of the world’s population. Indeed in many parts of the world for many centuries there never have been. Hunting was frequently a privilege only of the rich and they often excluded the lower social orders from their hunting grounds. Nowadays hunting is done much more often for sport than for essential food. A number of people oppose sport hunting because it may cause needless suffering to animals and can threaten the survival of some species.

As civilisations evolved other activities took over from hunting. Agriculture was extended. Ever larger houses, theatres and temples were constructed. Humans trekked and voyaged around the lands and oceans of the globe. Clothing and other artefacts were manufactured. Large amounts of time and energy were devoted to commerce – the exchange of goods and services. Nearly as much again was devoted to the arts, to games and to sport, which brings us to some very interesting questions. Why is it that we do all this? Why are we so busy – building, exploring and inventing? Is such industry necessary?

There are some societies that do not behave in this way. Some isolated peoples seem to have achieved a harmony and reached an equilibrium where they are not continually ‘busy’.  Examples of such societies include certain tribes in the Equatorial forests of south America and south-east Asia. Such peoples have a limited but effective technology, which deals well with local conditions…

 

 

Chapter 13 – Arms that Don’t Harm

 

Although we’ve identified some approaches that might reduce the possibility of war so far we have not discovered any certain ways of preventing it. Later we’ll look further at strategies for reducing the likelihood of war but first let’s examine the second element of our strategy, which is what we might do to minimise or even eliminate the damage if war does break out.

What causes the damage of war?  Quite obviously – weapons. These are the tools we have evolved to attack others and to defend ourselves. Modern weapons are mostly of the same two classes that existed a century and more ago – projectiles and explosives (or a combination of the two) – in simple words ‘bullets and bombs’. The third B – ‘blades’ – is not nearly as evident as it used to be but it has had some resurgence recently in Majority (Third) World conflicts.

There are some weapons that do not fit into these categories, for example chemical, biological and radioactive armaments. Poison gas was used extensively in World War 1 and quite recently by Saddam Hussein against Kurdish villagers. Disease ridden blankets were distributed to Native Americans as long ago as the nineteenth century, but thankfully germ warfare has not so far featured in the world on any large scale. Apart from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have so far also avoided nuclear war, where radioactivity is an additional hazard to the explosive effects. For the moment therefore, we will consider only what we call ‘conventional’ weapons.

Guns, bomber aircraft and rockets deliver the materials. It is the fragments of steel, the shock waves of air, the flying debris, the fiery heat and the suffocating earth or water which do the actual damage. On the modern battlefield the biggest killer is often the artillery. Aerial bombing has also become more pronounced.  It is interesting to compare the casualty statistics of the First and Second World Wars. In World War 1 the British casualties were (in round figures) as follows: shells and mortar bombs 58.5%, bullets 38.9%, bombs and grenades 2.2% and bayonets 0.4%. (This was apparently the first major war in which casualties from weapons exceeded those from illness and disease.)

In contrast, in World War Two, shells, mortars, grenades and aerial bombs accounted for 75% of casualties, bullets and antitank shells for 10% and blast, crush, phosphorus and miscellaneous factors for the remaining 15%. Bayonets were, not surprisingly, insignificant.[18]

In the more recent wars of the late twentieth century, which have mostly been small regional conflicts, casualties from small arms fire have been far more significant. (However in the very recent attacks by American forces in Iraq, artillery and air-to-ground missiles would have caused substantial casualties.) Overall in mainstream war there has been a move from close engagement, where individuals confront each other, to remote killing by explosive where you may never know who it is that you have killed.

Why do we kill people in war? One purpose obviously is to remove people who might otherwise kill you. Civilians are not so often killed deliberately. However if they are perceived as a risk then they may become expendable. (The dubious euphemism ‘collateral damage’ has crept into our vocabulary to describe this kind of killing.) An armaments factory, for example, or a harbour may be bombed. If civilians happen to be killed at the same time, this is regarded as being unfortunate – but part of war.

In war people may be killed aggressively and deliberately, collaterally (they get in the way) or by accident. Depending on the degree of conflict, efforts can be made to limit killing and instead to take prisoners.  When the enemy is truly on the run and the conqueror is feeling magnanimous then the killing may be greatly reduced. When a whole army surrenders the killing can stop completely…

Chapter 14 – Problems with Non-Lethal Weapons

 

 

Non-lethal warfare may seem a magic solution to the damage caused by war. Conflicts can be settled and peace maintained without danger to life or limb. On closer study a few problems emerge. These have been occupying non-lethal weapons specialists for some time. The concept of non-lethal weaponry has a number of critics so we need to examine their objections in some detail.

While many centres concerned with non-lethal weapons research are well respected one or two have a more shady reputation. There is a suspicion that some of the technologies being developed, such as mind-altering drugs, may be used to increase military power and influence rather than to peacefully resolve conflict. Because the concepts are new and much of the development is experimental, inevitably non-lethal weapons have at times been associated with some odd and even dubious practices. Jon Ronson touches on these issues in The Men Who Stare at Goats, his entertaining account of the US Army’s First Earth Battalion. This secret unit devoted considerable effort to exploring non-lethal weaponry as well as investigating a variety of other unusual practices (including staring at goats). Ronson relates that when sticky foam was tried out in Somalia in February 1995 during the UN Peace keeping effort it was sprayed in front of the crowd to harden and form an instant wall. The rioters paused until the barrier had hardened and then just climbed over it.[19]   (According to Jon Ronson, sticky foam is apparently no longer used to subdue violent prisoners in US gaols because, although immobilised, the prisoners became firmly stuck inside their cells.)

A common criticism of non-lethal weapons, which we touched on in the last chapter, is that when used inappropriately they can often be lethal. But there are other problems. For example they might not be as effective as the lethal technologies they oppose and they might not deter ruthless opponents. Non-lethal weapons might be used to extend rather than replace conventional armaments, or they might be used to subdue civilian populations. Because they do not kill people they will not ‘teach the enemy a lesson’. They might prolong wars unnecessarily and cause more suffering than conventional weapons would have done. They might distract from the aim of eliminating war altogether or they might result in a stalemate. Let us address each of these concerns.

