War No More by Robert Hinde and Joseph Rotblat.
London: Pluto Press, 2003. 228 pages.
This book is a service to humanity. It makes the case that war is no longer a viable way of resolving conflicts and that the institution of war must be abolished. Both of the authors are scientists who have given considerable thought to the role that science and technology have played in increasing the dangers of war and bringing humanity to the brink of annihilation. The authors bring broad experience and wisdom to their task of finding a way out of the culture of war.
Joseph Rotblat was a Manhattan Project scientist during World War II. He left the project in its latter stages when he understood that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb and, therefore, that a US atomic bomb would not be necessary to deter them from using one. Under the circumstances of World War II, he was willing to help create an atomic weapon to deter the Nazis, but he was not willing to contribute to the creation of such a weapon for any other purpose. He was the only scientist to leave the project as a matter of conscience.
After walking away from the US project to create an atomic weapon, Rotblat has spent more than 50 years working against nuclear weapons and against war. In 1955, he was one of the original eleven signers of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that tried to warn the world about the extreme dangers of continuing the nuclear arms race. Shortly after this, he was instrumental in forming the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists that has worked diligently to bring to the public scientific perspectives on the dangers of the nuclear arms race and other manifestations of militarism. In 1995, Rotblat and Pugwash were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On his 90th birthday, Professor Rotblat announced that his short-term goal was to abolish nuclear weapons and that his long-term goal was to abolish war. You have to admire this vision and determination in someone entering his tenth decade of life.
Robert Hinde, who served as a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II, is a distinguished professor at Cambridge University and long-time participant in the Pugwash movement. He is noted for his work in biology and psychology.
This book grew from a Pugwash Conference at Cambridge in the year 2000 on “Eliminating the Causes of War.” The authors describe the book as an attempt to disseminate the message of the conference more widely. It is also, of course, a concrete step in attempting to realize Professor Rotblat’s long-term goal of a world without war.
The authors believe that to bring the institution of war to an end, it is necessary to understand it better. They pose the questions: “What are the factors that contribute to the outbreak of war? Why are people willing to go to war? What can be done to prevent war?” The book then provides important facts, figures, charts and perspectives in an attempt to answer these questions. In the first major section of the book the authors deal with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, making it abundantly clear why 21st century wars jeopardize the future of civilization and humanity itself.
In the second major section of the book, the authors explore the factors that make war more likely. In doing so, they look at the role of political systems and political leaders, culture and tradition, resources, economic factors and human nature. The authors find that none of the traditional explanations are sufficient in and of themselves to an understanding of why wars occur. They suggest that insights may be found in the complex interrelationships between nations, political and economic systems, and the personalities of political leaders. One of their conclusions is: “Every war depends on multiple, interacting causes, but one factor is essential – the availability of weapons.”
In the third major section of the book, the authors examine what should be done to eliminate war. In this section they delve into possible solutions to ending war, including factors that stop countries from going to war, arms control, peace education, organizations (from the United Nations to civil society groups), and intervention and means of conflict resolution. This section offers a fascinating overview of the direction in which humanity must move if it is to succeed in ending “the scourge of war.”
In the final chapter in the book, an epilogue on “Eliminating Conflict in the Nuclear Age,” the authors offer a sense of how far we are from realizing the noble and necessary goals they seek. “At the time of writing, in 2003,” they state, “the general world situation is far from being a happy one; indeed, as far as the nuclear peril is concerned it is much worse than would have been expected 14 years after the end of the nuclear arms race…. To a large extent this is a result of the policies of the only remaining superpower, the United States of America, particularly the George W. Bush administration.” The authors express concern that the Iraq War, “threatening the guidelines of…morality in the conduct of world affairs and adherence to the rules of international law,” may be “a portent of the shape of things to come.”
The authors plead that this must not be allowed to happen: “We cannot allow the products of billions of years of evolution to come to an end. We are beholden to our ancestors, to all the previous generations, for bequeathing to us the enormous cultural riches that we enjoy. It is our sacred duty to pass them on to future generations. The continuation of the human species must be ensured. We owe an allegiance to humanity.” They recognize that it is in the competing allegiances, to the nation and to humanity, that a solution to the immense problem of war may be found. They argue that “a process of education will be required at all levels: education for peace, education for world citizenship.” This is undoubtedly the greatest challenge of our time: how can we educate the people of the world to give their loyalty to humanity and withdraw their consent from war?
I have only two concerns regarding the book. First, I think the subtitle, “Eliminating Conflict in the Nuclear Age,” is not quite accurate. It is likely that there will always be conflicts. The challenge is assuring that these conflicts are resolved by peaceful rather than violent means. Second, I fear that the book will not reach a wide enough audience. Its message is so critical to our common future that it deserves as broad a readership as possible.
This book can play a role in the process of education. Were I to teach a course on Peace and War, I would happily select this book as a text. It would be an exciting prospect to explore with students the issues of peace and war set forth by Professors Hinde and Rotblat. The book is a challenge to our political imaginations, to our understanding of the world, and to our personal responsibility for exercising, in the words of the authors, “our paramount duty to preserve human life, to ensure the continuity of the human race.” But reaching students is not enough; the ideas in the book must reach ordinary citizens throughout the world and, through them, their leaders.
A short Foreword to the book was written by Robert McNamara, who was the US Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. McNamara offers this advice: “It is not good enough to leave it to the politicians. The politicians are in reality servants of the people, not their masters.” In the film, “Fog of War, Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara,” this important insight about the role of citizens in relation to politicians does not make it into the eleven lessons. Yet, it may, in fact, be McNamara’s most important insight.
I would like to see a filmmaker such as Errol Morris, who was responsible for the McNamara documentary, prepare a similar film on Rotblat and Hinde. The lessons they set forth in War No More, if understood broadly enough, just might save our world.
*David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and the Deputy Director of the International Network of Scientists and Engineers for Global Responsibility (INES).