In this year when so much seems out of control – earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, a mass shooting by a lone gunman in the U.S., ethnic massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, refugees trapped on borders, two world leaders with nuclear arms goading each other, the world seems more dangerous and full of suffering than ever before. Is there any cause for hope?
A recent newspaper article, an article about a book, and a book provide encouraging answers.
First, a friend pointed me to “Drop Your Weapons: What happens when you outlaw war” by Louis Menard in the September 18, 2017 edition of The New Yorker, pages 61-66.
Menard’s piece gives an overview of a recent Simon & Schuster book – The Internationalists, in which Oona A Hathaway and Scott J. Shipiro, two Yale Law School professors, argue that the Kellogg-Briand Pact [the 1928 agreement that by 1934, sixty-three countries – virtually every established nation on earth at the time had signed] effectively ended the use of war as an instrument of national policy.
The book asks and answers,
“Did a largely forgotten peace pact transform the world we live in?
Please read this article, which is only five – very informative pages (and if possible, the book). Go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/what-happens-when-war-is-outlawed
The second piece I’ve seen recently that offers us hope for now is a book recommended by my friend Melinda who is very familiar with peace activities in the world. She lived in Japan for 18 years. While she was there, she interviewed “Hibakusha” (被爆者). In Japanese, it is the word for those surviving the radiation fallout of 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Last month, Melinda won the 2017 Kellogg-Briand a peace prize for her writing. She lent me When the World Outlawed War:
In this book, David Swanson tells the history of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the law that made war illegal – and offers us ideas what can be done to promote international peace.
Today few people know of the Kellogg-Briand Pact agreement, and the energies of some of our leaders seem to inflame the possibility of war.
“The Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was an agreement to outlaw war signed on August 27, 1928. Sometimes called the Pact of Paris for the city in which it was signed, the pact was one of many international efforts to prevent another World War, but it had little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II.
U.S. Peace Advocates
In the wake of World War I, U.S. officials and private citizens made significant efforts to guarantee that the nation would not be drawn into another war. Some focused on disarmament, such as the series of naval conferences that began in Washington in 1921, and some focused on cooperation with the League of Nations and the newly formed World Court. Others initiated a movement to try to outlaw war outright. Peace advocates Nicholas Murray Butler and James T. Shotwell were part of this movement. Both men were affiliated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organization dedicated to promoting internationalism that was established in 1910 by leading American industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
With the influence and assistance of Shotwell and Butler, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand proposed a peace pact as a bilateral agreement between the United States and France to outlaw war between them. Particularly hard hit by World War I, France faced continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses. Briand published an open letter in April of 1927 containing the proposal. Though the suggestion had the enthusiastic support of some members of the American peace movement, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg were less eager than Briand to enter into a bilateral arrangement. They worried that the agreement against war could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened. To avoid this, they suggested that the two nations take the lead in inviting all nations to join them in outlawing war.
The extension of the pact to include other nations was well-received internationally. After the severe losses of the First World War, the idea of declaring war to be illegal was immensely popular in international public opinion. Because the language of the pact established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact, many nations had no objections to signing it. If the pact served to limit conflicts, then everyone would benefit; if it did not, there were no legal consequences. In early 1928, negotiations over the agreement expanded to include all of the initial signatories. In the final version of the pact, they agreed upon two clauses: the first outlawed war as an instrument of national policy and the second called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means.
On August 27, 1928, fifteen nations signed the pact at Paris. Signatories included France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and Japan. Later, . . . the pact was eventually signed by most of the established nations in the world. The U.S. Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 85–1, though it did so only after making reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.”
Besides giving the history of the Pact, Swanson suggests, “We should learn to support multiple strategies (Outlawry, referendum power, disarmament, etc.) without framing each as the rival or enemy of the others. Here are some [aimed mainly at the U.S. but many could apply to other countries too]:
- Cut a half a trillion dollars out of the $1.2 trillion national security budget, putting half of it into tax cuts for non-billionaires, and half of it into useful spending on green energy, education, retraining for displaced military=industrial workers, etc.
- Bring the National Guard home and de-federalize it.
- Ban the redeployment of personnel currently suffering PTSD.
- Ban no-bid uncompeted military contracts.
- Restore constitutional war powers to the Congress.
- Create a requirement for a public referendum prior to launching any war.
- Close the foreign bases.
- Ban weapons from space.
- Ban extra-legal prisons.
- Ban kangaroo military courts outside our ordinary court system.
- Restore habeas corpus.
- Ban the use of mercenaries.
- Limit military spending to no more than twice that of the next highest spending nation on earth.
- Ban secret budgets, secret agencies, and secret operations.
- Ban the launching of drone strikes into foreign nations.
- Forbid the transfer of students’ information to military recruiters without their permission.
- Comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
- Reform or replace the United Nations.
- Join the International Criminal Court and make it independent of the United Nations.
We should stop appealing purely to people’s selfishness with arguments about financial costs or U.S. casualties and appeal also to their goodness and decency. . . .”(166-167).
“One of General Douglas MacArthur’s last speeches . . . is still worth reading:
‘The great question is: Can global war now be outlawed from the world? If so, it would mark the greatest advance in civilization since the Sermon on the Mount. It would lift at one stroke the darkest shadow which has engulfed mankind from the beginning. It would not only remove fear and bring security — it would not only create new moral and spiritual values —
it would produce an economic wave of prosperity that would raise the world’s standard of living beyond anything ever dreamed of by man. The hundreds of billions of dollars now spent in mutual preparedness [for war] could conceivably abolish poverty from the face of the earth. It would accomplish even more than this; it would at one stroke reduce the international tensions that seem to be insurmountable now, to matters of more probable solution. . . . Many will tell you with mockery and ridicule that the abolition of war can be only a dream — that it is but the vague imagining of a visionary. But we must go on or we will go under.[My emphasis]. And the great criticism that can be made is that the world lacks a plan that will enable us to go on. We have suffered the blood and the sweat and the tears. Now we seek the way and the truth and the light. We are in a new era. The old methods and solutions for this vital problem no longer suffice. We must have new thoughts, new ideas, new concepts . . . We must have sufficient imagination and courage to translate this universal wish for peace — which is rapidly becoming a universal necessity — into actuality'” [My emphasis](168-169).
From When the World Outlawed War by David Swanson. www.barnesandnoble.com/p/when-the-world-outlawed-war-david-swanson/1106980382/2673297777290?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Marketplace+Shopping+greatbookprices_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP24104
The third piece I’ve seen recently is from the October 7, 2017 Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Nobel Peace Prize: Anti-Nuclear advocates earn honor,” by Rick Gladstone.
“In a year when the threat of nuclear warfare seemed to draw closer, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to a advocacy group behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
The group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons [ican], a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists, was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the treaty, which was reached in July at the United Nations.
‘The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,’ the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement” (A3).
Despite all the news with cause for alarm, in some ways, some very important ways, the world is heading toward peace.
Let’s all be the change we hope to see: support peace and sustainability for all. In peace and light,
Ideas do matter – and, of course, our actions. Aloha, Renée