The world is primed for an outbreak of peace. Can we pull it off this time? So wonders a social scientist and U.N. consultant on genocide prevention.
“Neither war nor peace,” writes Bellamy (Peace and Conflict Studies/Univ. of Queensland; Massacres and Morality: Mass Atrocities in an Age of Civilian Immunity, 2012, etc.), “is embedded in our nature.” We fight when we must, and there are times when fighting is appropriate and war is even just. Still, argues the author, pursuing the goals of war is better done by instruments other than war itself, instruments that have proven their efficacy, especially free trade. Bellamy does not argue, as some have, that democracy is a precondition for such a peaceful track, but he does observe that democracies don’t tend to go to war with each other. The time is right for pressing for peaceful resolutions, he argues. Even as the world seems full of saber-rattling, blustering nationalists, the fact is that the number of fatalities caused by war is declining around the world, and the frequency of armed conflicts has similarly been falling. And why not fight? Because, in part, as Bellamy shows, war “tends to produce far more losers than winners,” ravaging economies and populations even among the putative victors. Part of the problem is the nature of the state itself, he observes: States were often formed by violence, even if they now provide the institutional basis for peace, so that “the state is nothing if not a paradox when it comes to war and peace.” Optimistic without being starry-eyed, Bellamy believes that peace is a possibility but not “imminent or likely,” particularly as international tensions have risen and reasons for war, including resource scarcity, have become more pronounced. Against this, he counsels that each of us can do a little something to promote peace, “building the minor utopias in our own times and places.”
A sensible, occasionally overly utopian case for pursuing politics by means other than war.