Creating a Culture of Peace

Date: December 2007

Brian Walker


Issues of war and peace are, by definition, divisive and acutely challenging. Nonetheless, as a point of departure, it might be agreed that whatever the cause for using violence in war, men and women of goodwill in the 21st century recognise that all wars are morally reprehensible.

In contrast to the absolute pacifist stance, I shall analyse the pragmatic reasons for saying, “no” to war, and “no” to violence. I shall argue that both are futile and ungovernable tools for diplomacy in the 21st century. I shall argue that war in the 21st century does not work - because it cannot work. It follows that a culture of peace resonating with this insight will enhance our collective security, as it contributes to our greater happiness.

This vision reflects seven years of study undertaken by a small group of Quakers, (The Religious Society of Friends) supported by Westmorland General Meeting – people who live in the North West corner of England - the English Lake District.

First, “Why do men and women fight so as to kill each other?” Is there something in the make up of the human animal which in certain conditions makes war inevitable? Are we trapped by our genes to be violent and destructive in situations which inevitably lead to war, or to mass violence? Is the “crooked timber of humanity” designed biologically so as to go to war in order to kill its own kind? Some argue that it is.

In 1986, the UN convened the world’s leading scientists from the human disciplines, ranging from anthropology to zoology, so as to advise whether war is permanently integral to the human condition. They met in Seville, Spain.

At the end of their deliberations they published a unanimous statement called, “The Seville Statement on Violence”. In the U.K. it was scrutinised by our Royal Societies. They approved and the text returned to the UN for global endorsement. Today, some of its language is dated, and neurologists are still struggling to understand the workings of the human brain - but Seville’s central message continues to command respect. It said, “It is scientifically incorrect that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature.” It continued, “It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by “instinct” or any other single motivation.”

War, which consists of organised and approved violence, is not inevitable. It is not stamped into the human brain in some Pavlovian manner, pre-birth; nor does it run back in time, through our genes, to a pre- human event, or step change, giving an irreversible, biological twist to human life. We are not automatons of some inflexible rule of evolution, pre-disposing us to mass violence or killing. On the contrary, each person is free to choose whether or not he or she wishes to fight, so as to kill, when war creeps up the political agenda. In our own country that right is enshrined in law.

People of my generation remember the late Prof. Margaret Mead - in her time perhaps the world’s most distinguished anthropologist. She advised in 1940 that, “war is only an invention”; it has to be learned, she explained, like writing, or mathematics, or marriage, or civil rights, or democracy. It is a social construct. It has little to do with interpersonal violence which probably does have evolutionary roots [1].

The Seville statement ends with these words. “We conclude that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism..... Just as wars begin in the minds of men (sic), peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us”.

My first point, therefore, is that the “Seville Statement on Violence”, ought to be exposed to scrutiny in our schools. Seville’s message should feature in any schools’ programme designed to take a rigorous look as to the origins, and consequences of modern military violence. Our students could progress from such a base to consider the alternatives for resolving political impasse. These would include techniques of peace making, peace building, and peace keeping, now being pioneered by the UN’s “Peace Building Commission”, and whilst humanity seeks to define the purpose of International Humanitarian law, fostered by the UN and its specialised agencies. It would focus on those critical issues through which the International Court of Justice is pioneering humanity’s attempt to cope with the phenomena of war crimes. Analyzing the true value of triumphalism, heroism, or even narrow patriotism in times of stress between nations, could be part of the learning process as pupils prepare for university, their adult life, and the franchise.

My second point is that it would be prudent to re-consider the mediaeval doctrine of the so-called “Just War” - if only because the humanitarian laws of warfare are based on it, and because it has shaped popular war culture in western civilisation for centuries [2].

Recently two distinguished commentators - General Lord Guthrie & Sir Michael Quinlan a former Ministry of Defence chief - have co-authored an updated check list for national leaders contemplating war. First, are the conditions in which it is “right to fight”; secondly, is, “how to fight right”; thirdly, is how to act after victory in war has been declared [3].

“Jus ad bellum”, the right to fight, prescribes six criteria all of which have to be intact if war is to be justified. They are, Just Cause; Proportionate Cause; Right Intention; Right Authority; Reasonable Prospect of Success, and Last Resort.

Secondly, “Jus in bello” concerns the morality of what may done when fighting war, and adds two other criteria - “Discrimination” - that innocents must not be attacked, and “Proportionality” - that we must not take action if the incidental harm done to civilians is too heavy a price to pay for any military benefit.

Thirdly, “Jus post bellum” then obliges the victor in war to face up to, and accept, the need to implement those responsibilities in civil society which follow as a consequence of military victory.

It is surely self-evident that both clauses in “jus in bello” - that innocents must not be attacked, and that we must not take action if the incidental harm done to civilians is too heavy a price for likely military benefit - are likely to fail given the nature of war in the 21st century, whether it is symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Furthermore, clause two of “jus ad bellum” refers to “proportionate cause”, namely, that destruction resulting from the use of force, must be out-weighed by the good it is likely to achieve. But then clause six (Last Resort), advises that “every other way of solving the problem likely to give rise to war must be exhausted before going to war.” However, modern science and technology when applied to war makes it almost impossible to measure up to the requirements of the Just War.

Our 2003 war in Iraq, for example, seems to fail five if not all eight tests; but Guthrie and Quinlan also ask, pertinently, whether modern war is the worst thing which can happen to people? 21st century war, they argue, surely must be matched by a sound “civil” process, without which war will achieve nothing.

Meanwhile, according to Prof. Graham Hallett [4], civilian deaths in the First World War have been assessed at 13% of war dead; in the Second World War at 70%; and in the war in Vietnam at 90% - with this latter figure being broadly typical of current wars worldwide.

