Political, Cultural and Spiritual Approaches to Building Peace

Palgrave Macmillan, New York and London 





by the editor, A. Walter Dorn


The dawn of a new millennium—the third according to the world’s first universally recognized calendar—beckons us to take the “long-term” view of our world and the ways we have ordered it. This is not only because a thousand-year span covers a lot of human history,1 but because we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to review honestly the mixed and often painful experiences of the past world order, to take stock of any progress and to think boldly about the kind of future world order we would like to see created.

Throughout human history, world order has rarely, if ever, been built upon peace and justice. History provides abundant examples of strong-arm order imposed on sprawling empires and only a few examples of non-violent order through global understanding and peaceful cooperation. Fortunately, there is evidence of a sort of evolution as shown by the gradual improvement in the ethical standards of the great powers in each era. The early Egyptian empires were built on brutal conquest and abject slavery, justified by the alleged divinity and infallibility of the Pharaohs. The Romans created an imperial order based on force (the Roman Legions) in pax Romana, with taxation under threat of dire punishment. Pax Britannica was based on the rule of British law, which extended the rights of British subjects in the United Kingdom to subjects of the British Empire, but still depended on the military to enforce an official policy of exploitation in the colonies. Before the First World War, the British and other European empires relied on the “balance of power” between themselves, an unstable and impermanent type of world order in which nations weaved themselves into a web of military alliances to become stronger in order to deter attack. This system kept the peace for decades, but made the inevitable conflagration even more horrendous.

The League of Nations, created after World War I as the world’s first international organization mandated to keep the peace, was an attempt at a different system, one based on collective security—especially international solidarity against an aggressor—as well as cooperation among states on a wide range of political, social and economic issues. But states could not raise themselves to act according to the higher idealism of the League Covenant and reverted to the notion of balance of power in the face of bold aggression by Japan, Italy and Germany. At the end of World War II, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt strove to build on the liberal ideals of his predecessor Woodrow Wilson to create a world order (pax Americana, if you like) based on democracy and global cooperation, fostered through international organizations. The League was superceded by a strengthened world organization, the United Nations. The UN’s membership eventually became virtually universal, a goal never attained by the League. But the balance-of-power concept remained the dominant one in the painful period that followed World War II. In the Cold War, this concept was brought to its ultimate climax in the notion of mutually assured destruction (appropriately called MAD), which kept the nuclear equivalent of the sword of Damocles hanging over humanity on a slender thread. Unfortunately, the raw-power concept still holds much sway in military circles, especially in the United States, where American military “supremacy” is still seen as the paramount and permanent goal.

With the end of the Cold War, made possible by the progressive and enlightened leadership of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, there were many positive developments. The UN played a central part in that positive change, showing the awe-inspiring progress in a decade that can come about through concerted international effort.

The UN verified the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan; it mediated the negotiations ending the Iran-Iraq war; it oversaw the transition of Namibia to independence, climaxing 70 years of international involvement (Namibia was first placed under the League of Nations mandate system in 1920); the UN supervised South African elections to finally end the ugly and brutal apartheid system; it helped bring greater peace and democracy to Central America, in particular by helping end the bloody and brutal internal wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala; it brought about peace in a war-torn Cambodia, having to assume near-complete control of several government departments during a difficult transition period leading up to that country’s first democratic elections; the UN supervised elections in Haiti and parts of the former Yugoslavia; it guarded aid routes in Somalia and obtained the release of many hostages in the Middle East. The UN was a major contributor to the development of peace in Croatia and Bosnia and in providing the experience necessary to implement the peace accords. In addition, the UN authorized the repulsion of aggression in Kuwait and supervised the destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Undoubtedly, the present international system, and the UN in particular, have had many failures and abundant shortcomings—as do all human systems and organizations. To the UN’s embarrassment, it didn’t resolve the Somalia conflict and didn’t prevent or even mitigate the genocide in Rwanda, though it might have been able to do so. The UN and the international community as a whole face great challenges in the world today, including extremism in Afghanistan, the continuing violence in Central America, the “political wars” in Cambodia and Haiti, and protracted conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, Africa and other parts of the globe. It is, then, all the more remarkable that the UN succeeds, though it is underfunded, underresourced and undersupported, often confounded by power politics in the Security Council and bypassed by the international financial institutions at a time when economic questions are of great concern. The continued determination to make the UN work despite all these daunting challenges is a clear manifestation of the power of the human spirit!

The dawn of a new millennium provides us with the special opportunity to think about further progress and to formulate grand visions. With the end of the Cold War, we have, for the first time in hundreds of years, perhaps in all human history, no global power blocs menacing one another— though many threats undoubtedly remain. We now have the unique opportunity to build a foundation for peace and to establish a more just and stable world order, in its many dimensions. We are encouraged to look at our past and present world order, analyze its flaws and envision a future order that we might like to see. This book attempts to do exactly that.

Thus, with their feet firmly planted on the ground of historical reality but with their eyes looking into the distance at the goals ahead, the authors of the chapters in this book have sought to provide the reader with diverse yet harmonious visions for our global future. They accepted the challenge to paint the “big picture,” suitable for a new millennium.

