THE former Conservative leader Lord Howard suggested last week that the Prime Minister should show the same resolve in defending Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher had in defending the Falklands. The comments were laughed off by Mrs May, but they demonstrate how ready the political class and the media are to talk about war as a solution to diplomatic disputes.
Most of the West signs up to the mantra that evil must be defeated by weapons and war. It is the standard government position all the way back to Churchill.
Christians, however, in the name of the gospel of peace, need to address this hope placed in weapons. We know weapons and wars repeatedly do not work, and the supposed success of militarism needs to be held up for examination. In the 20th century, it killed 200 million, injured a similar number, traumatised another 100 million, and destroyed perhaps a tenth of the world’s work. That is scarcely success.
The war business is run by the military-industrial complex. It includes some politicians; security people; bankers, who provide loans for weapons; and, especially, arms companies, which have a vested interest in military proliferation.
Constantly, through sales pressure, bribery, the influencing of politicians, scares, and weapon promotion, these companies go about their business of generating war and the fear of war. They have a couple of million professionals working for them, and receive some $500 billion for their business. They control the present system and keep it in place. Yet they are weaker than they seem.
First, they have been playing the fear game for more than a century, and it has worn thin. Second, they tend to be non-democratic. Third, they lie, disseminate propaganda, and have been caught out with the “dodgy dossier” and other false claims.
Fourth, wars fail. Was Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya or Syria a success? Even the question is obscene.
Fifth, they have a product problem. What do your weapons do? “Well, they kill and maim people” does not go down well. So the whole industry is dressed in the language of pseudo-efficiency.
Sixth, militarism denies respect for human life, democracy, and property, and gives birth to military dictators.
Seventh, we are not the “goodies” we imagine ourselves to be.
Soon, several billion people may wake up to the fact that militarism is the biggest failed experiment on the planet.
SO, THIS group is not as strong as it seems, although a highly paid establishment tries to maintain public fear. It all depends on maintaining the illusion that there is no alternative. Our thinking has got to stay in the black box of fatalism: of course there is no alternative to selling weapons and war; anything else is idealistic and unreal.
Here we hit the ultimate in unthought: militarism and war are real; peace is unreal and idealistic. This silly mantra holds the edifice in place. Peace is unreal and idealistic, although it is the way all the good economies work, and states insist, in their basic laws, against militarism. Peace is unrealistic, although it has worked between Yorkshire and Lancashire for five centuries, and the old reasons for war, such as slavery, invasion, and tribute, are now unacceptable in a complex inter-related world.
Meanwhile, war is realistic, we are told, although millions of people are displaced and on the move looking for a home, and it wipes out, to no purpose, decades of building. War is deemed realistic and practical though no one can now win a war, because it destroys all sides.
Most people feel that weapons and war should have been banished long ago, as indeed, peacemakers have tried to do, although thwarted by the arms companies. Indeed, the planet cannot survive without disarmament and peace, because the military system and wars are producing some five to ten per cent of total world carbon dioxide and heating the planet. From every which way, this madness of selling weapons for war must cease between nations, as it has largely ceased within them.
So, a clear and workable multilateral disarmament plan is needed, backed by big democratic majorities. Already, biological and chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster bombs have been banned internationally from production, sale, and possession. The local failure in Syria last week shows how important these treaties are.
Multilateral disarmament can now be done, policed, and monitored. At the 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference, supported by tens of millions, President Hoover recommended a cut of one third in all weapons immediately. Most countries were for it, but the arms companies made sure that it stalled, and Hitler came to power. This time we can do better. Since turkeys do not vote for Christmas, the military must not be in charge.
When it becomes clear that people around the world want world multilateral disarmament, then pressure for an ordered process will be inescapable. General Eisenhower, a wise man, who warned about the military-industrial complex, said nearly 70 years ago: “I believe that the people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than any governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”
If everybody disarms, nobody has even a potential problem. People decide that multilateral disarmament is necessary, and unilateral armament is unacceptable according to clear rules implemented through the United Nations.
With wisdom, cunning, and large-scale awareness, world disarmament can happen. But someone has to do it. The Church’s task is to make peace. World multilateral disarmament is so obviously a good thing that it will have mass support once it is on the world agenda. All it requires is a clear plan, fully policed, which will produce the result. Here is an example of what the United Nations Treaty might contain:
A. All states agree to refrain from aggression and cut their military expenditure, personnel and stocks of weapons by ten per cent a year until they are all gone. Some military will transfer to UN policing, disaster, resourcing, aid, and international transport facilities.
B. Arms companies cease production immediately and move to useful production and services, swords into ploughshares. They are given subsidies of 100 per cent, 80 per cent, 40 per cent, 20 per cent, and zero by their national governments from the savings in military expenditure while they transfer. Arms production becomes illegal under international and national law.
C. Non-state (“terrorist”) arms-holders will be offered payment for their arms for destruction. All arms not surrendered immediately can be seized by the United Nations’ arms-policing force without payment.
D. The UN, national governments, security systems, and ordinary people have open access to any potential military and weapons facilities at any time to monitor that no arms are being clandestinely produced. It is a criminal offence so to do.
E. All national disputes are to be agreed, arbitrated, or taken to the International Court, with the understanding that nation shall speak peace unto nation and we will not learn war any more.
F. The UN has a policing facility composed of 10 per cent of the remaining military to root out and destroy all illegal weapons or military holdings. It will decline with disarmament.
G. International law will require all military damage of persons, land, livelihood, and property to be subject to full financial reparations, with the backing of national and international courts.
STARTING this process requires people of faith to see that peace and disarmament can be made a world-wide reality. The Anglican, Roman Catholic, and other Churches can make this happen. E-petitions of one or two million would make it a national policy issue in most states, and the world population of two billion Christians, acting corporately, could help bring it to fruition in most countries. Most people would see it as a sensible, rational, desirable, and necessary policy.
The proposals do not require complex wrangling, because they disarm distrust and threats. Arming is far more complex than disarming. These proposals show the kind of thing required to see world disarmament through to completion.
The difficult task is the early one — breaking the hold of fear and military domination, as Jesus carefully taught us so to do — and getting the first million signatures in different countries. Churches can do it. Really, multilateral disarmament is not difficult to affirm: we will disarm, when everyone else does. Most world leaders have said that they are in favour. They just do not do it, because the arms establishment rules it out. Yet it can be done. It requires us, as children of God, to manufacture peace.
Dr Alan Storkey is the author of Jesus and Politics (Baker Book House, 2005).
This is a shortened version of the first Colin Scott Memorial Lecture given in Manchester on 11 March at a conference jointly organised by the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Methodist Peace Fellowship.