How can this be reconciled with the doctrine of the “just war”?

During the recent wars in the Balkans that the US air force flew at a height of five miles so as to protect its pilots from enemy ground-fire as they bombed selected targets. In such conditions, co-lateral harm to civilians was well nigh impossible to avoid, or to assess, after the event.

More recently, Israel’s deliberate bombing of civilian territory in the Lebanon in August 2006, with 1,000lb “bunker-buster” bombs, plus 350,000 cluster bombs, as well as illegal phosphorous bombs, patently ignored the spirit of clauses six and seven. So does the indiscriminate and constant bombing of Israeli civilian areas by Palestinians.

Proportionality and civilian immunity seem to be inevitable casualties of war in the 21st century.

We should also note that it is doubtful whether the doctrine of the “Just War” has ever stopped a single war in human history.

Our “Preparing for Peace” team put these arguments to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels in October 2005, to Westminster Members of Parliament that November, to Welsh Assembly Members in June 2006, and then to members of Scotland’s Parliament, in September 2006. In all we have made over 55 presentations to a range of religious and secular groups, including a public lecture tour of New Zealand, Australia and Thailand.

The Welsh Assembly members promised to consider how to make our theme a serious part of the Welsh school’s curriculum for their own teenagers. We asked the English and the Scottish parliamentarians to do the same. To release our children from the bondage of war would be the finest gift we could possibly bestow on the next generation. Since the time of Lord Haigh and his Generals we have spent a hundred years trying to “civilize” modern war. But we have failed because there is an irreconcilable contradiction between “unrestricted war” and “civilised war”. Both are inadequate tools for resolving conflict.

My third point is good news. In 2005, a team of scholars led by Prof. Mack at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, analysed all conflicts since 1992. [5] They were able to show that there has been a global decline in the phenomena of war, genocide, human rights abuses, military coups, and worldwide international crises - by some 40% since 1992. In the case of the deadliest of conflicts, defined as those with 1,000 or more battle deaths, the decline has been a colossal 80%. Since the early nineties all forms of political violence, except international terrorism, have declined.

Mack’s report reveals that not only are wars less frequent today, they also tend to be less deadly. It challenges a number of widely held beliefs about contemporary political violence – such as the widespread belief that terrorism is currently the gravest threat to international security, with women disproportionately victimised by armed conflict. However, we should also note that roughly half of all countries that emerge from war return to violence within five years. [6] Perhaps the UN’s new “Peace- building Commission” could consider how best to counter this depressing fact.

Analyzing the causes which lie behind any improvement in global security the report argues that it is the UN which has played the critical role in spearheading a huge upsurge in international conflict prevention, peace building, and peace keeping - often to good effect - despite a constant crisis in funding, despite their own politically limited response capacity, and despite occasional straight forward failures like the genocidal massacre which took place in Rwanda in 1994. Notwithstanding such failures, Mack is unequivocally persuaded that initiatives by the UN play an important role in spearheading effective international conflict prevention, and peace-building activities. More, however, could be achieved, if the world’s principal super power, the USA, would seriously support the global peace effort.

Mack demonstrates that the highest death tolls in war usually come not so much from actual fighting, but from war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition. These factors count for 90% of the total war-related death toll. In his analysis Mack points to the end of colonialism, the end of the cold war (fought mainly through proxy-wars in the Third World), and, thirdly, to the unprecedented upsurge of international activity painstakingly designed to stop ongoing wars, as well as success in preventing new ones from starting.

Mack also points out that the annual cost to the international community when it seeks to combat the outbreak of war, has been extraordinarily modest – significantly less than 1% of world military spending. The cost of running the UN’s 17 peace operations around the world, for an entire year, is less than what the US spends in Iraq in a single month. According to the 2007 Reith Lecture [7] America’s military spending, is $650billions – more than the rest of the world combined.

Clearly, if we are to safeguard our future, a culture of peace needs to usurp our culture of war. Once united, we, the people, do have leverage for influencing our parliament, the European Union, the World Bank and its associates, the UN itself, and so on. There might emerge “Ministries for Peace” designed to foster pro-active peace initiatives and so as to balance Ministries of Defence as they act as a counter-balance to the 60 conflicts which on average are being waged daily somewhere on our planet.

If we ignore the causes of war, and the human misery which they create, then the risk of new wars, or of old ones starting up again, remains real.

America and her allies have chosen, for example, to define the so-called “axis of evil” [8] as primarily Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Leaving aside the inherent contradiction of an “axis” so defined, ignoring the traditional enmity between Iran and Iraq, and that it was the US/UK invasion of Iraq which originally induced Al Qaida to operate in Iraq, our five years of war in that country have resulted in Iraq being in fatal chaos, Iran being much nearer to having its own nuclear weapons, and North Korea having a 400% increase in its fissile material as well as a tested missile system with which to deliver their strike capacity. This hardly represents a success story.

On the other hand, and as a result of international negotiations leading to the transfer of oil energy and development finance, North Korea closed down all its nuclear energy stations as requested in mid-July 2007. Nonetheless, one does not need to be a pacifist to draw the conclusion that war is an unreliable tool for bringing about constructive change. Our modest success in North Korea, however, seems to confirm that when we use the tools of serious political negotiations backed by funding support in theatres of diplomatic breakdown, we are likely to settle disputes peacefully. This formula, perhaps, could be applied now to Iran and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, America today holds 325,000 terrorist suspects. How can that be in a democracy? Who are these people, and where are they? Why have prisoners been tortured and abused in Guantanamo Bay?

