Leaders of Nonviolent Movements
Combatants for Peace: The "Combatants for Peace" movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace.
New Kind of Anti-War Movement
Peace is the state of being calm, quiet, and free of disturbance. From a military and political point of view, peace means freedom from such violent disturbances as wars and riots. It does not mean total harmony among people. Even in peacetime, people take part in such forms of conflict as debates, lawsuits, sports contests, and election campaigns.
Throughout history, most people have wanted lasting peace. Religions and philosophers have called for the peaceful settlement of disagreements. The Bible declares, "Thou shalt not kill" and "Blessed are the peacemakers." Philosophers in ancient Greece and Rome taught brotherhood and nonviolence.
Yet since earliest times, the world has seldom had a long period of unbroken peace. Through the centuries, people have probably spent at least as much time at war as at peace. This article discusses past and present attempts to achieve lasting freedom from war.
Ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient Greece consisted of many independent regions called city-states. The city-states frequently waged war on one another. As a result, several of them banded together and formed an organization that made one of the first attempts to limit warfare. This organization, called the Amphictyonic League, prohibited any member from destroying another or cutting off another's water supply.
Once every four years, the Olympic Games united the city-states. A truce created temporary peace throughout Greece so the games could take place. For a month, no one could bear arms or make war.
The Roman Empire maintained peace throughout a large part of the world during a period known as the Pax Romana (Roman peace). This peace lasted more than 200 years, from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180. During the Pax Romana, the Roman Empire extended over much of Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. At that time, no other nation was powerful enough to attack the Romans.
The Middle Ages. After the Roman Empire weakened during the A.D. 400's, small wars raged throughout Europe. The Christian church became the greatest force for peace. A church custom called the Truce of God limited fighting in private disputes to certain days of the week. A ruling called the Peace of God forbade fighting in such holy places as churches and shrines. But the church permitted "just" wars, such as those in defense of Christianity or a people's homeland.
From the 1400's to the 1700's, many people proposed various plans to achieve lasting peace. In the early 1600's, for example, the French statesman Maximilien de Bethune, Duke of Sully, developed a "Grand Design" for peace in Europe. Sully's plan called for the formation of a council of representatives of all European countries. The council would settle disagreements between nations.
In 1625, the Dutch statesman Hugo Grotius proposed international rules of conduct in a book called On the Law of War and Peace. For example, nations should guarantee certain rights to neutral nations, which took no part in a war. Grotius' ideas formed the basis of international law.
The Thirty Years' War ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty tried to ensure peace by establishing a balance of power. Such a plan maintains an even distribution of military and economic power among nations. As a result, no nation or group of nations is strong enough to conquer any other nation or group of nations.
About 1647, the English religious leader George Fox founded the Society of Friends, most commonly known today as the Quakers. This group believed that the teachings of Jesus Christ prohibited war. Throughout their history, the Quakers have opposed war and supported peace movements. The Quaker leader William Penn, who founded the colony of Pennsylvania, proposed a peace plan similar to Sully's "Grand Design." Penn wrote a book called An Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe (1693). In it, he called for an international council to settle disputes between nations.
The Project for Perpetual Peace, written by a French clergyman, the Abbe Charles Irenee Castel de Saint-Pierre, was published in 1713. It called for a "Senate of Europe" composed of 24 delegates from the European nations. The French philosopher Voltaire criticized this plan because the member nations would have been monarchies. Voltaire believed the world could not have peace unless all nations became democracies.
The 1800's and early 1900's. In 1815, an American businessman, David L. Dodge, formed the New York Peace Society, the nation's first organization dedicated to preserving peace. Other pacifist groups followed, including the American Peace Society in 1828 and the Universal Peace Union in 1866.
During the 1800's, many international conventions discussed peacekeeping. Peace conferences met in London in 1843; in Brussels, Belgium, in 1848; in Paris in 1849; and in Frankfurt (am Main), Germany, in 1850. In 1898, Czar Nicholas II of Russia called for an international meeting to discuss arms limitation. As a result, conferences took place at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1899 and 1907. These conferences did not succeed in limiting armaments. But they did establish the Permanent Court of Arbitration to handle legal disputes between nations.
The Swedish chemist Alfred B. Nobel, who invented dynamite, regretted the wartime death and injury caused by his invention. In his will, he set up a fund to award annual prizes, including one for outstanding work in promoting world peace. The first Nobel Prize for peace was awarded in 1901.
After World War I ended in 1918, a group of 42 governments established the League of Nations. This international association had the goal of maintaining peace throughout the world. Disputes between nations would be settled by the League Council or by arbitration, a decision by a third party. But the League of Nations had little power, partly because the United States and some other major nations never joined. In addition, League members failed to cooperate with one another.
Since the end of World War II in 1945, many attempts have been made to assure lasting peace among all nations. The major forms of these efforts have included (1) diplomacy, (2) international organizations, (3) arms control, (4) collective security, and (5) improvement of international communication and trade.
Diplomacy involves negotiations (discussions) between two or more nations. Most governments have diplomats who serve as their representatives in other countries to promote international cooperation and harmony. Other peace efforts depend largely on successful diplomacy. Many political experts rate diplomacy as the most important factor in peacekeeping.
International organizations work for the peaceful settlement of disagreements between nations. In 1945, 50 countries created the United Nations (UN), the major international organization dedicated to world peace. The League of Nations was dissolved in 1946.
The UN Security Council investigates quarrels between nations and suggests ways of settling them. If any nation endangers the peace, the council may use economic sanctions (penalties) against it. For example, member nations might stop trading with the offender. If such measures fail, the council may ask UN members to furnish troops to enforce its decision. The UN has achieved some success in keeping the peace. But it has failed to prevent local wars in several regions, including Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
Arms control involves the control, reduction, or elimination of certain armed forces or weapons. In 1968, the UN approved a nonproliferation treaty to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This treaty, which took effect in 1970, bars the nuclear powers from giving nuclear weapons or knowledge to other nations. The UN also won approval of arms-control treaties during the 1970's. One treaty banned the production and stockpiling of biological weapons. The United States, Russia, and other nations have agreed to observe limits on the production and possession of nuclear weapons. In 1993, more than 120 countries signed a UN-sponsored treaty banning the manufacture, use, transfer, and stockpiling of chemical weapons. The treaty took effect in 1997.
Collective security resembles the balance of power system. Each member of a group of nations agrees to come to the aid of any other member if that nation is attacked. The combined strength of the group discourages attacks. Such groups include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Improvement of international communication and trade increases understanding among nations. It reduces the danger of war by lowering the cultural and economic barriers that divide countries. Many European nations work together in a group called the European Union. This organization works to improve the flow of goods, ideas, and people from nation to nation and to achieve greater economic and political cooperation among its members.