(In response to a friend’s comment “Don’t we have to have nuclear weapons?”)
The history of humanity is the long sad history of violence and revenge.
The first tools of violence were certainly just fists, then we graduated to rocks, then spears, than crossbows, then guns, then tanks, then napalm, then nuclear weapons.
All that has happened is that technology has made violence that much more efficient.
And we are stuck in a mentality of ‘revenge’, except that the tools of revenge keep escalating. You hit me with your fist, I respond with a rock, then you come back later with a spear, etc.
Gandhi said “The problem with eye for an eye is that pretty soon the whole world is blind.” That is true as far as it goes, except that the technology for putting out eyes just keeps getting “better”—instead of just one at a time, now we can put out the eyes of whole nations in just seconds with marvelous modern efficiency.
The problem with nuclear weapons is that they have grown so terrible that it’s virtually impossible not to be your own collateral damage. But don’t suppose that means the end of the line for the development of death technology—we’ll just contrive other means of mass destruction that are more “focused.” How it would have pleased Hitler to find a virus that attacked Jews and left “Aryans” unscathed.
Revenge and technology are just too hideous a combination. I suppose rolling back technology would be one solution, but the same technology that brings us nuclear weapons also brings us antibiotics. No, it seems to me that if we are to survive as a species we have to learn some other way of dealing with each other besides violence and revenge.
When you say, “We have to have nuclear weapons,” I have to ask myself—do we? “They” have them, so we “have to” have them? Isn’t that just one more cycle of the Circle of Death (vs. Nature’s “Circle of Life”)?
At one time slavery was regarded as acceptable and even ‘natural’ throughout the Western world. That is not so any more. To be sure slavery is still a problem (e.g. human trafficking), but at least there is a consensus in society that this is Not Good. Our collective minds can change… ever so slowly, but they can change.
We have wars not just because the leaders want wars, but because the population as a whole wants them too. A contemporary political candidate who wanted to legalize slavery would get nowhere.
And by the way, the US defense budget is as large as the defense budgets of the rest of the world combined. Why? Of whom are we so afraid? And why? If we stopped meddling in their business, might we need less military? Who made us ‘policeman’ of the world—and what kind of a job have we been doing: look how much better off Iraq is after “Iraqi Freedom” (are they? Do they really have more freedom now? And at what price?). And what are we doing about Darfur? And countless other places on the planet in which hideous things are happening. (Hint: if they don’t have oil, we don’t seem to be unduly concerned.)
I don’t have some nice silver bullet answer. But it seems to me that the place to start is to question the ‘glory’ and ‘efficacy’ of war.
I’m not saying do nothing, I’m suggesting that the real battleground is the human heart, our hideous consensus that war and violence are ‘necessary’ and ‘glorious’, and that war accomplishes anything more than making the recipient of our aggression all the more determined to exact revenge. They attack us, we attack them back, they attack us back, and round and round—forever?
Is this the best we can do?