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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 1 January 6, 2024

Beating Swords into Ploughshares, or What A No-war Future May Involve | Bharat Dogra

Friday 5 January 2024, by Bharat Dogra


At a time when existing and potential wars dominate the attention of world leadership to such an extent, it may appear very unrealistic to discuss a future for humanity in which there are no wars. Yet this must be a very important part of our thinking, the reason being that if at all the life-sustaining conditions of our planet are to be saved, this is unlikely to be possible without humanity being able to agree on some version of a future without wars. Hence instead of dismissing the idea of a ‘no wars’ future, we should give very high attention to this as its time is going to come sooner than most people think, if essential conditions of life are to be saved.
Two very crucial facts cannot be denied. Weapons have become simply too destructive, and the drift towards further enhancing their destructive capacity is increasing to the extent of creating the capacity for destroying the entire world many times over. Secondly, environmental problems led by but not confined to climate change have become so threatening that much greater peace and cooperation are needed at the international level.

In a world with an overwhelming presence of these realities, the most rational course of action for various leading countries and forces is to enter into two agreements which are closely related to each other. The first agreement should be regarding the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, these being defined in a nuclear weapons plus context to truly include all existing and potential WMDs, as well as a huge cut in all other weapons. The second agreement should be regarding a no-wars future.
How can such agreements become a reality? The present organizational and institutional arrangements of our world do not appear to be favorable for such agreements at all. But instead of concluding on this basis that such agreements are not possible, we should say that the organizational and institutional arrangements should be reformed significantly to make such agreements possible.

Will this involve a surrender of a part of the sovereignty of nation states including the most powerful ones to a reformed and stronger UN or some altogether new international organization? Will this involve changing the concept of nation states in some ways? Will this involve a radical reform of the UN? Whichever path reforms take it is important that these should facilitate the objectives of global peace and disarmament as well as international cooperation for resolving the survival or existential crisis within a framework of justice and democracy.

There is also the concept of a democratically elected world government, not at all dominated by the big military powers, which will handle only a few but crucial responsibilities pertaining to protection of basic life-nurturing conditions of earth, while nation states continue to handle all other matters. Here again several versions of this possibility can be considered and hopefully agreement can be reached on one of these (in my book ‘Earth without Borders’ I have discussed three such possibilities).

One question that arises in the context of a no-wars future is regarding what will happen to all the millions of soldiers and various armed forces personnel (army, navy, air force etc.). All of them should get a firm assurance that their existing jobs, salaries and benefits well be protected. However instead of fighting wars, their services will be utilized instead, after some new training courses, mostly for well planned, thoughtfully considered work such as preventing disasters, rescuing people in disaster situations ( including natural disasters, big accidents etc.), as well as ecological rehabilitation of those areas, particularly ecologically sensitive areas, which have been badly degraded. All degraded but sensitive systems including forests, rivers, wetlands, mountains, coasts etc. will find new possibilities of ecological rehabilitation and rejuvenation thanks to the work of these eco-soldiers and eco-officers. Instead of their services being used for killing other people, their services will now be used for creating conditions in which both human beings as well as thousands of other forms of life can live a safer life.
Some of these ideas, as stated earlier may not appear to very feasible at a practical level to many people but then this may be only because they have not been used to thinking along these lines, and sometimes are actively discouraged from such thinking. My own experience of discussing such ideas has been that people say these are very good concepts and ideas but not practical. My response to this is that we are living in unprecedented times of the earth’s basic life-nurturing conditions being endangered gravely by man-mad causes and therefore we have to find unprecedented solutions which were not thought of earlier.

(Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Survival Crisis—Planet in Peril—People’s Response the Only Way Forward’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’, ‘Earth without Borders ‘and ‘A Day in 2071’)

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