The world’s most successful army - the Mongols - under both Genghis Khan and Khubilai Khan - “did not torture, mutilate or maim”, their prisoners [9]. Ought we to have lower standards than the Mongol emperors? To what degree is the British government complicit in the U.S. policy of rendition? Why, in a democracy, is a man or a woman no longer innocent until proved guilty in a court of law?

On the global agenda, we only need to recite words like Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, the West Bank, Colombia, Nepal, Burma, Lebanon, Congo, Indonesia, Korea, Sri Lanka, or Kashmir, to know that we must re-double our efforts if we are to rid humankind of the scourge of war by seeking to understand and address the poverty based insecurity which trigger so many of these conflicts. Such a stance pre-supposes a culture of peace underpinning the thinking and political response of ordinary people and their day by day institutions, and which deepens as it becomes the norm of society. Nor is this so revolutionary, for symbiosis is at least as fundamental to human nature as collective aggression or violence.

My fourth point concerns the changing attitude to war by the top military Generals. Although the modern roots of this go back to an old friend of mine - Brigadier General Michael Harbottle who commanded the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus from 1966 to 1968 - there have always been top military men who take no pleasure in killing their enemy, and who seek alternatives to war and violence. Michael and his colleagues - principally consisting of Cold War warriors, including Russians and Americans - were amongst the first to recognise the increasing futility of modern war in modern times. They were moved to create an organisation called “Generals for Peace”. [10] Following Michael’s death in 1997 the project has been carried forward by his successors, under the title of “Strategies for Peace”. Its members hold seminars, canvass their fellow officers, and advocate the peaceful solution to diplomatic break-down by emphasising their own role through peace making and in peace keeping.

The original Cold War membership of “Generals for Peace” included top Russian, American and NATO officers who had promised each other that they would disobey any political order to ignite the nuclear trigger.

I was privileged occasionally to attend their meetings because of my experience in the developing world. Membership included men like General Obasanjo of Nigeria who, on his first election to the Presidency of Nigeria, sent home some 25,000 nineteen year old soldiers, instructing them to work in the fields around their local villages learning how to grow food crops successfully, and how best they might look after the vulnerable young and old. This, he explained, was more worthy than learning the arts and sciences of war. Poverty was the common enemy of serious consequence.

Even Israel, whose conflict with their Arab neighbours is the fulcrum of war in the Middle East, has a group of retired Generals who have poured scorn on their political leaders, and the bellicose rhetoric which surrounds the war between Israel and Palestine. Opposed to their recent war in the Lebanon, for example, was Israel’s former Chief of Staff, General Moshe Ya’alon, who declared, “Going to war was scandalous and he” - Prime Minister Olmert - “is directly responsible for that ....Therefore he must resign". [11]

I recall too, my experience in Northern Ireland. In 1969 I had been elected the founder Chair of the moderate, non-secular, political movement called, “The New Ulster Movement” - a kind of Fabian Society for Northern Ireland. Subsequently, when the Ulster parliament was prorogued in 1972 by Prime Minister Edward Heath, principally on our advice and according to our pioneering model on power-sharing, and when, as a consequence, I had accepted his invitation to be a member of the Commission which replaced the Stormont government, that I noted that it was always the military chiefs, sitting as advisors, who advocated the peaceful settlement of our age old enmities as between Protestants and Catholics.

They predicted a six months “honeymoon” period after which, should we make little or no progress in settling our animosities, civilian mayhem would break out. They would then be forced to act in their traditional role as armed soldiers, committed to the use of force, and then to violence as community relationships degenerated from bad to worse. In the event we failed in that aspect of our work, and for thirty years civil war in that part of the UK became the status quo. Over 3,000 civilians died in addition to 1,123 members of the security forces during those three decades.

In fact, many top military personnel around the world have begun to question their own role when ordered to use war as the prime tool for settling diplomatic disagreements between nation states. Coincidentally three new factors emerged as determinants of global society and to which I shall return.

But, consider first, what the military, typically, is saying to us. For example, General Sir Mike Rose now retired, but formerly Deputy Commander in Chief in the UK, and earlier Commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia-Hertzegovina, (1994-1995) - proposed in January 2006 that we should impeach Prime Minister Blair for his illegal declaration of war in Iraq. Major General Sir Patrick Cordingly, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade, and who was to become GOC of the 2nd Division, concurred, also in public.

Twelve months earlier, General Sir Rupert Smith, formerly NATO’s deputy Supreme Commander, went so far as to argue in his book [12] that, “.....war no longer exists....”. We have moved, he explained, from “industrial wars” between nation states, into a new age in which war is always, “amongst the people”. He writes, “We are engaging in conflict for objectives that do not lead to a resolution of the matter directly by force of arms, since at all but the most basic tactical level our objectives concern the intensions of the people and their leaders, rather than territory or forces.”

In similar vein, Lieutenant General David Richards who took command of NATO forces in Afghanistan in spring 2006, immediately made clear that his key object was to capture the hearts and minds of the Afghan people - a task, he explained, requiring words, education, economic support, and freedom. Such aspirations, he continued, require diplomacy, negotiation, education, the abolition of poverty, the careful establishment of civil institutions reflecting creative civil leadership, as distinct from despotic rule - not guns, not bombs, not repression. By August 2007, however, Brigadier John Lorimer was advising that the war in Afghanistan is likely to last some 30 years or more. [13]

In July 2007 he was supported in this by Lord Paddy Ashdown, a professional soldier, formerly leader of the U.K’s Liberal Democratic Party and later the U.N. high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown has consistently argued that failure in Afghanistan is likely if we measure success by the number of Taliban our forces kill. Success, he writes, “is not measured in dead Taliban. It’s measured in how many water supplies are being reconnected; how many more people have the benefit of the rule of law and good governance; how many have the prospect of a good job; and above all, whether we are winning or loosing the battle for public opinion, which is central to successful reconstruction”. [14] Nevertheless, our forces in Afghanistan have been directed by the politicians to implement an American style, “search and destroy” policy using 1,000 lb bombs on civilian villages.