One of the most serious drawbacks of non-lethal weapons is that they might not be as effective as lethal weaponry. Few nations would willingly choose to lose a war if they could win it by other means. Thus, initially at least, non-lethal warfare might be a luxury only for the powerful. Nations would only choose non-lethal weapons if they knew that they could still win.

It’s true that ruthless opponents might not be deterred by non-lethal weapons from attacking with their own lethal weaponry. However, really effective non-lethal weapons – assuming they could be developed – would repel such an enemy.  It may in fact eventually be possible to develop non-lethal weapons that are not only more effective but are actually cheaper than equivalent lethal weaponry. It might for example prove less expensive to immobilise, say, twenty combatants, than to kill them. Obviously this would not the highest priority, to say the least, but the cost of defence is an issue for almost all governments.

Are they less of a deterrent? To an aggressor the threat that ‘we will immobilise you’ might seem of less concern than a promise that ‘we will annihilate you’. However once non-lethal weapons had been conclusively proved to be effective their role as a significant and effective deterrent could be established. Fanatical troops might never be deterred, but if ordinary soldiers realised that capture, sooner or later, was inevitable, they might think twice about resisting. If there was a penalty for holding out (such as imprisonment or a heavy fine) the inducement to capitulate might be even greater…

 

Chapter 15 – Benefit without Bloodshed

 

We now move on to the third element of our strategy, namely replicating the benefits of war but without war itself. In other words, how can we create the unique ‘high’ of war without having to go to war? While war itself is usually very abhorrent some of the activities associated with war are beneficial both to individuals and to society as a whole. We listed a few of these earlier in Chapter 9. They include the development of character, the emancipation of minority groups and the stimulus to new ideas and new technologies. Let us review them briefly.

War puts extreme demands on people. Its challenges often force people to exercise energies and skills that they never knew they possessed.  Trivial pursuits and petty jealousies are thrust aside.  Seeing your comrades killed makes you realise the preciousness of life. Finding that others will risk their own lives for you immensely strengthens the bonds of love and friendship.

For young people war may provide an opportunity to travel and to learn new skills. Older citizens may be called out of retirement and feel valued for their experience and wisdom. Communities can become bonded by the common sense of purpose.

The two World Wars were major landmarks in the emancipation of women, who had to take on many of the tasks formerly carried out by men. The Second World War was an important stepping stone for African Americans who were given equal treatment in the armed forces (even if some sixty years later the struggle for equality is by no means over). During the same period many colonised peoples witnessed the vulnerability of their western rulers and this became a strong encouragement to seeking independence when the war ended.

The spin-offs from military technology are also well known. Over the centuries the demands of war pushed humans into continual improvements in metallurgy, architecture and transport.  These innovations needed periods of peace to be exploited but they were developed in wartime. The Second World War accelerated the development of jet engines, rockets and radar to name just a few technologies. Without these, mass tourism and space travel would almost certainly have been substantially delayed.

As we discussed earlier, extended periods of peace also give rise to technological development. But war seems sometimes to provide the stimulus for very rapid innovation. It seems ironic, but likely, that without war civilisation would have proceeded more slowly. (Of course this might not necessarily have been a bad thing. Some might argue that the present pace of change in the world is dangerously rapid!)

In what ways therefore could we develop the challenges provided by war but without war itself?  In today’s peacetime, there is of course significant challenge and change. Emancipation continues even if slowly. Technological innovation continues (and the pace seems more than adequate).   What does not occur in quite the same way is the intensity of purpose found in wartime. Contemporary society seems driven mostly by the imperative of economic development. Individual nations – or groups of nations – seek power by maximising their financial clout. In recent times even bigger power brokers have emerged. Multinational companies now transcend national borders. They are the modern empires.

Perhaps working in a large multinational company – particularly as a senior executive – can provide beneficial challenges that are similar to those found in war. There is, for example, the reward of pitting your skill against that of your counterparts in rival companies. Many of the activities of such organisations benefit society. (Although as we discussed earlier, some – on balance – do not.)  Working in even a small business as an independent entrepreneur can parallel the adrenaline of warfare…

 

Chapter 16 – Confronting the Causes

 

 

All wars are planned by old men in council rooms apart

– Grantland Rice

 

The fourth element in our proposed strategy is ‘preventing conflicts that could lead to war, or, if they do arise, to resolving them’. We need to look first at the causes of war. These are many and complex and in this chapter we will only look very briefly at a few of the main issues.

Almost certainly the great majority of us do not want war. A recent survey of newspaper readers found that in their opinion the most important social goal for the world was ‘to achieve world peace’ (77% of respondents). The most important decision made by governments in the world was ‘the formation of the United Nations’ (76% of respondents).[20]

The people who took part in the survey had a very good lifestyle by the standards of much of the world. A survey of a more disadvantaged population might have had a different result. When one is deprived or oppressed, war may not seem such an unpleasant option if it appears likely to change matters.  One component of world peace must therefore be equity. Citizens around the world must feel that they are all receiving fair treatment. This is something of a Catch 22.  To get a fair deal we need to reduce wars. To reduce and eliminate war we all need to believe that we are being treated fairly.

But equity on its own will not lead to world peace. There is no one magic solution to the problems of war. As discussed above we need a combination of strategies. One might say that we require a variety of ingredients in the recipe for peace.

It is ironic that, much as we would like peace, so far we have not been able to achieve it. There are some things that we might not be expected to control in the foreseeable future. For example we cannot prevent acts of nature like hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis.  War though is our own creation. Surely we should be able to control it. As in most areas of human activity effort is usually better directed at preventing problems from arising than in solving them when they do arise.  How therefore can we try to prevent conflict that might lead to war?

War may be all too common, but on the whole most people and most nations need some reason to engage in conflict. In general people are less likely to go to war if they are satisfied with their quality of life. If their standard of living is equal to or better than that of their neighbours they should not have a strong motive for going to war.

There are a number of factors that affect our prosperity and quality of life. They include equity, population levels, the environment, justice, literacy, democracy and a free press. Let us take equity first. As we have just noted, if there is material equity among nations they should be less likely to go to war with each other than if there are major disparities.

Material equity is therefore very important to peace. This applies in a community of any size and not least in the community of nations. Unfortunately, despite the huge technological advances over the last century, there appears to be an increasing divide in wealth between rich and poor nations. And even within the nations that have advanced economies there is often an increasing internal division between the richest and the poorest citizens.

