Rotblat “A War-Free World: Is it Desirable? Is it Feasible?

Joseph Rotblat 

“A War-Free World: Is it Desirable? Is it Feasible?

Imperial War Museum, 11 November 2002


“[N]ot only is a war-free world desirable, it is now necessary, it is essential, if humankind is to survive.  I am referring to the development of the omnicidal weapons, first demonstrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The destruction of these cities, heralded a new age, the nuclear age, whose chief characteristic is that for the first time in the history of civilization, Man has acquired the technical means to destroy his own species, and to accomplish it, deliberately or inadvertently, in a single action.  In the nuclear age the human species has become an endangered species….

“We all crave a world of peace, a world of equity.  We all want to nurture in the young generation the much-heralded ‘culture of peace’.  But how can we talk about a culture of peace if that peace is predicated on the existence of weapons of mass destruction?  How can we persuade the young generation to cast aside the culture of violence, when they know that it is on the threat of extreme violence that we rely for security?  …

“The diabolical concept that in order to have peace we must prepare for war has been ingrained in us since the start of civilization.  So much so that we have begun to believe that waging war is part of our natural make up.  We are told that we are biologically programmed for aggression, that war is in our genes.  As a scientist, I reject this thesis.  I see no evidence that aggressiveness is genetically built into our behaviour.  A group of experts, meeting in Seville under the auspices of UNESCO concluded:  ‘It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature.’ …

“Nevertheless, we are moving towards a war-free world, even if we do not do it consciously.  We are learning the lessons of history.  In the two World Wars of the 20th century, France and Germany were mortal enemies.  Citizens of these countries – and many others – were slaughtered by the millions.  But now a war between France and Germany seems inconceivable….

“We have to change the mind-set that seeks security for one’s own nation in terms which spell insecurity to others.   We must replace the old Roman dictum by one essential for survival in the Third Millennium: Si vis pacem para pacem – if you want peace prepare for peace.  This will require efforts in two directions:  one – a new approach to security, in terms of global security; the other – developing and nurturing a new loyalty, loyalty to humankind….

“In a world armed with weapons of mass destruction, the use of which might bring the whole of civilization to an end, we cannot afford a polarized community, with its inherent threat of military confrontations.  In this scientific era, a global equitable community, to which we all belong as world citizens, has become a vital necessity.”