In October 2006 [15] at a meeting of European experts Field Marshal Lord Peter Inge, former head of Britain’s armed forces said that there was a lack of any “clear strategy” guiding British operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that we seemed to have lost the capacity to “think strategically”. This certainly seemed to be borne out when in February 2007 (16) we learned of the “alternate intelligence unit operating prior to the war in the Pentagon” under Donald Rumsfelt, and led by his appointee, Mr. Keith Feith, which asserted that Saddam Hussein was linked to El Qaida – a link which is impossible - and that war was therefore necessary.

In July 2007 Field Marshal Inge addressed the House of Lords during its debate on Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke for all the general staff. He said, “The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise...” He continued, “We need to face up to [...] the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for NATO [...] We need to recognise that the situation [...] is much, much more serious than people want to recognise”. [16]

In similar vein General Lord Guthrie, former Chief of Britain’s Defence Staff, in a press interview [17], denounced Britain’s renewed attack on south Afghanistan as, “cuckoo”. He further advised that the last hope for Iraq was to create a loosely “federated” Iraq, but which, he declared, “was a last chance saloon” option. Ought the U.K’s foreign policy to focus on “last chance saloon” options?

American Generals have a reputation - perhaps as a consequence of the intervention of Hollywood - of being pretty gung-ho in the execution of their professional skills. But in real life many remain precisely of the opposite intent. Vietnam Colonel turned Boston University academic - Colonel Andrew Bracevich - in his excellent book, “The New American Militarism”, sub titled, “How Americans are seduced by War”, advises - “Since the beginning of the industrial age, war has time and again proven to be all but ungovernable.” [18]. He goes on to analyse what he calls, “the limited utility of armed force.” One inevitable consequence of modern war is euphemistically called “friendly fire”. In June 2007 US forces in Iraq shot and killed seven children under this category.

Even when wars appear to “work” scholars like Martin Shaw (see his book “The New Western Way of War”), [19], argue that war is still “degenerate”. Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Moorcraft - a former policy expert in the U.K. Ministry of Defence - states bluntly, “There is no military solution to the plight of civilians in Darfur, Sudan.”

“Futile”, “limited utility”, “all but ungovernable”, “no solution”, “desperate”, “uncontrollable”. This is the language used by military experts in respect of modern warfare. It is also the language of redundancy. It is the Generals and the military who are striking the death knell of war as we have known it.

Bacevich’s boss during the profoundly immoral war in Vietnam, of course, was Secretary of State Robert McNamara. It took him thirty years to write about his experience of running an American war for Presidents Kennedy and Johnston. In his book “In Retrospect” [20] he denounces war on every page - literally. He calls it “futile” (that word again),” uncontrollable”. It is a tool which sometimes exacts what he calls “a staggering price from victor and vanquished alike”. He notes, “It persuaded many that war itself - especially as waged by obtuse American Generals doing the bidding of mendacious civilian officials - has become an exercise in futility”. Again, there’s that word.

Or, note the judgement of US General Joseph Hoare, former Marine Commandant and Head of US Central Control. Speaking about the Iraq war he said, “The idea that this is going the way these guys planned is ludicrous. We are conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of realities on the ground. It is so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are all just wrong”.

Or in similar vein, is the judgement of Prof Jeffrey Record, at the US Air War College, “I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case scenario has become true”.

Ten years after McNamara’s book, John Sawyers, Prime Minister Blair’s personal envoy in Baghdad, echoed the same indictment [21] - when he advised that the war in Iraq was, “an unbelievable mess” and that the US military leadership was, “well meaning, but out of their depth.” He concluded, “We may have been seduced into something we might be inclined to regret. Is strategic failure a possibility? The answer has to be “yes”.” He went on to define US military leadership, “No leadership, no strategy, no co-ordination, no structure, and inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis.”

The former Chief of Staff of the Australian army, Lt. General John Coates, writes, “It is a fact that most wars end untidily – but there is cause to believe that a realistic plan to quickly restore the lives of the Iraqi people to near normality simply did not exist. [...] Not only is it impossible to see an end to the conflict, it is also impossible to predict the form that such an ending might take.” [22]

Brigadier General Tim Grant, Canadian commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, said, “Killing Taliban is not going to get this country sorted out.” [23].

The celebrated Colonel Tim Collins was applauded by fellow officers when lecturing at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, when he said as one who had commanded the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment during the invasion of Iraq, “We clearly have no plan. We are relying entirely...on military muscle to impose freedom and democracy.” [24]. Freedom and democracy cannot be imposed. They only grow out of the right, non-violent, social conditions.

Famously, Briton’s top soldier, General Sir Richard Dannatt, took to the media in October 2006 [25] to urge that we ought to withdraw from Iraq as “soon” as possible, or risk serious consequences to both Iraq and British society. The Iraq war, he explained, was jeopardising British security around the world. In August 2007 (26.08.07) he advised that the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan were likely to last for thirty years before British troops could be fully withdrawn. Five days later (31.08.07) the former head of British forces, General Sir Mike Jackson, described America’s post war strategy in Iraq, in his autobiography, as “intellectually bankrupt”. On the second of September 2007, Major General Tim Cross the senior British officer involved in post-war planning for Iraq described US policy in this context as - “fatally flawed”.