Amongst nations equity is important. Nations deprived of wealth and resources will inevitably look covetously at their rich neighbours…

 

Part 4

PEACE TECHNOLOGY

Chapter 17 – The Craft of Peace

 

As we have seen, war has always been unpleasant but as humanity has invented ever more complex machines of war its horrors have simultaneously increased. We can modify and control most technologies, but we seem to be at the mercy of the technologies of war.

When we are confronted by technologies that pollute our environment we develop other technologies that counteract and reverse the pollution.  When faced with overpopulation we develop technologies of contraception. When there is a lack of fresh water we develop various technologies such as channelling water from a distance or recycling and conserving it. Since we are so skilled in managing technology in all these other areas can we not therefore develop technologies that help us to overcome the problems of war?

Part of the purpose of this book has been to suggest that we do indeed already have some technologies of this nature and that we can develop them much further. Central is the technology of non-lethal weaponry, but there are other technologies which already contribute to the prevention of war and the maintenance of peace. There are yet others which could do so. Let us consider all of them as together comprising a technology of peace.

The great value of a technological approach to peace is that it mirrors very much the way we humans have confronted and resolved a variety of challenges. Motoring is a very familiar activity that witnesses a continually changing technology and we shall use it a number of times as an analogy for the partnership of peace and technology. Let’s take road accidents as our first example. These did not start with the motor car. Delivery drays, stagecoaches and no doubt even Roman chariots all took their toll of pedestrians. In the early days of motoring most certainly there were bad accidents. But relatively low speeds and low traffic densities meant that the overall accident figures were comparatively low. It was only after World War Two that greatly increased car ownership and higher speeds increased the accident rate so that the level of damage became unacceptably high. Only then were serious measures introduced to increase safety, such as seat belts and better body design.

It has been the same with warfare. Obviously any death from war is one death too many but it was the mass mechanised slaughter by machine guns and artillery in World War One that made people realise that the cost of this kind of conflict resolution was becoming unacceptably high. When the toll from road accidents became too high, we began to take a technological approach to the problem.  In a similar way, could we not look towards technological approaches to lowering the toll of war?

What might be the scope of a technology of peace? The concept of a technology of peace (or peace technology) is not completely new. Theodore Lentz of the St Louis Peace Research Laboratory wrote Towards a Technology of Peace in 1972, the aim of which was ‘to encourage the development of a technological attitude towards the all-important problem of achieving peace’…

[21]

Chapter 18 – Law and Peace

 

Peace technology is not confined to the battlefield. There is a broader context. Peace in the true sense is not just an absence of war. For example, people who live under extreme tyranny, even if they are not experiencing war, are not really living in peace. Real peace implies peace with justice. We shall be discussing these issues in more detail when we look later on at how we can establish a culture of peace. A peaceful world is one in which people are protected from abuse by others. The maintenance of democratic law and the control of crime and terrorism are very much within the ambit of peace technology.

Law-and-order hard-liners tend to view law enforcement as a means of capturing and punishing offenders. They often seem to have much less regard for the most important reason why we have laws – which is to minimise damage to society. We need therefore to aim at laws that maximise the well-being of the community. At the same time we obviously have to ensure high compliance with those laws. Technology can be used for both purposes.

We are already using computers in all sorts of ways to help us make decisions. Quite often technology already influences whether we become involved in conflict with each other. For example in the cause of reducing collisions between motorists, science and technology help us to calculate optimum driving speeds and safe blood alcohol limits.

As far as the law goes, technology can be very useful in deterring people from abusing others and in detecting that abuse if it does take place. At the same time we need to keep a balance between maintaining

the law and preserving individual freedom and privacy. Video surveillance cameras in public places may reduce crime, but they may also impinge on personal privacy.

DNA fingerprinting is another interesting example. While it needs to be used with discretion, generally it appears to have improved the detection rate of genuine offenders and to have reduced the conviction of innocent people.

But we need to keep ‘security technology’ in perspective. Returning once more to our theme of transport: we can use technology to reduce car theft (for example, new locks, engine immobilisers and tracking systems). On the other hand, by thinking laterally we can take a completely different approach and employ technology to create a transport system where car theft is not an issue.

For example we can create inner city precincts that private vehicles, apart from delivery vehicles, cannot enter.  This has already been tried on a small scale. Free bike programs have been operating in such cities as Copenhagen and Portland, Oregon. At first the bicycles are often stolen, but if the organisers persist the schemes usually settle down and work successfully.[22] In a comprehensive approach, in addition to free bicycles, there would be would be free or low cost public transport and low-cost, low-speed electric taxis (including drive-yourself taxis). The crime of car theft would disappear as would parking offences and most traffic accidents. Pollution would be much reduced. Obviously some traffic laws would be required but much of the traffic law of the open highway would not be necessary within the city precinct.

Perhaps by thinking laterally we can employ appropriate technology in our corrective services. Unfortunately some offenders against the law have to be restrained from harming other citizens, but good use of technology can improve their containment and rehabilitation. It is obviously in the interests of a peaceful society that those convicted of violent crimes do not escape from custody. New technology can improve this kind of security.

As well, it can offer more humane ways of restraining prisoners than locking them in closed prisons and may give them a better chance of rehabilitation. One example is the electronic tracking device that can be clamped on to a prisoner, allowing the offender to live and work out in the community without easily absconding. This approach has had substantial success…

 

 

Part 5

PATHWAYS TO PEACE

Chapter 19 – UN to Set the Scene

 

How should we proceed?  In what way should we combine the strategies we have discussed to achieve the greatest success in creating a peaceful world?

We have examined methods of channelling our instincts to kill and of eliminating, or at least of minimising, the damage from war. We have looked at replacing the benefits that war brings to society with similar benefits (but without the damage caused by war). We have investigated some strategies for preventing conflicts – between nations and between people – from developing into war. We have as well considered a technological approach to peace.