Professor Anatol Rapoport provides us with a clear conceptual basis for past, present and future world order, where “the rules” are either imposed by force, developed by trade or fostered through integration. The gradual evolution over time of “international law”—based mostly on the latter two factors but relying on armed force to some extent—is reviewed masterfully by Professor Jennie Hatfield-Lyon. The fact that most nations abide by international law most of the time raises the question: why behave? Some reasons are suggested in my paper on treaty compliance, which points to interdependence as a main factor. Countries are dependent on each other in many ways, not least of which is economic, even if they have quite different economic systems. Professor Myron Gordon provides a sweeping overview and critique of the main economic approaches that nations have adopted. Professor John McMurtry warns of the dangers of the move to adopting global free-trade and investment treaties without, at the same time, creating regulations to help save the environment, encourage cultural diversity and improve upon global labor standards.

The military has traditionally played a major role in world order. For most of human history, “might made right” and the nation with the strongest armed forces could have the final say. But such an approach, which relies on weapons and threats, is fraught with danger. Alan Phillips, M.D., shows us how close we came to global catastrophe in the age of nuclear weapons, not by intention but by accident. Major-General Leonard Johnson offers us the refreshingly optimistic logic that our future need not follow the pattern of the past: international war is on the decline and may even become obsolete in the next century. But the burden of armaments, we all recognize, still rests heavily on our shoulders, especially in the developing nations that can least afford it. Col. Brian MacDonald, realizing that some levels of military force are justified, introduces two new indicators that measure militarization and that can alert us to the misuse of military funds for internal suppression, espe¬cially the “Praetorian index,” a term and concept that he has coined.

These global problems—of a military, economic or other nature— require global solutions. The papers of the third section are unified in their belief that the United Nations, despite all its faults and limitations, still remains the first and foremost avenue to improve the general condition of this world. Christopher Spencer gives us a broad overview of these many problems and suggests how the UN could and should be involved. Dr. Rosalie Bertell finds inspiration in recent UN-sponsored agreements that can be important building blocks for a better world order for humans and the environment. Perhaps the greatest step to mitigate the worst of human crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, is the creation of an International Criminal Court, which is succinctly described by Fergus Watt, who closely followed the negotiations for the ICC Statute and was present at the Rome signing ceremony. Finally, in that section, I work my “crystal ball,” which is set to “optimistic” mode, to predict how the UN will evolve over the next 5, 25 and 50 years.

But lest we think that world order is only about nations and international institutions, the second part of the book is there to set us straight. The contributions of our varied cultures, religions and non-governmental bodies, many of which are dedicated to fostering peace and developing a harmonious world order, are extremely important. Prof. Cynthia Chataway tells us how the U.S. government has increasingly looked to NGOs for assistance in diplomacy, a domain that was traditionally the proud preserve of government diplomats. An appreciation of gender and cultural issues can help us look at our world in a more balanced way and to work more productively to improve the state for all its inhabitants, as demonstrated by activist Shirley Farlinger. Professor Guy Bourgeault challenges us to educate not only our children but also ourselves, to seek a higher ethics—one in which we realize that the globe is our neighborhood—and to act as worthy global citizens.

The major religions of the world have, at their core, the notion of the spiritual unity of humanity under God or under a great cosmic order. Archbishop Ted Scott provides a Christian commentary on making the change from a mental notion to a living reality in the actions of people, companies and nations. The Jewish faith, which combines a considerable amount of painful history with sacred scripture, also calls for peace within the individual as well as in the world, as Rabbi Marty Lockshin describes to us. Dr. Yoichi Kawada, from Japan, enlightens us on the links between inner and outer peace: from our purified emotions we can create peace in our homes, our communities, our nations and our world. This message is amplified by Daniel Vokey, who also advocates the practice of meditation. The First Nations perspective, presented by Gawithra of the Younger Bear Clan of the Cayuga Nation, reminds us that the world is much more than just human: our environment is a part of our existence and it can, in fact, help us find peace, so long as we don’t try to dominate or possess it. A sympathetic consideration of our natural environment is just one consideration of many that Dr. Hanna Newcombe sees as important in the development of a common global understanding, “a world religion”; others are new truths, from the sciences as well from the religions, that need to be recognized and honored. Similarly, the Bahá’í religion, reviewed by practitioners Cheshmak Farhoumand and Dr. Charles Lerche, does not deny the validity of other approaches—scientific, institutional or religious—but seeks to embrace other approaches and faiths. It provides a very precise view of the future world order, based on a benevolent world government. Whether such can be established in the coming century or even millennium may not be certain, but our continuing support of the current instrument of global governance and harmony, the United Nations, is essential, writes Sri Chinmoy. His vision is of an expanding world harmony that is founded upon spiritual principles, sympathetic to many approaches, and anchored in harmonious cooperation through the United Nations and by individuals everywhere. Thus, the second part of the book builds a bridge between the institutions of governance and the guiding vision, showing how the age-long vision of “peace on Earth and goodwill to all” can and should continue to animate our institutions as we seek to build a just and peaceful world order.

The book is a result of a conference titled “The Evolution of World Order: Building a Foundation for Peace in the Third Millennium,” which was held in Toronto from June 6 to 8, 1997. From the 50 papers presented at the conference, some 20 were chosen and others added to form this book, which seeks to be wide ranging in its coverage, cohesive in its visions and complementary in its approaches. In this way it seeks to live up to its calling to be a “book for a new millennium.”



1. In my opening address at the World Order Conference, I took a cavalier attitude toward the millennium, saying tongue in cheek: “A millennium here and a millennium there; pretty soon you’re talking about a long time!” But I assured my audience (and the readers now) that my intent is solemn!