My Turn: End the endless cycle

For the Monitor
Published: 9/13/2021 7:00:13 AM

The carnage and chaos in Afghanistan as we withdraw our troops is a reminder of how senseless and wasteful war is. Isn’t it time to put this insanity behind us? Why can’t we evolve beyond this cycle of destruction and outlaw war?

During a recent conversation with a friend, I suggested the only solution is to establish an international peacekeeping force that has real teeth. My friend told me that Albert Einstein agreed, having been a proponent of just such a solution.

Einstein believed international disputes ought to be “supported by an executive force, guaranteed by participating countries, ready to proceed against the disturber of the peace with economic and military sanctions.” He opposed compulsory military service as “the bulwark of unhealthy nationalism.” He believed that “without disarmament, there can be no lasting peace.”

The League of Nations was the first formal effort to establish world peace after the horrors of WWI. President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 as a leading architect of the League, despite the U.S. never becoming a member.

The League’s mission was to “ensure peace by…. uniting the potential force of all the members as a standing menace against any nation that seeks to upset the peace of the world.” But without a separate armed force, it depended on the armies of member countries. With members unwilling to act to prevent WWII, the League was replaced by the United Nations in 1946, which has proven equally unable to prevent armed conflicts.

The UN undertakes peacekeeping missions but does not have its own armed forces. It could, however, resolve to coordinate an international force to keep the peace. To enact, the Security Council would have to eliminate its veto power. One member should not be allowed to block the will of the majority.

An international armed force could be filled from the ranks of those now serving their own country. Instead of fighting senseless wars, they would defend the freedom of all people.

A recent article in the New York Times by Alexander Clapp revealed a surprising impact of military spending. Because they have so few firefighters, Greece and Turkey have been relying on the general public to fight the fires that recently engulfed both countries.

Clapp wrote, “Last year, the two countries, both NATO members, spent over €20 billion arming themselves not against the demonstrable damage of climate change — but largely against one another. Were the Greek government to shift just a tenth of its annual military budget into environmental protection, it could afford to send around 45,000 additional firefighters into places like Evia every summer.”

The wastefulness of war is beyond belief. An estimated $3 trillion is spent yearly on military weapons, with the U.S. accounting for a third of that. A small number of people are filthy rich as a result. They will not give up their wealth willingly. Nor do they care about the suffering they cause.

It is unthinkable that dictators like Bolsonaro, Putin and Duterte are still in power. How can the world stand by while they and the Taliban and ISIS use force to rule?

Just as we empower local, state and federal forces to protect us, countries of the world need to work together to prevent tyrants from enslaving us in an endless cycle of war.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)

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