Ideally all these processes would occur together but in reality society does not usually operate in this way. There has to be a starting point. On the world stage matters are so complex that it is extraordinarily difficult to prescribe the best course of action.  International politics, world economics and the progress of technology all provide a vast resource of unknown and volatile factors that may affect the future.  Bearing this in mind and with due caution let us examine a possible series of steps whereby we might achieve our goals. The first step would be to demonstrate the effectiveness and feasibility of non-lethal warfare. The next would be the adoption of this model by nations around the world and the third step would be a phase of consolidation and development. The final step would be that of ensuring that a culture of peace was established for the foreseeable future. In this chapter we will consider the first step.

Possibly the key area in which we might begin is eliminating the damage of war. If we can prevent people from being killed or injured then all else can follow naturally. This means that we need to make a commitment in our armies throughout the world to the use of non-lethal (and where possible non-damaging) weaponry.  It will not happen overnight but if there is leadership from the major nations of the world then the idea – the culture – can begin to take hold.

It is probably agreed by almost everyone that international peace requires policing.  Those who try to disturb the peace need to be brought into line by a more powerful authority. As military historian John Keegan argues, there will be a continuing need for warriors to keep in check those who would disrupt world peace, including local warlords and those involved in international organised crime.[23]

At the time of writing, the role of the world’s police force is being claimed by the USA under the Presidency of George W. Bush. This seems appropriate in some degree because of the huge size and power of American military forces. But the idea has its limitations because most other nations in the world feel that they too have a role in world peace and they feel that the USA has other motives (such as protecting its oil supplies.) As well, even if the USA were totally altruistic, the task of being the sole world police officer would be far beyond its resources, which are already greatly over stretched by its current military commitments around the world. So who else could take on that role?…

 

 

Chapter 20 – Armies Which Don’t Kill

 

In this second step we come to the crux of our plan. It is here that we might see the world begin to transform. Before this point nations would have armies primarily trained to kill. After this point, the world’s armies would aim to perform their tasks as much as possible without taking lives.  How could this start? Well, once it was shown by United Nations forces that non-lethal action was an effective way to tackle serious international conflicts individual nations might start to see the benefit of having their own non-lethal military forces. One or two countries might equip and train some of their troops for this purpose. The point at which countries began this transformation – from lethal to non-lethal – would indeed be a landmark in the taming of war.

It goes without saying that for the military to renounce killing is a profound change of culture. Like any change of this kind it would not happen immediately. However in the modern world, with electronic communications, extensive changes in social behaviour can take place quite quickly. (One only has to think, for example, of the reduction in tobacco smoking or the increased recycling of glass and paper in the western world over the last twenty years.)  If the community generally supports the change and the advertising campaigns are good enough, altered behaviour can spread with surprising speed.

You might argue that in an ideal world there would be no armies at all. In the real world unfortunately, given the nature of humanity, this state of affairs would be unlikely to last long. In a world with no armies sooner or later conflicts and violence would break out.  Unless humans dramatically change their nature, we will continue to need police officers on our city streets and some kind of international police on the world stage.

In our strategy, therefore, individual nations would continue to maintain defence forces as long as there was no other protection. Ultimately of course a world police force might be evolved which would be acceptable to all nations. In the meantime nations would start to transform their own armies.

Such armies would have a number of roles of varying priorities. The most important role would be the protection of the nation – from direct threats of invasion from other hostile nations and also from more minor incursions.

The other major role would be in the international arena in support of world peace and security and in response to international treaty obligations.

Until world peace had been finally achieved, the highest priority for any army would continue to be the security of the nation. This priority would outrank any other purpose. Could this security be achieved solely with non-lethal weapons? Unfortunately the reality of the world is to defend our own and the final imperative is the survival of our genes. If there was absolutely no other alternative in defending against an aggressive invader, then armies at this intermediate stage might still have to kill people.

As a result, until non-lethal weaponry had been sufficiently developed, a national army would need to be trained in conventional techniques of war, using all available lethal weaponry. (We would hope that adequate resources would be invested in non-lethal weapons research and that this period would be quite brief.)

The types of lethal weapons used would be strictly controlled. It has been agreed under the Geneva Conventions that certain types of weapon are too horrible for use. Countries that, for example, used biological weapons such as nerve gas or plague virus would put themselves at risk of later prosecution for war crimes. Other activities, such as torturing or killing prisoners or unarmed civilians would also risk future prosecution. National armies would therefore be trained in the use only of approved lethal weaponry…

 

Chapter 21 – Getting to Work on the World

 

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.

— John F.  Kennedy

 

Let’s imagine how the world might now look at the end of this transformation phase. Having successfully proved the effectiveness of the approach, the United Nations would operate largely, if not completely, with non-lethal weapons. As a result UN peacekeepers would rarely, if ever, kill anyone. Following the UN’s example, national armies around the world would also be fully equipped with non-lethal weaponry. Lethal warfare would only be used as a last resort. We would still have armies but defence forces in such a world would not need to be constantly occupied with defence matters. They would be ‘on guard’ and ‘waiting to deal with trouble’ – but they would not always find trouble to deal with.

We have been arguing that for the foreseeable future armies need to be retained. They will be required for protecting the nation (with non-lethal weapons) and for contributing to an international policing force.  But armies are dangerous! They include many energetic individuals and they have power. There is always a risk that such forces with leisure on their hands might start to create trouble. In fact in a number of today’s nations the military, though unelected, exert substantial political influence. Not infrequently their leaders stage a military coup. While contemporary peacetime defence forces can keep themselves very busy with training and exercises their true fulfilment must surely come from active service. Many career soldiers (although not all) must feel that they gain special credibility and that their role is only truly validated if they see ‘action’ and even more so, if they personally come under enemy fire.

Although there is all too much need for peacekeeping at the present time it is an activity that is bound to be intermittent and to require varying numbers of troops. What could or should these armies of the future be doing when they are not involved in peacekeeping? Of course, since they would be more committed to non-lethal warfare, they would not have the aura of the present day military in being trained ‘ultimately to kill’.  But could they focus on something else besides their role in resisting unprovoked attack?

Let us digress for a moment to consider what it is like being a soldier today. An army up to now has been concerned mostly with conflict and death. The career of the professional soldier has in most cases only flourished in times of war. We must not disparage a most honourable profession with a very legitimate role. However if you are in the military it must have an impact to know that a major part of your job is either to kill people or to be prepared to do so. We should question whether it is right for society to demand that some citizens devote their lives to the science of killing other humans.  It has often been necessary in the past but does it have to be so in the future?

