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THE ABOLITION OF WAR - IDEALISM OR REALISM?

 

Christine Titmus, vice chair Movement for the Abolition of War

CCADD lunchtime talk and discussion January 22nd 2006

 

Two news items last few days very pertinent:

1)     Global warming much more serious than thought. Planet at far greater risk, very little time left to amend.  Back in 1970's environmentalists were cranks/ridiculed. Their ideas were seen as unfeasible/incompatible with 'real life', unproven.  Now seen as necessary for our survival.  Should we see similarity with warnings today of peace activists? Will come to see their plans/ideas as crucial for survival?

2)     'Doomsday Clock'  now moved 2 minutes closer  to midnight - stands at 5 mins to

3)     ( Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)   Consequence of continuing to have faith in threats / dominion as basis for security?

 

-         Is faith in and resort to militarism likely to increase or decrease the security of humans, of creation?

-         Are we doing enough to avert war, or address its well-documented causes?

 

(resistance to war is not to be equated with never using force. Force in the context of policing and containment/arrest -without causing actual harm as far as possible-is necessary for justice to proceed.  see esp HS Doctrine for Europe)

 

Was Jesus Christ a realist or idealist?

 

I suggest the two are not mutually exclusive, but that the only realistic attitude is one in which we maintain our vision of the ideal at all times, and seek to live by it as far as possible even when immediate success is not evident. Suggest for too long 'ideals' have been dirty words and ridiculed, (even amongst Christians!). But the gospels are nothing if not a call to live by the ideal - to seek to become more and more like Christ.  Human progress and improvement must start in the imagination, be guided by dreams, ideals. A study of human history reveals this to be true. 'Idealism' resulted in the slave trade and apartheid becoming unacceptable. 'Idealism' saw women get the vote, and so on. 

 

 Daring to suffer for our ideals, daring to strive for them even in the face of ridicule reflects entirely the teachings of Jesus. All the gospel teachings have a common denominator - that we love our neighbour as ourselves. There is nothing to suggest Jesus meant this only to apply to those who live near us or those familiar to us. No, the opposite:  Who is our neighbour? The foreigner, the stranger, the perceived 'enemy' , the one we fear, the one who is 'not like us'…. we are shown this person is just like us, with needs like ours.( Good Samaritan)

 

Maude Boyden:

“Christ came into a world not ready for him – so unready that it crucified him. He taught his disciples that they must not be overcome with evil, but must overcome it with good. ‘He did not wait to come until the world was sufficiently advanced at least not to crucify him and torture his disciples. He did not tell them that some day, when good was stronger and men better than now, it would be their duty to rely wholly on love and put aside earthly weapons of defence. He told them to overcome evil with good now, and in this command there was surely contained a promise – the promise that good is really stronger than evil; not to be stronger some day, but stronger now."

 

Jim Wallis:

Jesus never said that we would have no enemies nor that there never would be a threat. There is no lack of realism here. Jesus offers us a new way to deal with our enemies, a different way of responding that has the potential to break the endless cycle of retaliation that now threatens us all with ultimate violence.

 

As Christians, what is our distinctiveness? What sets us apart?  HOPE and FAITH. That it's possible, that it's worth striving for? (as opposed to secular/traditional view, that its inevitable, therefore not worth striving for).

 

In other words, rather than just accepting the world as it is, as Christians it is our calling to seek to change it. We are called to participate in a new world which God is building, and to invite the old world to join in. Christ's followers are not CON formers, are TRANS formers. Risky, unpopular, dangerous and thankless work - the world doesn't want to be changed. Look what it did to Jesus.

 

Time has come for Christians to stop hiding behind the JWT, to nod towards that whenever the challenge of modern warfare arises, as if that lets us off! The JWT is not of the gospel, it is a doctrine unchanged since the time when fighting was soldier to soldier and international relations were unrecognisable from how they operate today. It is not set in stone, the spirit speaks to us in each age according to the reality of that age. What might that spirit  be saying to us in THIS age,  what is the reality - and therefore the ideal Christians are called to strive for - TODAY?  Can we really claim that the 'ideals' in the JWT have any bearing at all in today's world?  Does the JWT belong in the same dusty chest as the flat earth theory?

 

 "Intentions, of course, are always good. The worse the fight, the higher its justification. "Justified" violence is the worst. Unjustified violence bursts out of a bad character or bad feelings, but it doesn't go very far. But when people feel justified in the use of violence, it becomes systematic and leads to all the horrors of history."  Lanza del Vasto (1901-1981) was a poet, Christian mystic, and non-violent activist.

 

The consequences of 'going to war' TODAY

Does war work?  Who benefits most? Who suffers most?

How does our Christian conscience respond to:

 

1.      one trillion dollars p/a on military, 87 billion dollars p/a on development ? 12 times as much on military as on development.