Across the Atlantic, Lieutenant General William Odom, writing about the war in Iraq in June 2006 in the prestigious US journal “Foreign Policy” [26], and doing so on behalf of what was called the “Revolt of the Generals”, chose as the title for his article, “Cut and run - you bet”.

In March 2007 the newly appointed, overall commander in Iraq - General David Petraeus - warned, “there is no military solution to the conflict”. Eventually, he said, Iraqi leaders would have to sit down and talk. He told his own troops, “There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq”. Four months later he warned again that, “Fighting the insurgents could take decades”. In September 2007 when he reported formally to the US Congress (10.09.07) Gen. Petraeus advised that the so-called “surge” was working and that in 2008 a number of troops would be sent home. However, his colleague, the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, whilst supporting the broad conclusions of General Petraeus, added, ”The country came close to unravelling politically, economically and in security terms”. He went on, “I cannot guarantee success in Iraq”. “An Iraq that falls into chaos or civil war will mean massive human suffering – well beyond what has occurred within Iraq’s borders.” [27]. A month later Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez declared the Iraq war to have been a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan”. He judged the war mission to have been wrongly designed and managed from “About the 15th June 2003” – the day he took over-all command of allied forces in Iraq. It was, he said, “a nightmare with no end in sight”; those who controlled events were, “derelict in the performance of their duties” and offered in his judgement, “catastrophic leadership”.

Finally, are former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s conclusions on the Iraq war, when he was honoured by Oxford university with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Law (June 2007). President Carter said, “I thought before, during, and since the Iraqi invasion that it was completely unjust and unnecessary; it was implemented on the basis of false premises or misleading statements, and its turned out to be a tragedy...”.

Labour members of the U.K.’s House of Commons “Defence Committee”, warned, meanwhile, that they had been advised by Brigadier General Chris Hughes that British soldiers were going on “nightly suicide missions” in Southern Iraq, and that it was inappropriate to talk about “victory” in Iraq. The only reason British troops remained in Iraq was “because of our relations with the U.S.” It was doubtful, he said, that “this was a price worth paying.” [28].

Meanwhile, American casualties by July 2007 stood at 3,606. Iraqi casualties, mostly civilian, probably exceed 601,000. It is conservatively estimated that 31% of these casualties are a direct result of U.S military violence. [29].

Robert Gates, when examined by Congress as to whether he would be chosen as Secretary of Defence at the Pentagon to succeed the failed Donald Rumsfeld, testified, “Once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable.” Does it not follow that only a fool would use an unpredictable tool in a situation of immense human sensitivity? [30]

The following day, former Secretary of State Jim Baker tabled his group’s devastating report on the war in Iraq. [31] It observed, bleakly but succinctly, “the current approach is not working.” That is the heart of the matter. And it will apply increasingly to any serious conflict in the 21st century. The US administration ignored the Baker report.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Gorbachov, who abolished the Cold War, argued, that, “The arrogance of military power has led to a grave crisis - and to a decline of the United State’s role and influence”. He continued, “If America’s leaders have the foresight and the courage to look at the world as it really is, they would choose dialogue and cooperation rather than force”. [32]

In October 2007 the former head of MI6 at the time of the invasion of Iraq (Sir Richard Dearlove) advised that government had placed far too much weight on intelligence. The war in Iraq demonstrated the dangers when “policy was built around intelligence and little else or when it was used for primary justification for government action”. Policy, he said was “over-dependent on intelligence particularly when it was presented to parliament.” In December 2007 US intelligence agencies disclosed for the first time that Iran had not been pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme of research for the previous four years. [33]

In respect of nuclear warfare, as long ago as 1979, Earl Mountbatten, U.K. Chief of Staff, and Admiral of the Fleet, set the tone when he announced, “As a military man who has given half a century of active service I say in all sincerity that the nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions they have generated.”

Three decades on, in January 2007, the four leading American architects of the cold war - Secretaries of State Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn - at last reversed their cold war position so as to urge the abolition of all nuclear weapons and the strengthening to that end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. America, they argued, should lead the way. [34]

In summary, for twenty five years the Generals and top diplomats have been talking peace to us and our politicians, and it is high time we began to listen to them. Of course, there are war-mongering mavericks - but the greater number is asking us, and our political masters, to understand the escalating futility of modern war. War in the 21st century does not work, because it cannot work. It is no longer a reliable tool of diplomacy. In that sense it is redundant, and hence alternatives must be developed for the resolution of diplomatic crises. [35]

My fifth point is to consider whether there are historical precedents which might encourage us to begin the process of discarding war as a reliable tool of diplomacy. Clearly to engineer such a change within our culture is a daunting challenge. But consider, for a moment, how deeply embedded in ancient times was the concept of the “Divine Right of Kings” and their world vision. That vision included “knights in shining armour” and the seven Crusades of the Middle Ages. It became the sacred notion, the foundation of society around which all things turned - from the church to social institutions, from agriculture and commerce to manners and etiquette, from banking and the grading of society to international relations and matters military at the highest of levels. But in 1649 Cromwell and our forbears abolished the Monarchy, partly through violent revolution – but principally on the basis of the prevailing view of civil society, parliament, and the people. There followed, for the U.K., 400 years of largely peaceful evolution of this new, democratic, model. The British were followed by the French and the Americans, in the eighteenth century. The challenge - to abolish the idea & practise of the Divine Right of Kings - was as daunting and as embedded, as is war today. But they tackled it.

Or consider the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century. Slavery was the pivot around which the national economy and the emerging world economy, used to turn. The system was approved by the clergy from the privilege of their pulpits - echoing the financiers, traders and entrepreneurs who sat in their congregations, as well as by the majority of their political leaders in parliament. But eventually the institution of slavery was declared illegal - even though the UN estimates that 12.3 million human beings remain enslaved today.