The armies of the future could offer such an alternative. The warriors of such armies – although they would be guardians of the nation – could have an ongoing role in more positive life enhancing areas.  The emergency function of ‘defending the nation if necessary’ would continue. However, much of the day-to-day activity could be focused on community development. Community development activities would not be an extra or add-on role to other duties as at present in most armies but would be a well-defined obligatory area of duty. Recruits would understand that the major part of their career would not be in military exercises but would be devoted to a variety of community services…

 

 

Chapter 22 – Guns and Bullies

 

One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

 

How is the world looking at this stage in our strategy? National armies around the globe would be cooperating with the United Nations peacekeeping forces and also contributing troops of their own to the standing UN force. Conflicts would continue but lethal conflict would be rare. In many cases, national armies would be occupied most of the time in community development work, both at home and internationally. We might even see Palestinian and Israeli soldiers working together planting trees on the West Bank. Where next?

Non-lethal arming and community development could have some profound effects but they would not necessarily be sufficient to achieve long-term world peace. Many other initiatives would have to be taken – and maintained – to back up the process. These would include domestic gun control, the protection of human rights, the control of domestic violence, corruption control and indeed the whole range of activities needed to curb abuses of power. Many individuals and numerous organisations around the world are already campaigning around the world for a non-violent and just society. Every day, more is being achieved, but a huge amount still needs to be done. In this chapter, we can only mention just a few of the many issues that need to be worked on.

A non-violent society does not mean a society without conflict. A healthy society must have conflict and change otherwise it becomes moribund. In a healthy and energetic non-violent society, there can be challenge and change. It may not be a totally comfortable society but it will be free of overt violence – war, oppression, torture, gross inequality and restriction of human rights.

To create this society internationally we need to start at home. If we do not practise non-violence in our own homes, our own cities and our own nations we cannot expect people in the rest of the world to behave in the same way. Let us therefore look at some further initiatives in non-violence, starting with domestic gun control.

GUN CONTROL

If we want to remove guns from war we need to start in our own backyards. While guns are still too common in most societies, in both the developing and the developed world there is an increasing awareness of their problems. Trailing most western nations in this matter is the United States. Even here some progress is being made in controlling privately owned firearms.

The proponents of gun ownership – the gun lobby – argue that owning a gun is a personal right and that gun control impinges on personal freedom. The argument – which can be compelling – often rests on the ‘right to self-defence’. If effective non-lethal weapons become available then this argument must surely collapse.

Not all guns need to be eliminated, although in the far future they may well become historic curiosities. For example some communities, such as the Inuit (Eskimos) of the Arctic, still need guns for hunting food. Although the idea may be distasteful to some people hunting game for sport need not be harmful either to humanity or to the environment. Target and trap shooting, like archery and fencing, are legitimate sports and less overtly violent than boxing or rugby. At present guns are still useful in controlling vermin and culling game although new technologies may soon be developed for this task…

 

Chapter 23 – The Post-Lethal Age – a Culture of Peace

 

Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus marching on before…                                        — Sabine Baring-Gould

I will not cease from mental fight, nor will my sword sleep in my hand…

— William Blake

 

These two excerpts of Christian hymns show how the imagery of war can be confidently employed by a supposedly peaceful faith. Probably the words are sung by today’s worshippers with just as much fervour as their predecessors who sang them first in the nineteenth century. As we noted earlier, our present culture is still imbued with the language of war. Can we change this culture?

Let us move forward to the fourth and final stage of our desired scenario when the world had effectively ceased all lethal warfare. We shall describe this as ‘The Post-Lethal Age’. We first need to revisit the question ‘is such a non-lethal world possible?’

A number of present commentators are still very cautious about the potential of non-lethal weapons in achieving peace. They argue, with some reason, that the military may just add non-lethal weapons to their armoury without any reduction in conventional weapons. A more optimistic view is that the adoption of non-lethal weaponry, at whatever level, might start to have a transforming effect on the military worldwide. Once soldiers do not expect always to kill – although they would still expect to police and protect and probably to ‘win battles’ – the whole military culture might begin to change. As the military changed so might the rest of society.

Can we look forward to a time when the whole attitude of the world towards war would be changed?  Could we reach a stage when ‘wars’ might still be fought but people, in the main, would not be killed? Is this possible? With our continuing history of killing over the ages can we realistically expect the human race to change? A widely discussed episode of animal behaviour suggests that it may be possible.

This landmark observation was also made in East Africa and also in apes. This time the animals being studied were baboons, who are not quite so closely related to humans as chimps and gorillas. Leading males in troops of baboons are usually very aggressive to lower ranking males and also to females.  In the baboon troop being observed, the leading males ate infected meat from a rubbish dump.  They would not let the more submissive baboons share in the feast. All of those who ate the meat soon died, leaving the troop without aggressive leaders.  The survivors showed much less bullying behaviour and the change continued into the next generation.[24] The significance of this story is that if baboons can learn to give up some of their aggression and pass that culture on to their offspring, so might humans.

There are in fact some precedents for dramatic social change amongst humans. As a number of writers have pointed out, not so long ago slavery was considered a normal part of life. The idea of abolishing slavery was inconceivable to many quite worthy citizens. Nowadays it is illegal throughout the world and the thought of it is repugnant to almost everyone. (Although we have to point out that unfortunately, even in the twenty first century, some hidden slavery still does go on.)[25]   Similarly only two hundred years or so ago it was accepted that gentlemen in Europe were free to duel to the death on matters of honour. Today such behaviour would not be tolerated. The survivor of a duel would quite likely be charged with murder.

Perhaps therefore we can conceive of a world where ‘war-in-which-people-are killed’ would be totally unacceptable to society…

 

 

Chapter 24 – World Government – a New Code of Peace

 

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that, one of these days, governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

As a culture of peace is established and strengthened, a time might come for introducing the idea of world government. Most authorities on peace seem to agree that long-term peace across our planet can only come with a government of all the nations of the world. The concept of ‘world government’ stirs up deep antagonism amongst certain right wing fringe groups in North America. They feel that their individual freedoms will be threatened.  They are convinced that world government is on its way and are stockpiling food and weapons, to resist to the end and preserve their ‘freedom’. Of course quite a few of our present national leaders – and not just the totalitarian ones – might see a world government as threatening to their personal power.

