Abolition of War – What Are We Waiting For?

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

You will say at once that although the abolition of war has been the dream of man for centuries, every proposition to that end has been promptly discarded as impossible and fantastic. Every cynic, every pessimist, every adventurer, every swashbuckler in the world has always disclaimed its feasibility. But that was before the science of the past decade made mass destruction a reality. The argument then was along spiritual and moral grounds, and lost….But now the tremendous and present evolution of nuclear and other potentials of destruction has suddenly taken the problem away from its primary consideration as a moral and spiritual question and brought it abreast of scientific realism. It is no longer an ethical question to bee pondered solely by learned philosophers and ecclesiastics but a hard core one for the decision of the masses whose survival is at stake….The leaders are laggards….Never do they state the bald truth, that the next great advance in civilization cannot take place until war is abolished….When will some great figure in power have sufficient imagination to translate this universal wish — which is rapidly becoming a universal necessity — into actuality> We are in a new era. The old methods and solutions no longer suffice. We must have new thoughts, new ideas, new concepts….We must break out of the strait-jacket of the past. [Douglas MacArthur, 1955 in a speech given to the American Legion as quoted in  Glenn Paige’s Nonkilling Global Political Science, p.156]

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. [President Eisenhower, 1953]

During one of my final days as a librarian combing the stacks of our political science collection for possible pruning I came upon a very slim volume (56pp) written in 1969 by Frederick L. Schuman, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government, Emeritus Williams College and Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, entitled simply, Why a Department of Peace? I was intrigued because in my ignorance I thought that Dennis Kucinich was the torchbearer of such a concept. But Schuman’s research made it clear that much earlier attempts have been made.

Senator Alexander Wiley spoke on the Senate floor calling for such a department in 1943. But actually as early as 1790 there was a proposal calling for such by either Benjamin Banneker or Benjamin Rush. But as anyone with a pulse clearly knows, we don’t have such an interest in a Department of Peace, preferring instead a Department of Defense, formerly the Department of War. Actual legislation has been introduced into Congress many times since the 1930s. Never has it had a serious hearing. Why?????

Thorsten Veblen offered this cogent response in his 1919 Inquiry into the Nature of Peace

     Any politician who succeeds in embroiling his country in a war, however nefarious, becomes a popular hero and is reputed a wise and righteous statesman, at least for the time being. Illustrative instances need perhaps not, and indeed cannot gracefully, be named; most popular heroes and reputed statesmen belong in this class….Since the ethical values involved in any given international contest are substantially of the nature of after-thought or accessory, they may safely be left on one side in any endeavor to understand or account for any given outbreak of hostilities.     
        The moral indignation of both parties to the quarrel is to be taken for granted, as being the statesman’s chief and necessary ways and means of bringing any war-like enterprise to a head and floating it to a creditable finish. It is a precipitate of the partisan animosity that inspires both parties and holds them to their duty of self-sacrifice and devastation, and at its best will chiefly serve as a cloak of self-righteousness to extenuate any exceptionally profligate excursions in the conduct of hostilities.

Once again there has been legislation introduced to create a Department of Peace[building]. It gets no press and there will likely be no hearing that might give it serious consideration. Meanwhile, our legislators outbid each other to fund war.

This short two-minute animation recently put together with Nobel Peace Laureate, Jody Williams, might be the tonic we need to push that along. Write or call your legislators. Demand hearings on H.R. 808.

We’ll never abolish war if we don’t join together to force our governments to seriously study peace.

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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