Or reflect for a moment on the decree that women and children are chattel to be used and abused by men regardless of any principal of restraint because that is how things are meant to be. The bible said so. Today, women and children in our society are no longer treated in law as chattel, although its presence is far from universally eliminated.

The parallel challenge today is to create a culture of peace so that the scourge of war, as the founders of the UN pledged in 1945, will be removed from the human condition as a stupid and ineffective tool for resolving crises between, or within, nation states.

Now let me turn to my sixth point - are there other critical factors which make a culture of peace imperative, apart from the moral or ethical issues? Why can we say with confidence that war in the 21st century doesn’t work because it cannot work?

The answer lies in three fundamental processes of change never before experienced by humankind. Nor does it matter too much in this context from whence you date the 21st century. Some would argue that it began in 1945 with the ending of the Second World War. Others would argue for 1989 and the ending of the Cold War. Yet others, of course, would argue for the calendar date - January 2000. It doesn’t really matter because three new determinants begin to emerge post 1945 so as to dominate where now we stand today.

First, is “globalisation” - the relatively free movement around the world of capital, labour and goods. We do not need to argue the merits or the demerits of this process. I ask you only to note that globalisation is a process which fundamentally alters the value of war as a tool of modern diplomacy. Since 1945 there has been a 12 fold increase in world trade and a five fold increase in economic activity. But globalisation is brought to a full stop in the event of war - large or small, one nation or many nations. Globalisation, for the most part, is indivisible, principally because it is diffuse and multi-polar.

Globalisation has spawned two new super powers each of which has the potential in time to challenge America - China and India. Brazil, meanwhile, stands in the wings. Again the precise strength in rank order is not of fundamental importance. Either, or both combined, can frustrate America the reining super-power, knock her off course, and deny her policy commitments. A united Europe might yet apply similar pressure.

Am alternate model has been proposed by the American philosopher, Noam Chomsky, [36]. He argues that the world already has two super powers -one certainly is the USA; but the other is the voice of democratic people all round the world speaking in unison, through civil society - non-governmental agencies like trades unions, churches, universities, or people agencies like Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, and Amnesty. Let us think of sovereignty in those terms when we become depressed by the turn of events. Each of us already belongs to a counter-veiling power of significance.

Size, of course, is not necessarily the essence of being a super power – but consider a handful of statistics chosen at random which might bring home the effect of globalisation and the irrelevance of war as a tool of diplomacy in the 21st century.

China has 3,000 television stations; she has 15 national news channels and currently uses over 377 million mobile telephones; she runs 15 “Bullet” trains, travelling at 250 km’s per hour.

India, meanwhile, has 150 television stations but recycles the news 24 hours a day. She has installed penny in the slot television sets at the centre of some of the poorest of her villages. Thus the “poorest of the poor” become aware of the gap between themselves and the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the worldwide web and the inter-net, originally invented by Englishman Tim Berners-Lee in the late eighties, are universal in outreach. In 2005 China sent off 178 billion short, text messages. In 2006 she succeeded in hacking into the UK’s parliamentary and governmental systems so as to steal their trade secrets in support of her own economic growth. She used “targeted Trojan” software.

It is not plain sailing - in 2007 China’s universities will create four million graduates who will then compete for two million jobs. And China also needs access to ever increasing amounts of oil, which should ring huge warning bells. She is pouring aid into Africa - not on the basis of humanitarianism, but as the key to ensuring her forward energy requirements.

Like it or hate it, globalisation challenges those notions which justify war as a reliable and inevitable tool of political and economic stability.

The second factor at work in undermining war as a tool of wise diplomacy is the application of science and technology to what our fathers called “the engine of war”. This is a fascinating theme because at first there seemed to be a compelling case for arguing that applied science would make war unthinkable. Who would ignite an atom bomb in the Second World War with its unpredictable results? Well, the answer is - we did, with the support of the allied powers and using the technology of America. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the results. But later, to our shame, President Eisenhower was to advise that “Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face. It was not necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” [37]. Unfortunately we not only continued to think about nuclear weaponry; we continue to research and refine it.

Today the flow of small arms to developing countries is easy and cheap. £25 sterling (50$’s USA) buys a Kalashnikov rifle. When the rule of law fails, then the rifle inevitably rules. Land, water, forestry or mineral rights provide the excuse for violence with small arms. Third world women usually oppose such violence, but the emerging culture of “if you have a gun I’ll have to have one to protect my children and our land” is growing rapidly. An Oxfam report [38] in October 2007 advises that African countries at war have, on average, 50% more infant deaths, 15% more undernourished people and life expectancy is reduced by five years. Such conflicts shrink economies by 15% on average.

The third new influence, of course, is climate change. In the long run this alone will be the key determinant as to our future. War is rendered absurd when climate change threatens. Scientists have given us a generous thirty years to resolve the threats stemming from climate change. This demands a political paradigm shift. First, income tax must be based on carbon efficiency through the use of bio-fuels combined with energy efficiency measures. Secondly, corporation tax must be converted internationally to become an energy efficiency tax. These are fundamental structural changes for humanity. We have no option but to find ways of implementing them through “cosmo - politics” - or perish. War offers no positive contribution to this challenge.

As we extend our analysis we should note that 98% of all world casualties arising from the use of cluster bombs are civilian. We already have a family of “mini-nukes” as they are called. Tomorrow, as we move towards cyber war and with refinements like nano- technology, the science of weaponry as part of the science of war and in the context of climate change becomes a serious determinant - threatening the whole of humanity and making war, by definition, even more futile. The risk of using war as a safe and reliable tool is far too high when a computer virus is more powerful than an atomic bomb. In April 2007 Russia attacked Estonia in exactly this manner. Neither trade nor civilization can flourish in a cinder yard.

