We should heed the voices of the spiritual leaders when it comes to the crucial question of war and peace. Wise elders such as Pope John Paul, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Jimmy Carter – all have spoken with one voice: war is never good. It is easy to start a war, but the horrendous consequences of it are such that in the nuclear age, war can never be justified.
War is a failure of good governance. It is a failure of foreign policy, diplomacy and the negotiating skills of the world leaders. War is a failure of the United Nations. It is also a failure of the national and international bodies whose responsibilities it is to spot the early signs of conflict and resolve them before they reach such massive proportions.
War is not a matter of pride, it is a matter of shame. Those who go to war must be ashamed of themselves that they have allowed a situation to get so terrible that they have to kill innocent children, women and ordinary people and inflict severe damage on the environment to accomplish their objectives.
Those who go to war have to ask themselves, “How and why did we get to this? What kind of foreign policy did we pursue that has led to a breakdown of world order? What kind of economic and political systems did we create which have caused these conflicts?”
People elect governments not to wage war and bring destruction to people and the planet, but to maintain peace, security and order. If our leaders have failed to keep peace, then they have failed in their fundamental duty. If politicians have failed to listen to the early warnings of an impending crisis then they have neglected their essential responsibility. Prime ministers and presidents who take their countries to war have utterly failed to deliver a safe, secure form of government. Such government leaders must be made to admit their failure and be forced to resign from their posts so that we can elect new leaders who will promise to maintain peace at home and abroad.
War is in nobody’s interest. No national interests are served in killing innocent people and forcing millions of them to flee their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands. It is not in the national interest of any country to be flooded by refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from the onslaught of bombs and tanks. What and whose interests are served in polluting the atmosphere, wasting natural and human resources to wage war, when money is desperately needed for healthcare, education, and for improving inner cities? To talk about national interest in the context of war is sheer folly.
© Satish Kumar 2003
Originally published as part of a debate on 6th February 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. II