What’s missing from David Swanson’s assessment of Dunkirk Film:David’s assessment is correct. But it is also lethally flawed and a grand disservice to those who really seek peace on earth. David conveniently ignores the far greater killer of humans and other persistent threats to humanity, some of which are a prime driver of war. Poverty related starvation and easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases take roughly ten lives the lives of those lost in war.
The Spanish Flu killed as many as 50 million people around the world during the WW I. Many historians believe it was the primary reason the war ended. Armies could no longer fight and the nations that supported them were crippled in supplying them. More US soldiers died from the Spanish Flu than from the war itself. That flu killed upwards of 600,000 Americans in just two years.
Smallpox alone killed more people in 70 years of the last century than all the wars, revolutions and genocides combined in 100 years of century.
Both the film and Mr. Swanson ignore the fact that poverty and hunger in Germany led to Hitler’s rise. They both also ignore the genius of those who offered humanity shortly after Hitler’s defeat, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the best means of preventing future wars.
Today there are nearly 20 million people in danger of starvation, mostly a result of wars that could have been prevented if the peace movement had put the protection of human rights above their fantasy of disarming the world.
A majority of war deaths are caused by preventable infectious diseases. But sanctions, a favorite means of governments to punish other nations for their behavior or weapons development- can be more deadly than war to innocent people in those sanctioned nations. And today, sanctions are the primary tool the world uses to discourage the production of nuclear weapons. War remains an option. The second Gulf War launched by the US in 2003 was to disarm another nation of WMD. Prior to that US shock and awe invasion, Iraq had already used chemical weapons against another nation (Iran) and even its own people (the Kurds) using some US assistance (materials and intelligence reports) and zero US condemnation in the UN.
Using Mr. Swanson’s logic it appears that he and peace activists who think like him are more interested in outlawing or abolishing weapons than saving human lives or preventing war. They actually believe that they can stop wars by reducing the human capacity to make weapons. This is as silly others who believe more weapons will stop war. Both of these perspectives would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous to human security and our fundamental freedoms.
Global justice (the universal enforcement of human rights) is the only workable path to maximizing human freedom, security, prosperity and sustainability.
One fundamental human rights is the right to protect one’s self (family and friends) from an abusive government (their own or someone else’s). That is reason alone NOT to take the path of disarmament. But, given the dual use nature of every technology a far greater reason exists. It’s impossible to eliminate the means of mass murder. Disarmament is at a fool’s errand. But it appears nothing will stop Peace activist from spending their limited resources (members, time, money, and energy) on trying to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile the average Joe’s capacity to create WMD from biological, chemical, cyber, robotics and even conventional technologies (IEDs) is off the chart easy and affordable. And all of these dual use technologies are increasingly powerful, affordable, and ubiquitous every day.
Peace activists also tend to ignore the growing injustices (restrictions of freedom and gross violations of human rights) that drive lethal grievances. Human insecurity from poverty, illiteracy, repression, and gross ignorance push people in pain to seek the means of mass murder. And everyday technologies (cars, trucks, knives, and house hold chemicals…) are easily acquired if the will is there to abuse them.
If Mr. Swanson and other such peace activist put more emphasis on reducing that human will…by focusing on real human security through the global protecting the most fundamental human rights (to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness via Justice) they wouldn’t need to worry about the pursuit of any weapon.
“Once the mechanics and the fundamental causes of wars – of all wars – are realized, the futility and childishness of the passionate debates about armament and disarmament must be apparent to all. If human society were organized so that relations between groups and units in contact were regulated by democratically controlled law and legal institutions, then modern science could go ahead, devise and produce the most devastating weapons, and there would be no war. But if we allow sovereign rights to reside in the separate units and groups without regulating their relations by law, then we can prohibit every weapon, even a penknife, and people will beat out each other’s brains with clubs.” Emory Reves, The Anatomy of Peace, 1945
“People must bring a machete, a spear, an arrow, a hoe, spades, rakes, nails, truncheons, electric irons, barbed wire, stones, and the like, in order, dear listeners, to kill Rawandan Tutsis.” (A Hutu’s call to arms quoted in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, August 19, 1998, p. A-18)
The main focus of international attention must move beyond the symptoms of weapons proliferation to its causes. It may seem easier to control supply, yet it is demand that raises the tide of proliferation. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for Jan-Feb 1999, p. 76, "Book Note" on Kosta Tsipis and Philip Morrison's book, "Reason Enough for Hope."
"We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women." Thích Nhất Hạnh**************
“What’s Missing from Dunkirk Film”. By David Swanson