So what might we do to engender a culture of peace?

A simple but practical suggestion might be to follow the example of the Dominican priest who in 1972 founded a new village in Israel where 50 Israeli families equally divided between Arabs who are Muslim or Christian, or Jews, but who live in peace and harmony in the village of Neve Shalom. Democratically governed and collectively owned by its members, the village is the only place in Israel where Jewish and Arab families have voluntarily chosen to live peacefully, side by side. [39] .The village now has a bilingual kindergarten, a primary school, and a junior high school. This brave experiment aims to prove that Jews and Arabs can live together in mutual peace. A project to fund and create a second such village would not be expensive, but would provide an exemplary model of peace making and peace building.

The declaration in 2007 to “share power” in Northern Ireland has ushered in a period of peace against 400 years of warfare sustained by a political system which made a mockery of democracy. Could this be a model for nations at war with themselves - as in the Balkans, Sudan, Zimbabwe, or Burma?

Or we might reflect on Prof. Mary Kaldor’s “Barcelona Report on Human Security” [40]. The focus here is that of human, as against state, security. In the first instance it is European based. It recommends the formation of a new force of some 10,000 military and 5,000 civilians who would function as peace-keepers in war situations. The civilian element would be composed of trained negotiators, translators, educators, medics, engineers and the like. They would enter a war zone to act along side the military. The aim would be to define how force is used rather than when, or if, force should be used. Action would be governed by civilian rather than military needs and priorities. Human rights monitors would report through a process of preventative engagement on the ground. A five point framework of human rights, politics, the rule of law, bottom up processes, and holding force within a defined geographical space, would offer new opportunities for resolving the causes of war without violence. This would contrast with UN operations trying to operate within fluid and uncontrolled boundaries. Peace keeping is always difficult, but the Barcelona Report envisages an evolving role for the military and is worthy, therefore, of careful consideration.

My final point is to reflect briefly on the nature of modern political leadership in civil society and drawing heavily on one of our keynote speakers - Dr. Chris Williams of Birmingham University and his colleague Yun Joo Lee (Korea) of the University of London [41]. They discussed the political nature of civil society and the responsibility we have for de-linking war and violence especially in the minds of our political leaders.

Dr Williams reminded us of Margaret Mead’s insight when he argued that war and violence are made first, not just in the minds of men, but in the minds of certain men in particular - our political leaders. He noted that leadership theory is not widely studied, least of all amongst politicians. If the idea of war as a political force is to change, then the minds of those in power must change as a pre-requisite. Williams asks, “How is it possible to create a context in which war is unthinkable because it is not perceived as a feasible, rational, or legitimate political act by those with power?”

Leaders invent war. Williams explains they do this by linking and de-linking functions, ideas and circumstances, whilst naming events and concepts in a way which suits their personal ambitions. Our challenge therefore is to maintain control of our own minds by re-linking strategies which can frame the work of civil society organisations, and by identifying progressive leaders who aim to make war less thinkable. We need most of all to de-link war from violence, and then to define how “force” and “violence” are different concepts. One may have value in helping to prevent war; the other is a part of war. Each has graduations which we need to understand and recognise.

Like it or not there is a certain logic to war. It must be addressed by the advocates of non-violence. To this end, General Sir Rupert Smith has defined “force” as distinct from “violence”, as having four functions – “amelioration, containment, deterrence or coercion, destruction” [42]. Could this be a starting point for those of us who oppose violence yet, however reluctantly, accept the use of force?

Progress is being made. The UN through its Security Council has evolved what it calls Chapter V1 of its charter - which allows and defines the use of force in self-defence. Chapter V11 then authorises and defines, “all necessary achieve the mission”. It also maintains political control through the “Rules of Engagement”, which principally are designed to prevent a conventional war slipping into a nuclear war. A third control has been secured by way of “the Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) whereby, if agreed by the host government, a UN force may enter or occupy a country - as for example in the recent wars in the Balkans. But this still leaves peace-lovers with the challenge of defining the limits to “force” as against “violence”.

In his own disturbing analysis, Hallett [43] advises that of 27 military interventions for peace in recent years, only perhaps five were humanitarian in their outcome - and only one of these - the French intervention in the Central African Republic - was bloodless. People of non-violence must work harder, therefore, to define such realities. We need to be clear in our minds as to what is actually meant when the military define the “nature of the theatre”, and why the difference between “aims and outcomes” in military intervention remains so great.

Meanwhile, asymmetrical wars of genocide, as in Rwanda or Sudan or Cambodia, often occur not so much as a consequence of high technology weaponry, but from the use of small weapons like knives and cudgels, or organised drowning, or poisoning on a community scale as by Pol Pot, or starvation and homelessness as in Darfur. Perversely, it is information technologies which allow the idea of aggression, based on fear or stimulated hatred, to be circulated and re-circulated throughout society - until it reaches the scale we describe as genocide.

For the foreseeable future the main weapons of mass destruction will be found in the human mind, particularly in the minds of political leaders. Wars are made by leaders to justify their own ends. Our courts, therefore, must be used to control and where necessary punish leaders who create wars. Since 1649 when Charles the First was executed some 24 heads of state have been tried in court and pronounced “guilty” for their actions. Many other heads of government have also been held to account for their grisly decisions in favour of war. [44]. International law and “War Crimes Tribunals” provide the right way for holding political leaders to account for their decisions. We should use them.

