Civilian-Based Defense in a New Era
(Einstein Institution Monograph Series #2)
by Johan Jørgen Holst
Title: Civilian-Based Defense in a New Era
Author: Johan Jørgen Holst
Languages available: English
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I am honored and pleased to have been invited to give the keynote address to this important, timely, and also intriguing conference. I accepted the invitation with considerable humility. I am not a pacifist, nor do I have much personal experience as a participant in public protest movements. In fact I have often been on the "other side" of such movements, not because I disagreed with the objectives, but because I had a different view of the available alternatives, of the consequences of alternative policies, and of the relationship between ends and means. Throughout my adult life I have been concerned with and engaged in exploring or affecting the complex issues of peace and war. There are no easy solutions. There are probably no finite solutions, but there is a constant imperative to understand and shape the parameters of the human condition. My perspective is that of a European; my experience is that of a Scandinavian; my values are those of a social democrat. Before I consider some of the policy issues involved in civilian-based defense, I must establish a context within which to make the assessment.
The Nuclear Predicament
We are children of the nuclear age. Slowly our thinking is catching up with the awesome reality of nuclear weapons. Our comprehension has made progress, but we still have miles to go before we understand. We do understand, however, that nuclear weapons have changed the grammar of military assessment, that they have severed the classical link between military power and political purpose: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." Today that simple maxim seems obvious to most of us. It was not always so.
No rational purpose can be served by the use of nuclear weapons. No rational objective would justify the costs and the risks. We know, however, that accidents, irrational purposes, and unattainable objectives have moved human beings in the past and could do so again. But the way we think about the nuclear realities will influence those realities, particularly when thought is transformed into action. Realities can be organized so as to constrain and delimit the impact of accident and passion. No absolute assurance is available, however. Foolproof arrangements will forever remain a chimera, although we can persist in our efforts to approach perfection. Nuclear weapons do not lend themselves to disinvention, although we can persist in our efforts to approach abolition.
Nuclear weapons create common interests which transect, transcend, and transform the competition among nations. The notion of common security is predicated on the insight that security in the nuclear age is not only a competitive value, but essentially a common good. The whole idea of arms control is based on the idea of shared interests in preventing war, in bringing it to rapid termination were it to break out, and in reducing the costs, risks, and burdens of the arms competition. Arms control has become a centerpiece of East-West relations, a principal means of managing those relations in a nonviolent way. It is in many ways the twin brother of civilian-based defense.
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