A STRATEGY FOR PEACE: Human Values and the Threat of War by Sissela Bok

A STRATEGY FOR PEACE: Human Values and the Threat of War

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Harvard professor Bok (Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation, 1983; etc.) attempts to propose a practical and nonutopian framework for lasting peace in the world--and, as in her previous work, manages to convey complex philosophical distinctions in highly accessible language. Bok's worldview is compatible with what has come to be known as New Age principles--that is, that everyone is responsible and able to affect the world-at-large. Thus, rather than concentrating on big power confrontation, the author suggests that concerted and meaningful action to reduce the threat of annihilation can be taken at every level, personal as well as international. The social environment, she claims, is as much at risk as the natural environment and needs attending. Like one of her Harvard peers, Joseph Nye, whose Nuclear Ethics was an exercise in temperate discourse, Bok here will make no enemies. She is as opposed to those who call for ""pure trust"" between nations (it is ""no more conducive to survival than is pure oxygen"") as she is to those who operate from distrust. Rather, she states that societies ""can thrive only within a certain range of combined trust and cautious distrust."" Harkening back to previous writers, Bok finds, surprisingly, great lessons for our time in Kant's essay ""Perpetual Peace,"" as well as in Clausewitz's On War, two works that one might think of as antithetical. Instead, she asserts that it is time for the two traditions of morality and strategy to join. It is no longer folly, Bok feels, to hope that a strategy of peace can live compatibly with wise military strategy, enabling individual countries to achieve the same goals over which they once fought wars. Thus, for example, recent Soviet thawings towards the West might bring them economic gains undreamed of in earlier shoe-thumping days. In the practical realm, the author calls for small group action that can grow into international cooperation: language-teaching, travel across partisan barriers, public debate through new information technologies, and conflict resolution techniques being only some examples. Thoughtful and clear discourse, if somewhat naively skirting the passions stirred by ideology.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1989
Publisher: Pantheon