Reviewed: Paths to Peace, edited by Victor H. Wallace (M.U.P., 1957); pp. 397; 25s.
One of the most remarkable and encouraging features of our age is the preoccupation of some of the best minds everywhere with the problem of preventing war. The destructive possibilities of modern warfare have given the problem a new urgency. At all times in history there have been exceptional spirits who were shocked by the unnecessary waste and destruction caused by wars. The revulsion of Emperor Asoka after the Kalinga war is perhaps the best known example. But it is well to remember that from the beginning of history until our own times there have also been men who have extolled war as something heroic, something which brought out the nobler qualities of man. The situation, however, has undergone a fundamental change during the last few years. As long as wars were confined to professional armies, the problem was not only different in magnitude, but different in character. What originally caused the change was the aeroplane which carried destruction into the heart of every country, laid waste cities and towns, and brought the civil population directly within the range of enemy attack. Atomic weapons and guided missiles only brought home the point that war today is no longer a fight between trained armies, but an attempt to destroy the effectiveness of the enemy in every field. Another point which is seldom remembered or emphasized in this connection is the change in the character of the state as the essential reason of the change in the character of war. So long as the state represented limited interests, either as a monarchy or an aristocracy, wars could be conceived as something which could be controlled. Terms of peace could be negotiated by a defeated enemy. But once the state came to be conceived as representing the totality of its people as well as its industrial and economic resources, warfare between nations changed its character. The outcome could only be a ‘knockout blow’ as in the first war, or ‘an unconditional surrender’ as in the second. The total state insisted on a total war and on a total victory, which meant in effect the use of every available power to destroy the enemy and not solely his armies.
Today, therefore, the problem has become more acute because the power of weapons has so greatly increased that we do not actually know what a large scale war may involve for humanity itself. Consequently prevention of war has become a major preoccupation of thinking men even among the nations which arc furiously preparing for the worst.
Among the recent contributions to thinking on this subject, Paths to Peace is undoubtedly one of the most important. It is a collection of studies written by specialists of varied experience ranging from atomic physicists to psychiatrists. The knowledge, wisdom and objectivity which they bring to bear on the major problems connected with war and its prevention, make the book a really original and valuable contribution to the cause of peace. And yet we are left with a sense of disappointment. The reason is that while it is easy to see how dangerous modern war is to the future of the human race itself, and equally it seems a self-evident truth that peace is what the whole world desires, the human mind has not yet been able to devise any scheme for eliminating rivalries, injustices, imbalances arising from distribution of resources and skills, and the numerous other factors which lead to conflict. World government, elimination of sovereign states, universal education and many other proposals have been advanced as panaceas for peace. And yet, each one of these when examined is found to be totally inadequate, even if one grants its practicability. Those who argue in favour of world government point triumphantly to the enforcement of law within the large communities which now function as nation states and argue from there that if the same principle of the rule of law could be applied to the world and enforced by a world organization the problem of war would be solved, as it has been solved within the national states today. Mr. Henry Usborne argues this point with great force in his Essay on World Federal Government as a means of maintaining peace. But in the present condition of the world, not only with the imbalances of power but with large areas especially in Africa under the control of others and many states in Asia in a state of economic backwardness making them dependent on more advanced nations, a world government must inevitably lead to perpetuation of power differences and consequent injustices. A world government can come only when the problems of economic and political dominance by some countries over others have been satisfactorily solved. It is a significant fact that the advocates of world government are mostly from countries which are today powerful in the world, or have no fear of being dominated. But obviously it is useless to talk to the native inhabitants of colonial areas about world government without first ensuring them their freedom.
Nor can the problem of the extraordinary inequalities arising from the concentration of population in certain areas be overlooked in any conception of a world organization. So far population and power have not gone hand in hand. But today, apart from China and India, which between them have 1000 million people, the two most powerful nations, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., are also the two most populous. This combination of population strength with industrial power creates a situation which is particularly significant and may become more so, if in a measurable period China and India also achieve industrial strength. Dr. V. H. Wallace discusses in the present volume the question of a world population policy as a factor in maintaining peace. And yet, the main issue which is that of uneven distribution of population, viz. keeping large areas unoccupied or very thinly populated rather than allow them to be peopled by races other than those in occupation, is hardly touched at all. This problem of hungry mouths and empty spaces is too important a fact to be overlooked in any discussion of war and peace and it will hardly be denied that the policies of exclusion now followed by the states with vast open spaces is based primarily on racial considerations.
The racial question is perhaps the main omission in this book and yet it is undoubtedly one of the major factors in the world today. This is not exclusively a problem of White-African relations as is sometimes assumed. William II shocked a complacent world by talking of the yellow peril. The European colonists in Africa are creating a new bogey of an Indian peril on that continent. Arab nationalism has become a prominent aspect of international life today. The growth of racial consciousness in the less powerful nations is to my mind a major problem, the significance of which in international relations will increase and not decrease with time. If the power-differences between the major race areas of the world become intensified, as they may well do with the progress of technology, this may lead to greater frustrations and tensions of a serious kind. If on the other hand some of the major racial groups, such as China, catch up with the more advanced nations in science and industry, then again new tensions and strains are bound to develop, for undoubtedly the present international community is based on an unstated premise of the political dominance of the European race. I do not think anything is gained by shirking the question if the problem of world peace is to be approached in a realistic manner.
How far does education help to maintain world peace or even to discourage war? Dr. K. S. Cunningham in his essay on ‘Universal Education and Abolition of War’ is very cautious in reaching a conclusion. He says, ‘If we think in terms of the European continent itself a cynic might be tempted to say that the main result of the spread of education in the last five or six hundred years has been to produce bigger and belter wars.’ The protagonists of the last two world wars were also the world leaders in education. Nor can education be said to lead to better understanding between peoples. Apart from the difficulty of mutual understanding and appreciation between people of different civilizations, the significant fact cannot be overlooked that the great wars of the past were between people who had the greatest opportunity of understanding and appreciating each other. France and England, during the centuries they fought each other had no lack of understanding of each other’s cultures. Nor could it be said that England did not understand German culture or Germany had no knowledge or appreciation of England during the time of their rivalry.
If this be the position how is humanity to be saved from the catastrophe that will inevitably overtake it, if it has to face a total war with the weapons which science has invented for the advanced nations? Obviously it is only the sense of danger—the fearful possibility that there will be no victor and no vanquished and in fact that the survival of the human race itself may be doubtful—that will prevent war and help to preserve peace among the great powers. This of course docs not solve the problem of war, for it will still be open to a stronger power to use its forces against the less advanced nations as we have seen in recent times; whether it be in Hungary, in Port Said or in Oman. It could of course be called by some other name, but if we are thinking of war as the use of force to settle international disputes and not merely of war between powers possessing the latest instruments of destruction, the moral problem docs not seem to me to be different.
An interesting foreword by Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and a clear summing up by Geoffrey Sawer of the problems discussed by the different writers add significance to the work. Paths to Peace is a notable contribution to the study of certain essential aspects of peace and war and deserves the attention of all students of public affairs.
DR. K. M. PANIKKAR, former professor of history, editor of the Hindustan Times, Prime Minister of the Bikaner Government and Indian Ambassador to China, is now the Ambassador to France. He is author of A Survey of Indian History, etc.