We can help to de-invent war in our time by detaching violence from force. It is a difficult equation, but, surely, the catastrophic costs of violence to human life, to the economy, to the infra-structure of society, to the inevitable loss of hard won civil liberties, to the channelling of science and technology into the engine of war, rather than into human happiness or human need, is what makes the invented tool we call war so futile, so obsolete, and so foolish. [45].

For 100 years, war has proven to be all but ungovernable. 21st century war does not work because it cannot work. [46] Acting catalytically we can argue our case within society for a culture of peace with confidence. We can witness to the central truth that 21st century war is self-evidently futile, and therefore obsolete.

Is this vision of a war free world possible? I believe it is. It is within our reach. As we reflect on our own humanity let us cherish that thought.

Brian Walker December 2007.

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[1]  Margaret Mead. “Asia”, 40 number 8 (1940) pages 402-5. (Also for the ideas being discussed immediately prior to the Second World War see, “Three Guineas”, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1938.) >

[2] Aquinas Summa Theologiciae 2a 2ae.40,1. Also Augustine of Hippo; also Hugo Grotius (1583 – 1645), ”The Laws of War and Peace” (1625). >

[3] “Just War”. Guthrie and Quinland. Bloomsbury 2007.

[4] “European Security in the Post-Soviet Age” Page 230. Prof. Graham Hallett. William Sessions Ltd. 2007.

[5] “The Human Security Report”. Mack. OUP Nov. 2005.

[6] Ibid.

[7] BBC Reith lectures. April 2007. Prof. Geoffrey Sacks.

[8] Presidential speech by President George W. Bush. 2002.

[9] “Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world”. Page 115. Jack Weatherford. Random House, Inc, New York. 2004.

[10] “What is Proper Soldiering?” Brig. Gen. Michael Harbottle. The Centre for International Peace Building”, 1991. Also “Generals for Peace and Disarmament” re-named, “Strategies for Peace”, in 2004.

[11] Gen. Moshe Ya’alon former Israel Chief of Staff. 17.09.06.

[12] “The Utility of Force”. Gen. Rupert Smith. Allen Lane 2005.

[13] Statement by. Brig. Gen. John Lorimer. Commander of UK forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. 04.08.07.

[14] Lord Ashdown - high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2002 to January 2006. Statement, “We are failing in Afghanistan” 19.07.07.

[15] Widely reported statement at a meeting of European experts on 17.10.06 by Field Marshal Lord Peter Inge. Also House of Lords debate week beginning 09.07.07.

[16] Widely reported throughout the media. 12.02.07.

[17] Ditto Lord Guthrie 12.02.07.

[18] “The New American Militarism - How Armies are Seduced by War”. Colonel. Andrew Bracevich. OUP 2005.

[19] “The New Western Way of War”. Martin Shaw.

[20] “In Retrospect”. Robert McNamara. Random House, Times Books. 1995.

[21] John Sawyers. May 2005 report.

[22] Lt. General John Coates. “Oxford Atlas of Australian Wars”. February 2007.

[23] Brig. Gen. Tim Grant (Canadian) CIC Afghanistan widely reported. 05.03.07.

[24] Col. Tim Collins. Lecture to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. September 2005.

[25] General Sir Richard Dannatt. CIC Afghanistan force. 13.10.06.

[26] “Revolt of the Generals”. Foreign Policy journal. Lt. Gen. Wm. Odom. June 2006.

[27] Gen. David Petraeus. CIC Iraq allied forces. March 2007. Also BBC interview July 2007. Then reporting to Congress 10.09.07 followed during the same session by the then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez, who originally led the US forces into Iraq, made a public statement on 14.10,07 in Arlington Virginia which was reported world-wide. He condemned the Iraq war and its planners in unequivocal and outright terms.

[28] Brig. Gen. Chris Hughes, the U.K. Ministry of Defence’s senior officer for military commitments, in evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence, 24.07.07.

[29] Study by John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, re- published in the “Lancet” 2005.

[30] Robert Gates – evidence on Iraq war before Congress USA. December 2006.

[31] “The Way Forward – a new approach”. Sec of State Jim Baker and others. 06. 12. 06.

[32] “History is not pre-ordained: a new cold war can be averted”. Mikhail Gorbachov. 18.01.07.

[33] Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of M I6, lecture at the London School of Economics on “Intelligence and the Media”. 31.10.07; also the US NIE (national intelligence estimate) which co-ordinates 16 US intelligence agencies released its publication, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” on 03.12.07. It advised that Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme of research in the autumn of 2003.

[34] “A world full of nuclear weapons”. Joint statement by Secs of State, Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn. 01.01.07.

[35] Brian Walker. “Thomas Paine- Empire and War in the 21st Century” Thomas Paine Society. 2005.

[36] Prof. Noam Chomsky. “America’s Quest for Global Dominance”. Penguin 2005.

[37] “European Security in the Post Soviet Age”. Graham Hallett. Ebor Press. York UK., page 232. 2007.

[38] “Africa’s Missing Billions” Oxfam report. 11.10.07. African conflict since the end of the Cold War has cost some £150 billions – equivalent to all combined aid flows to Africa in the same period.


[40] “Barcelona Report on Human Security”, Prof. Mary Kaldor. Portcullis House. 12.07.06.

[41] “Preparing for Peace – by asking the experts to analyse war”. Westmorland General Meeting of Friends. 2005. “The Minds of Leaders; De-linking War and Violence”. Pages 209 – 249. Dr. Chris Williams.

[42] “The Utility of Force”. Gen. Sir Rupert Smith. Chapter 8. Allen Lane. 2005.

[43] “European Security in the Post Soviet Age.” Hallett. Sessions. 2007. Also Hallett’s “Emerging Society in the Post Soviet Age”. Sessions 2007.

[44] “A history of political trials from Charles 1 to Saddam

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