As we discussed earlier, the world at present is structured into sovereign nations. A sovereign nation recognises no higher power. We accept by convention and by international law that disputes within a nation, which people attempt to settle by killing, are illegal. On the other hand it is accepted that disputes between sovereign nations that

result in military action and subsequent killing are not necessarily illegal. In other words a soldier who kills on behalf of a nation in the line of duty is not, in most circumstances, committing a crime. It’s been pointed out many times that without a higher authority to settle disputes, nations will threaten each other and eventually, if there is no solution that suits their own interests, will resort to war.[26]

One major problem with existing nations is their huge disparity in size and resources. In the United Nations General Assembly every nation has an equal vote even though their populations range from less than 25,000 to well over one billion. This does allow minority cultures to have some voice and some protection, but otherwise the UN General Assembly leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, as yet, it is the best that we have.

How can we create something better? How can we move towards an effective and democratic world government in which our nations recognise a higher authority on issues of war and peace?

A number of wise and eminent scholars have provided a variety of suggestions as to how world government might be achieved. For example, Ronald Glossop has outlined a number of ways of limiting the individual power of sovereign states and of moving towards greater international cooperation. These include modifying voting arrangements in the United Nations to make them fairer, allowing the United Nations to have alternative sources of revenue separate from members’ contributions, extending the power of the International Court of Justice and developing a standing autonomous international peacekeeping military force which could intervene in conflict situations. He suggests several different methods of actually achieving world government.

There is the federalist approach which works at developing a political federation of nations. There is the functionalist approach, which continues to develop many more cooperative organisations, (such as the World Health Organisation and the International Postal Union) until they become a de-facto world government. A third method might be the populist approach which turns to individual citizens to create a movement of world citizenship in which individuals demand a world government.[27]

 

Chapter 25 – Triggering the Change

 

Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger and courage; anger at the way things are and courage to change them   – Saint Augustine

 

How do we bring about these profound changes that we have been discussing? We may think that war is wrong, but it can seem hard to do much about it as an individual. Progress may seem very slow.  However, with the huge growth in electronic communications we are also almost certainly more aware than we have ever been of all the efforts for peace. There are many people around the world who are lobbying intensively for peace. In short, there is some cause for optimism.

As individuals we could sit by and wait for the mood for peace to take hold across the globe, but perhaps we do not have that luxury. We are still at great risk. Apart from the damage caused by ongoing conventional conflicts, we continue to have the nuclear cloud hanging over us. A fairly minor swing in the world balance of power might push us over the edge into a disastrous nuclear world war. The matter continues to be urgent.  As Gwynne Dyer has pointed out, for the last few years since the break up of the Soviet Union we have been having a ‘holiday from history’ but this cannot last.[28] Recent developments in the Middle East, for example, do not seem to suggest an extended vacation.

Here therefore are a few suggestions about action we can take now to start changing the culture of war immediately.

PEACE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION

If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Education is probably one of our most powerful tools. If we educate our children and young adults about peace issues, we will be building a community for the future that will be much better informed about peace than today’s generation. It will, as Stuart Rees puts it, be literate in non-violence.[29] A community that is educated about peace can bring about changes towards a culture of peace.

The subject of peace is now gaining much more attention than it has in the past. Wars have been studied over many centuries and military academies abound across the world, but so far there are relatively few institutes of peace and not many university courses in peace studies. We have invested vast resources in the sciences of economics and physics and in many other disciplines but there has been relatively little formal study of peace issues at the tertiary level.  In most schools peace studies are not in the curriculum at all – let alone being the major study area that they should be.

If we are to develop a strong culture of peace, then we need to foster the study of peace – both the analysis of peace issues and the development of the practical skills of conflict resolution and reconciliation. We need to make peace studies a compulsory part of the school curriculum from early grades. We also need to give much greater support at the tertiary level to research on peace issues. Peace and Conflict Studies need to become recognised as a major discipline.

Matters are in fact changing in tertiary education and there appears to be an increasing demand by the younger generations for courses in peace studies. Since satisfying this demand generates income, universities and colleges on their part are becoming increasingly better disposed towards providing such courses…

 

Chapter 26 – The Future

 

Most of our discussion has been concerned with humanity at this present stage in time, the early twenty-first century.  It has been in the context of our state of biological evolution and our current technology. One enduring characteristic of humanity seems to be its continued technological progress. Whatever our other deficiencies, we seem to be endlessly active and resourceful in inventing new machines. Assuming that we survive the present danger of total annihilation from a thermonuclear war, what is the likelihood of war in the future?

There are other threats to the survival of our race.  There could be a catastrophic collision with an asteroid or a comet. There is evidence that there have already been several such events during the evolution of life on this planet. It is thought for example that a collision with an asteroid may have been largely responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Life in some form, such as micro-organisms, would probably survive even very major asteroid collisions in the future, but that life might not include Homo sapiens. Although unlikely in the near future, our own sun could collide with another star on its journey round the galaxy. It could apparently also be swallowed by some lurking black hole and there might be less warning of such an event.[30]

If we should survive all these hazards, the solar system itself may become uninhabitable in another three billion years or so as the sun burns out and expands to swallow up the planets. For the human race to survive we would have to find a home in another younger solar system. If we survived that transition, even our own galaxy, the Milky Way, would appear to have a finite life and we would then need to seek a younger galaxy. And eventually it is believed, from our current state of knowledge, that even the whole of our universe may have a finite life – either collapsing back into itself in the Big Crunch or (and this is the current most favoured hypothesis) continuing to expand until it finally runs down and burns out.  By then the human race (or whatever its equivalent should be) might have found ways to journey to parallel universes. But perhaps we can defer speculating further for the moment since we will have a few trillion years to come up with some solutions.

Even if we limit ourselves to the period of the Earth remaining habitable, this still allows us some two to three billion years to achieve long-term peace. To put this in context, organised war is thought by some to have emerged about 10,000 years ago. That is one hundred centuries. Three billion years is 30 million centuries (or 300,000 times 10,000 years.)  So for the period during which we can still remain on this planet, we should still have plenty of time to work out how to defeat war.