 

2.      true human cost of modern warfare? ( give 9 out of 10 fig)

 

3.      true nature of modern weaponry? we are told precision-guided and rarely misses targets. BUT only 10 per cent so called smart weapons hit target (- MOD figs) may be smart at manufacture but not by delivery! why? - malfunction

human error in chain of programming

weather

targets too close to populations

unexploded ordnance

 

If we see war as inevitable, why is this, and what do you see as the obstacles to stopping war? ( point - belief that something is inevitable ensures its perpetuation? belief that change can occur makes progress more likely?)

 

Again, I'd argue that by definition the term 'Christian' means we believe and hope in such change - such faith in the transforming power of self-giving is at the heart of our faith.

 

What are the risks of continuing as we are, with the doctrine of 'might is right' victor's justice, whoever succeeds in dominating, gaining control, has the say. This is how war works. Is this likely to heal grievances, to result in justice, equality, to meet human need?

 

Given the modern reality of war, shouldn't we be seeking to abolish war, as we did the slave trade and apartheid? yes, these still exist in other forms/pockets all over the globe, but they are no longer ACCEPTABLE. This is the difference. Has the time come for persons of conscience/faith to insist that waging war today is NOT ACCEPTABLE, however 'regrettably.' If we no longer accept slavery, apartheid, racism, preventing women from voting, child labour, torture, then why continue to accept the waging of war?

Isn't it time we were realistic about the consequences of continuing to see war as 'acceptable'?

 

The vision of abolishing war is indeed a 'movement' gathering pace. From various sources new thinking, solutions, evolutionary moves, are underway. A very small selection of voices listed below. War will not end overnight, but a process of re-evaluation has begun, a serious questioning of the 'status quo' is gaining ground.  Most importantly of all, there seems to be growing belief that rejecting war is not only desirable, but actually POSSIBLE.

What a great gift our Christian hope can be to this movement.

 

Senior army officers have begun to accept that military power might never win a war again.

MOD paper, The Future Strategic Context for Defence. 2001

MOD to develop a 'comprehensive approach', paper ordered by chiefs of staff said: "the symptoms of crisis will be spawned by a combination of climate change, ideology, greed, ethnic animosity, residual terrorist claims, religious fanaticism and competition for resources.."

It concluded that military force was no answer to these, but what was needed was a "clearer understanding of the root causes" of potential- and actual - conflicts. Urges more co-operation with NGO's, OGD's (other gov depts) and international organisations.

 

Human security, not national security

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet:

"We can truthfully say that our foreign policy - based as it is on 19th century notions of the nation-state, is long past its sell-by date. We need a new set of principles to govern our diplomacy and military strategy - principles that are based on the idea of human security and not national security, health and well-being and not economic self-interest and territorial ambition. The best hope that we can have from our terrible misadventures in Iraq is that a new political and social movement will grow to overturn this politics of humiliation. We are one human family. Let's act like it.                                               October 2006

 

Global Responses to Global Threats - Oxford Research Group, June 2006

Making Terrorism History  Elworthy/Rifkind, Rider,2006

The Utility of Force  Rupert Smith, Penguin, 2006

Human Security Doctrine for Europe Mary Kaldor et al, LSE, Centre for Study of Global Governance, 2004   ( also known as the Barcelona Report)

 

 

 

 

WAR - time for humanity to become clear-headed?

Einstein's definition of insanity:

Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

 


 

Note of questions and discussion.

 

While small in numbers, the discussion at this meeting was unusually lively and intense.  These are only a few of the questions raised.

 

  1.  It was pointed out that Christine had not defined what she meant by war.  Some clarification of this came out in the later discussion, in distinguishing war from policing.

 

  1. What should be done if another Hitler arose?  Ans: there is no alternative to constant vigilance to prevent this happening by attending to, and doing something about, the underlying causes of such disasters.  States need to look beyond their own interests, and to work on a global basis.  This requires a whole new way of thinking – which was the burden of the talk.  Hitlers don’t arise unless there are injustices that states do not address.

 

  1. OK: but what if this is not done.  What then?  Should we not intervene by force to prevent gross injustices, as in Rwanda?  Ans: perhaps, but this is not war.  And if it was right to intervene in Rwanda, what about Burma, Uzbekistan etc?  What matters is to pursue the long process of new thinking about such problems, to evolve a system in which states do not just pursue their own interests.  This is a long-term process of evolution.  It was then pointed out that many states contribute to the injustices that lead to Rwandas, eg by supplying arms.  These things don’t just come out of the blue.

 

  1. At the end, it was pointed out that a Daily Telegraph report that defence spending has been exceptionally low in recent years was systematically misleading.  This was said to be an example of the kind of ‘old thinking’ which needed to be replaced.

 

  1. Christine ended by reiterating that she was talking about the need, for human survival, of a new kind of thinking which would take a long time to develop.  But there are some signs of this beginning to happen, eg over climate change.