¶ … PLANET IS TO BECOME MORE PEACFUL IN MY LIFETIME -- HOW IS THIS MOST LIKELY TO COME ABOUT?
If the planet is to become more peaceful in my lifetime: How is this to come about?
Over the years, many types of solutions have been proposed to the problem of the constant state of war which has gripped humankind for so many years: solutions political, economic, and artistic in nature. All of these solutions to some degree have failed. This essay will briefly review some of these proposals and then suggest that these various solutions cannot be deployed in isolation. Peace must be brought about through a multifaceted effort, through both a shift in culture and creating supportive institutions that facilitate dialogue. To bring about world peace or at least to establish a more peaceful planet requires change at every level of society.
"When I was a young boy," writes Johan Galtung, "German soldiers marched past our windows in occupied Norway singing an incredibly heart-warming tune with lyrics by Horst Wessel, a Nazi hero. Since I could not understand the words at all I felt these soldiers could not be that bad" (Galtung 55). Galtung uses this example of the universality of art and music and its ability to create connections that transcend the limitations of words. This, he believes, can bring about peace. "Make an orchestra and have musicians from many points in 'our untidy human landscape' create together," he writes, "together they can produce a creative structure, not the destruction made by their governments" (Galtung 58). However, as beautiful as his image might be of Iraqis, Americans, Britons, Palestinians, and Israelis uniting together to make art, history suggests that merely because people can connect over music (or through any artistic endeavor) does not necessarily make music a liberating force. After all, for many years in America, African-American music was celebrated and became an integral part of mainstream U.S. culture. However, it still required a formal political movement for black Americans to attain equality and many suffered violent assaults in their fight for their rights.
Globalization, because of the greater cultural integration and homogenization of world culture is likewise often touted as a force for peace. Unfortunately, while mass media is consumed all over the globe, sometimes this has just increased hostility and feelings of nationalization against a perceived threat from the west. Culture can be viewed as a weapon, not as a source of unity, even if it is not intended as such. Galtung asks the reader to learn from the harmonization about Beethoven and to apply that to the planet but an appreciation for great German music did not halt World War II (Galtung 59).
Peace organizations have striven to foster ties with one another across national borders as a solution for conflict. For example, in the essay "Human shields to limit violence: Witness for Peace in Nicaragua" the author chronicles how the group Witness for Peace set a goal in 1983 of bringing people from all the states of the union to Nicaragua on Independence Day as a sign of unity with those who were committed to stopping the civil war there and as an attempt to sway U.S. public opinion away from financially supporting the insurgent Contras (183). The 1980s saw the rise of a number of non-military movements such as Band Aid and the unity of many musical artists against playing in apartheid-controlled South Africa as a way of enacting changes. But while the influence of such well-meaning non-government measures should not be discounted, they tend to be rather localized and limited in their influence and do not seem to be a viable means of securing a lasting peace on a...
Such was the situation in the former nation of Yugoslavia in which the more powerful Serbs terrorized their neighbors: first the Croats, then the Bosnians. "Peacebuilding can and does involve military forces….The Kosovo missions serve to illustrate the opportunity that exists for all actors to cooperate and work together towards the common goal of building a more tolerant and secure society" (Ankersen 87). UN soldiers also provided food and supplies to the oppressed peoples of the warzone (Ankersen 73). The ability of different peoples to unite is also often cited as what will become one of the future building-blocks of world peace, namely the fact that countries can unite together to support common human values but institutional actions seem needed beyond that of coalitions to give such missions objective legitimacy outside of state interests.
The dark side of the UN military effort in Bosnia, however, is how it came 'too little, too late' for so many and even when faced with the need to stop ethnic cleansing, there was still a great deal of foot-dragging in terms of the efforts of the international community to create change. There was also a great deal of opposition from those who supported Serbia vs. The Croats and Bosnians for ethnic and religious regions and these tensions become even more starkly manifest when discussing situations such as the Palestinian situation in the Middle East: it is very difficult to find unity in the international community in terms of its view on a particular political situation involving ethnic tensions, much less to create resolve and will to act. Although the UN clearly does have a peaceful function at times, it cannot be the sole motivator of peaceful change.
Economics is often cited as another source of unity. One reason that the European Union was created was that it was believed that historically unharmonious nations in Europe would be bound together by a common, uniting interest and thus not go to war. While there is some truth to the fact that Germany, France, Italy, and other major powers are not in a state of armed conflict (which was the case for most of the first half of the 20th century), the European Union has still been a source of tension and in-fighting, particularly between the more powerful northern states like Germany and the weaker, less economically viable southern European states like Portugal and Greece who have resisted efforts to enact measures which they see as detrimental to their local economies even though other nations believe such austerity measures are necessary for the Union to be viable. There is no guarantee that economic unity will be a path of peace and even if the current divides in the EU do not lead to armed conflict, they also are not exactly what might be termed 'peaceful' in spirit, given the hostilities they manifest.
According to Van Tongeren, Vehoven, & Wake, "building peace is very hard work, and it requires more than just courage, commitment, and ingenuity, and good intentions" (Van Tongeren, Vehoven, & Wake 83). It might also be added that it requires more than pure economic self-interest. There must be a multifaceted solution to conflict as a whole because the need for peace requires a series of commitments on a variety of fronts. It is not enough for there to be artistic support for peace or economic and institutional variables in favor of it: all of these must be aligned to truly create a new and peaceful world. Peace must become the first option of choice, the default setting, versus war as remains the case today. Even though the U.S. is not embroiled in a world war or a Cold War as it was during the 20st century, for virtually all major powers, there is the knowledge that continual preparedness for war is essential, given the threats posed by state and non-state actors.
A peaceful world will not come about by simple arms reduction or doing away with such measures (as has been seen in the past, the effective use of force is often at least a first step in securing peace). However, the creation of channels of communication between conflicted parties that enable meaningful negotiation can strengthen those who are more interested in making peace than waging war. "Conflict often involves a breakdown in communication, where adversaries are unable to talk to each other it is unlikely that they can resolve their differences" (Van Tongeren, Vehoven, & Wake 87). Even if such dialogue is long and protracted, it is better to have an ongoing exchange than to lack one: negotiation famously ended the troubles in Northern Ireland after many years and eventually brokered a peace settlement between Israel and Egypt: both of these are examples of how effective compromise and dialogue, combined with a knowledge on both sides that pursing warlike policy is mutually destructive, can lead to peace.
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