The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Peace chapter

War, or the threat of war, is an ever–present reality in our world but in the relative comfort of the West, we have the luxury of shutting off the wars raging in other countries by changing the channel on our TV sets.

Even here, however, we have had, for more than a generation, to live with the possibility that human society could be destroyed almost instantly in a global nuclear war. Frozen in the threatening postures of the Cold War, societies East and West warped their economies and their thinking in order to defend themselves against the threat from the other side. In order to guarantee ‘mutually assured destruction’, resources were bled away from real human needs and poured into the military.

The Cold War has ended, but militarism, nationalism, imperialism, and the arms trade have not. The major industrial powers, with the United States leading the way, continue to depend on military production to power their economies. Arms remain the number one export of the United States (followed closely by the products of the U.S. entertainment industry), underlining the dictum that “war is the health of the state”, even in ‘peace–time’.

In the Cold War era, the western peace movement sought to establish closer ties with independent peace groups in the Eastern bloc. They understood that more successful we are in using people–to–people contacts to create an international peace movement that is not tied to the policies of any particular government, the better our chances will be of taking control of our destinies away from the militarists who often loom so large in governmental decision–making.

This truth — the importance of international links to oppose the rivalries and abues of nation–states — remains vitally important in the chaotic ‘New World Order’ which is emerging. Preparations for war — and for military intervention against countires whose rulers ‘get out of line’ — continue even as the military searches for new enemies.

In Canada, the peace movement is pressing for an end to the testing over our territory of U.S. and NATO jet fighters, bombers and cruise missiles.

The Canadian peace movement is also demanding an end to the manufacture of arms for export, and an end to the export of uranium, which can be used for weapons even if it is ostensibly intended for nuclear power plants. By allowing such exports, Canada contributes to arms races between Third World nations, and to the potential development of nuclear weapons by such countries.

Vicious wars are being fought right now in several parts of the world, and many other countries have experienced the ravages of war since the end of World War II.

In the past decade alone, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, in Somalia, the U.S.–led war against Iraq, the Iran–Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the Sudanese and Ethiopian civil wars, the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, and Mozambique, to name but a few, have taken and are taking enormous tolls of life.

There are many countries where ethnic or tribal minorities are engaged in an ongoing resistance against the central authority, or where governmental repression — assisted by armaments purchased from the industrial nations — is so severe as to amount to war against a particular group in society.

The build–up of the military at enormous cost in countries which cannot even afford to feed their own people is common. Consequently, working for peace and working for economic development are opposite sides of the same coin.

However, the enormous power of the military–industrial establishments, with a vested interest in continuing a vastly profitable international arms trade, makes the task of shifting resources from war to peaceful activities a truly enormous challenge, both here and in the Third World.

While the military of all countries has an insatiable hunger for new weapons of all kinds, these weapons are not necessarily used against foreign enemies.

In many countries, the military is used primarily to buttress dictatorial regimes against their own people. For this reason too, movements for justice must be striving to lessen the power of the military everywhere.

At the same time, it must be remembered that soldiers themselves are often recruited from the ranks of the poor and the jobless, and that a movement for peace and social justice should be attempting to reach them too with its message. A movement for peace must in the end also include the soldiers if it is to prevail.

Ulli Diemer

Aussi disponible en français: Annuel Connexions: Introduction au chapitre de la Paix
También disponible en español: El Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción al Capítulo de la Paz

Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Women section of the Connexions Annual
Resource and Reading List from the Connexions Annual

Other Resources and Links:
Connexions Online: Selected Peace Links