It may seem fanciful to speculate so far into the future, but there is a reason. One view of war, held by substantial numbers of people, is that it is inevitable. If this is true, then there seems to be little point in making serious efforts to eradicate war. A core axiom of this book is that war is not inevitable. Thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of years from now, if the human race has survived, we may have settled on other planets and perhaps even in other solar systems. From our present knowledge of the laws of physics, it would seem unlikely that we would by then have voyaged to other galaxies (although who, just a century ago, could have predicted how soon we would land on the moon). Travelling in space and settling on other planets could provide opportunities for continuing wars (and such scenarios have already been extensively explored in science fiction).  One possibility is that in our travels through this galaxy we may encounter intelligent but hostile non-human life forms. Alternatively, they might arrive here first.  In such a situation, war might indeed erupt – a ‘War of the Galaxy’ between humans and other ‘alien’ beings. From today’s perspective one might hope that such a war would be resolved with the survival of all parties, but most importantly, of humans…

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

Certain religions and political movements sometimes proclaim that a major change in human history is about to take place (or will take place if we behave in a certain way). Catch cries range from ‘Armageddon is around the corner’ to ‘When we follow the new teachings humankind will be transformed as we enter a new Golden Age’.

Personally I don’t think that human nature will be easily changed. I would also be very wary of any dramatic social revolution. Many people have been seeking solutions to war for many thousands of years and the answers certainly won’t come quickly or easily. To suggest that we can achieve enough alteration in our behaviour and our political structures to put an end to warfare might seem to some to be very naïve. It’s a big busy world out there. The combined might of large corporations, of sovereign nations and of the super powers – driven by the deeply ingrained biological instincts of survival – is awesome indeed. The competition amongst our modern super-tribes will intensify as some resources – petroleum, agricultural land and even fresh water – become scarcer. Too many of our leaders have immense drive, ambition and communication skills (nowadays more essential than ever to gain office) but are lacking in long-term vision and concern.

And yet, despite all this, I am still optimistic that at this stage in history, early in the twenty-first century, we may be in a favourable position to move carefully and progressively towards a more peaceful world. While certain technologies have brought us to a threshold where we could quickly be overwhelmed by a global nuclear war (or possibly environmental disaster through climate change) other technologies, particularly those of communication, now offer us a chance of a more unified world with a better coordinated approach to our problems.

In this book we have explored the origins and nature of war. We have studied its genetic origins (why individuals want to kill each other) and its social origins (why nations go to war).  We have looked briefly at how war is conducted and at how the technology of war has evolved.  We have then moved on to investigate the effects of war, looking at the damage it causes and its occasional benefits.

We have examined a series of strategies for peace which address the central issues raised earlier – controlling and channelling our instincts to kill, minimising the damage from conflict by developing non-lethal weaponry, replicating the benefits of warfare without war itself and finally evolving proactive ways of resolving problems before they lead to war.  We have then reconsidered all the strategies in the context of what we have called a technology of peace.

In the final section of the book, we have identified a series of steps by which these strategies could be put into place and we have taken a look at the future possibilities for peace.

And what have we found? In summary it is that we do not have to be the victims of our instincts and culture. We have a choice. We must act soon or we might lose that choice. We can choose to be driven by the technologies of war and to be led into misery by psychopaths, by megalomaniacs, or even just by second-rate politicians. On the other hand we can take control of technology, remould our culture and develop the technological tools, the methods of government and the behaviour that will lead us to non-lethal ways of resolving conflict. We can create a technology and a culture of peace.  If we wish we have the power to tame war.

 

 

PRACTICAL THINGS WE CAN DO AS INDIVIDUALS

 

Often in the face of huge social problems, we can feel very helpless. We may feel that there are others who are much better placed to find solutions than we are.

In fact the world can be changed by quite small groups of people, or even by individuals (if those individuals are reflecting a feeling shared by others). There are large numbers of people already active in promoting peace in various ways. Further support will add to the momentum.

Here are a few suggestions about what we can do as individuals.

Question the idea that war is inevitable

Just accepting the idea that it might be possible to end war is a great step forward.

•   Discuss the issue with our friends and colleagues and (if the opportunity arises) in the media.

Work locally

Start in our own backyard. Almost everyone who wants to can have an influence on her or his own local government.

•   Lobby for gun-free areas (for example that the local council does not engage armed security guards).

•   Encourage our local council to support programs for reconciliation, anti-harassment, rehabilitation of offenders and so on.

•   Urge our schools and education authorities to introduce peace education and related subjects.

Join peace organisations

There are many admirable organisations working at ending war. Some will have local branches.

Guns in the community

Campaign for good firearm control and for the replacement of the guns carried by police and security guards with non-lethal weapons.

Spiritual approaches

A significant number of people believe that lasting world peace can only be achieved when there is sufficient inner peace amongst individuals. Whether these beliefs are true or not is beyond the scope of this book, but peaceful people will obviously make a significant contribution to developing a culture of peace.

Political Action

Working at a local level will be very powerful. If we want to widen our activities:

  • We can lobby our regional and then national politicians to initiate reform of the defence forces. On the international level we can support the United Nations and campaign for its reform.
  • We can also support properly designed international aid programs to improve equity in the world.

A SUMMARY OF STEPS FOR ACTION

In summary, here are some of the steps that we, as a world community, need to take to tame war:

  • Study the origins of war

War is much older than humans. We must continue to explore why and how it has permeated our biology and our culture.

  • Study what drives humans to make war

We need to analyse and understand the powerful drives that, to date, have ensured our survival, but which also propel us into warfare.

  • Design a scientific strategy for peace

We have to treat war objectively and without moral judgement, just as we would treat a disease. By doing this we can design a rational effective plan for dealing with war, based on fact and not emotion.

  • Use non-lethal weapons to limit the damage

Armed conflict is likely to be with us for a while at least. If we can use non-lethal weaponry to repel or constrain aggressors, we may be able to minimise immediate pain and grief and also reduce the long-term risk of revenge. We can start by using non-lethal weapons in United Nations peacekeeping.

 

 

  • Control guns domestically

We need to greatly reduce the number of firearms in the community, except those used for sport shooting. We also need to give our police officers non-lethal protection instead of handguns.

