IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

War and peace

I guess everybody is aware of the controversy over the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, and his acceptance speech which invested a certain amount of time and words talking about war.  I’m not going to even link to this because you can certainly find it in the media if you haven’t already.  Also, I don’t want to get involved in the related partisan issues.   However, there are some underlying questions about the relationship between “war” or force if you will, and “peace”, which are, perhaps, worth discussing (not least of all since they might be obscured by the media storm).

Ok.  first we have the problem of  just war.   If you follow the link you will see that this is a very old and rather complex idea.   However, the term is used all the time to “justify” (rationalize?) this or that policy.  It also brings up the unavoidable and also very complex question of justice.  To “cut to the chase” here, in international relations the problem is always who gets to say what is just and who gets to determine what actions are “justified” in pursuit of justice.  Obviously, if this is left to the individual state there are going to be disagreements.  So, we have international law and (some) international courts.  But, states hesitate to use them (sovereignty, etc…).  So, that is where we are for now:  everybody talks about what is just (including the use of force), but the discussion is caught somewhere between an emerging (hopefully) world order of world law and world courts, and the old world of every state deciding for itself and trying to impose its vision (either individually or in coalition) on others.    Personally, I think the serious problems associated with the latter approach in an era of globalization will keep nudging (pushing?) us along toward the former approach–even if we go “kicking and screeming”.

Second, can force be the “servant” of justice?  Short answer:  yes, but (IMHO) only under very specific conditions.   Those conditions would be those implied above:  ie where all involved have “signed on” to the laws and institutions that have the responsibility to decide upon and implement the use of force.  The closest we have to that today is the U.N. Security Council,  and, if you have read the Charter and observed U.N. practice, that institution is still influenced (to say the least) by national interests–though it seems to be very gradually (too gradually probably) evolving to some extent in the right direction.  If the right conditions do not exist surrounding the use of force, then, whatever the discourse employed, it will only reinforce the old idea from the Melian dialogue that “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.   This contributes little to peace, since the weak will then do what they can to become strong enough to turn the tables–and on and on it goes.

OK…there are many other issues related to these big questions, but that’s enough for now.

IGbarb says:  Make peace not war!


December 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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