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By Kaushik Roy KAUSHIK ROY
  • Published 15.11.02

PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES By David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Sage, $ 64.95

Warfare has been the bane of human civilization from the dawn of history. David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel analyse the ways to prevent war.

The origin of war could be traced back to 9000 BC, when the hunter-gatherers started fighting among themselves. With the passage of time, war became more and more destructive. Between 1820 and 1946, 49 million people died as a result of war. During World War II, for the death of one soldier, there would be 1,000 civilian deaths. In the 17th century, 11 out of 1,000 deaths were because of military action. During the 20th century, the figures were 63 out of 1,000. At present, the United States of America has enough nuclear weapons to blow up the earth several times over.

Will globalization result in peace? Some Western thinkers, including liberal economists like J.S. Mill, believe that international commerce demotes inter-state rivalries. However, Barash and Webel are critical of the impact of globalization, which, they think, benefits the richer countries, raising the possibility of trade wars. Another aspect of globalization is cultural hegemony of the West, which aggravates the insecurity of non-Westerners.

The net result could be violent social upheavals within a country with spillover effects internationally. One of the effects is guerrilla warfare, whose modern form is terrorism. Guerrilla war, warn the authors, like the Taiping rebellion in China between 1850 and 1864, had proved more lethal than most of the 19th century inter-state European wars. If globalization continues unchecked, more attacks of the World Trade Center kind might occur.

Traditional diplomacy backed by military force is based on the Latin motto, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” This was practised successfully by Frederick the great and Bismarck. But this strategy has become obsolete in the 21st century. The history of the 19th century shows that the “balance of power” theory, an adjunct of traditional diplomacy, increased the chances of war. The recent realist theory, which has evolved from the previous one, advocates a nuclear balance. Barash and Webel dismiss this. No nuclear conflagration in their view could remain limited. At best, nuclear deference results in a fragile, negative peace.

The authors challenge the conservative view that war initiates positive long-term changes. They also believe that the military-industrial sector generates less jobs than the same amount of capital invested in non-military industries would .

Peace movements are the trend for the future. But the non-proliferation regime and the human rights theory patronized by the US are a sham, because the US accounts for 58 per cent of the weapons of the world, including the biggest store of nukes. The authors speak in favour of non-governmental peace initiatives.

But such initiatives require a conceptual transformation. To reduce the emphasis on war, Barash and Webel recommend Confucian and Gandhian philosophies of non-violence, because both secular and non-secular western philosophy, from Greek to Christian to Marxist, focusses on warfare. The authors conclude with a broader notion of security, against increasing pollution and population, and gross maldistribution of finite resources.

The only problem with the solution offered by Barash and Webel is that it is based at least partly on idealism and may not be practical in a world dominated by realpolitik.