  • Increase United Nations peacekeeping

UN peacekeepers play a very important role in preventing conflicts and in halting and resolving those that start. We need to give peacekeepers much better support.

  • Redirect the military into community work

While for the moment supporting their role in defence, we need to change the military into becoming for the most part community workers.

  • Create useful challenges to satisfy aggressive drives

Society already redirects our competitive aggressive war-making drives into such activities as commerce, sport and adventure. We need to deliberately increase this involvement, concentrating particularly on designing challenging experiences for all our young people. There are many needs in the world such as reducing poverty, arresting global warming and repairing the environment, which can provide any amount of challenge.

  • Share satisfying employment

Unemployment is dispiriting and disempowering as well as being a factor in social unrest. Repetitive mindless jobs can dull the senses as well as wasting skills. We need to share employment opportunities across the community. In addition, we need to share the tedious and unpleasant tasks that have to be done.

 

  • Develop a culture of peace

Because war has been so central to human existence, our culture is very much imbued with the symbols and language of war. While honouring the warriors of the past, from now on we need to develop a culture which expresses a non-violent approach to life. This will include strong support for human rights and ending capital punishment.

  • Better manage our political leadership

We need to improve the way we select and manage our political leaders so that we are less at the mercy of psychopathic, incompetent or just misguided individuals.

  • Reform the United Nations

The United Nations needs strengthening and supporting, but it also needs reform. We must establish a more democratic governance which is not so controlled and manipulated by the Great Powers. At the same time we must ensure that the UN bureaucracy becomes more efficient, effective and accountable.

  • Eliminate nuclear weapons

There must be no more proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those nations possessing nuclear weapons must together start progressively to dismantle and destroy their weapons until no more remain.

  • Reduce world poverty

We must keep to the commitment of Making Poverty History (which aims at halving world poverty by 2015). We must aim to eliminate world poverty as soon as possible after that date.

  • Improve the world environment

We must work together to improve the environment, reducing carbon emissions and arresting global warming. Our long-term goal must be of world-wide sustainable development.

  • Promote world citizenship

We need to promote the concept of world citizenship.  We have to encourage the development of democratic structures which transcend national boundaries.

  • Break up super powers into smaller states

We must gradually, peacefully and naturally dismantle our super powers into smaller more equal-sized states, so that there is consistent representation and responsibility around the globe.

  • Establish a World Parliament

Finally, we need to establish a world parliament. This parliament would not enforce conformity and blandness. In contrast, it would support the diversity and self-determination of individuals and of small communities. Indeed its main role would be to protect individuals and communities from being damaged or destroyed by what at present we call sovereign nations. As one ‘sovereign nation of the world’ we would have no excuse to go to war with anyone.

 

 


END NOTES

 

Chapter 1 The Problems of War

1 Milton Leitenberg, Deaths in wars and conflicts between 1945 and 2000, Paper prepared for Conference on Data Collection in Armed Conflict Uppsala, Sweden, June 2001.

[2] Andrew Mack, War and Peace in the 21st Century, Human Security Centre, Vancouver, 2005.

[3] A number of individuals have been involved in developing the concept of non-lethal weapons. See Chapters 13 and 14 for references.

Chapter 2  Conflict and Cooperation – Guilt and Genes

[4] Polio has proved rather more stubborn than smallpox and may not be completely eradicated for a while, but it is now found in only a very few areas.

[5] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, 1976.

[6] Jane Goodall, Through a Window – My 30 Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1991.

[7] Diane Fossey, Infanticide in mountain gorillas, in Hausfater, G and Hardy, S.B. (eds) Infanticide; Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, pp. 217-218, 230-235, (46AK/70), 1984.

[8] Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1996. See also Robert Winston, Human Instinct, Bantam 2002, pp. 239-241.

[9] Chris Masters, Not for Publication, ABC Books, Sydney 2002.

[10] Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing – Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare, Granta Books, 1999, p. 74.

 [11] Dave Grossman, On Killing, Little, Brown, Boston and New York, 1995.

 

Chapter 6 – Blades and Bullets

[12] Marek Kohn, Made in Savannahstan, New Scientist, 1 July 2006.

[13] Robert Pape, Dying to Win – the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Scribe, Melbourne, 2005, Chapter10.

Chapter 8 – What’s Wrong with War

[14] Sivard RL, World Military and Social Expenditures, 14th & 16th ed. Washington, DC, World Priorities  1991  & 1996 (quoted in WHO World Report on Violence and Health).

[15] Rummel RJ, Death by government, genocide and mass murder since 1900. New Brunswick, NJ and London, Transaction Publications, 1994 – (quoted – p. 218 in WHO World Report on Violence and Health).

[16] Milton Leitenberg , Deaths in wars and conflicts between 1945 and 2000. Paper prepared for Conference on Data Collection in Armed Conflict, Uppsala, Sweden, June 2001.

Chapter 9 – The Bright Side of Strife

[17] Glenn J. Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle. London 1970, (quoted in Richard Holmes, Firing Line, Penguin, London 1987, p.394.)

[18] Richard Holmes, Firing Line, Penguin, London 1987, p. 210.

[19] Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Picador, London, 2004, p.54.

Chapter 16 – Confronting the Causes

[20] The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July, 1999.

[21] Theo F. Lentz, Towards a Technology of Peace, Lentz Peace Research Laboratory, St Louis, 1972.

Chapter 19 – UN to Set the Scene

[23] John Keegan, A History of Warfare, pp 391-392.

[24] Sapolsky RM, Share LJ (2004) A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission. Public Library of Science Biol, Vol2 (4):April  2004 – also Dyer Op. Cit. p 419. For a broad review of the whole topic see also Sapolsky RM, A Natural History of Peace, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006.

Chapter 24 – World Government – a New Code of Peace

[26] Ronald Glossop, Confronting War, p. 257.

[27] Ronald Glossop, Confronting War, Ch. 16.

[28] Gwynne Dyer, War the Lethal Custom, p.422.

[29] Stuart Rees, A Passion for Peace, p.160.

Chapter 26 – The Future

[30] Paul Davies, The Last Three Minutes: Conjecture about the Ultimate Fate of the Universe, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994.