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"That the use of weapons ends, that wars stop..."

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"That the use of weapons ends, that wars stop..."

An Initiative Full of Life
by Mikhail Gorbachev

War or peace? This is really the ongoing dilemma that has persisted throughout the entire history of humanity. Across the centuries, throughout the unlimited development of literature, millions of pages have been dedicated to the subject of peace, to the vital necessity of its defense. People have always understood that, as George Byron said, war endangers both the roots and the crown.

But at the same time, wars have continued unchecked. In most cases, when disputes and conflicts arise, reasonable arguments have receded in the face of arguments favoring brute force. Furthermore, the legal norms elaborated in the past and still existing until recent times considered war to be the legal way to do politics. It is only recently in this century that there have been some changes. These have been more important since the appearance of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear arms.

At the end of the Cold War, through the common efforts of the east and the west, the terrible threat of war between the two world powers was removed. But since then, peace has not prevailed on earth. Wars continue to destroy tens and hundreds of thousands of human lives. They drain and ruin entire countries. They increase the instability of international relations. They set up obstacles on the road to resolving many of the problems of the past that should already have been resolved, and obstruct the resolution of current problems that should be easy to resolve.

Today, after having comprehended the inadmissability of nuclear war - whose significance we cannot minimize - we must take a new step, also of decisive importance: a step toward understanding the inacceptability of war itself as a way of resolving present and future problems. So that wars can be rejected and definitively excluded from policies of government. It is difficult to take this new and decisive step, very difficult. Because here we must speak on one hand of denouncing and neutralizing the interests that produce wars today, and on the other hand of overcoming the psychological predisposition of the people, and especially of the world political class, to resolving conflictive situations by force. To my way of thinking, the worldwide campaign for a World Without Wars, which began in 1995 with the objective of achieving at least one week without the use of armaments in the year 2000, represents an interesting possibility in moving toward the realization of these vital objectives. In fact, the actions planned for the term of the campaign - discussions, meetings, public presentations, publications - will allow the public disclosure of the real origins of current wars. This will show that the real reasons for these wars completely contradict the stated reasons, and that the motivations and justifications for these wars are false. It will show that these wars could have been avoided by sparing no effort in a patient and persistent search for peaceful solutions to the problems.In contemporary conflicts, wars are essentially based on national, ethnic and sometimes even tribal disputes. Often the factor of religious conflict enters in as well. In addition, there are the wars over territory and natural resources. In every case, indisputably, the conflicts could be resolved using political methods.

I am sure that the campaign for a World Without Wars and its planned program of actions will allow the addition of a great force of public opinion to the quenching of existing focal points of wars. In this way the role of society - especially of doctors, nuclear scientists, biologists, physicists - will consist not only in helping humanity understand the inadmissibility of nuclear war, but also in manifesting concrete actions that will remove this threat from our lives. That is to say: the potential of popular diplomacy is enormous. And this potential not only has not been exhausted, it has for the most part not even been tapped. It is of utmost importance to create conditions to avoid the installation of new focal points of war in the future. The existing intergovernmental institutions are no longer capable of achieving this, in spite of taking certain measures toward it (bearing in mind the European Security and Cooperation Organization, other religious organizations, and of course the United Nations, etc.).

It is obvious that this task is not easy. Because, in some measure, its resolution requires the renewal of politics in the internal life of people and governments, as well as modifications in relations between countries. As I understand it, the campaign for a World Without Wars is a worldwide campaign of dialog, within and outside of each country, across the barriers that separate them; of a dialog based on tolerance and supported by mutual respect; of a dialog capable of contributing to a change in political forms with an eye toward consolidating new and truly peaceful political methods for resolving existing problems. On the political plane, such a campaign is capable of creating interesting initiatives, directed toward establishing a common understanding for the building of a peaceful consciousness. This cannot help but be an influencial factor in official policy.

On the moral plane, the campaign for a World Without Wars can contribute to strengthening the meaning of rejecting violence and war as political instruments, leading to a more profound understanding of the value of life. The right to life is the principal right of the Human Being. On the psychological plane, this campaign will contribute to surpassing the negative traditions inherited from the past, strenghening human solidarity. That the use of weapons ends, that wars stop, at least for one week at the beginning of the year 2000, if it is an act of conscious choice by the people of the world, can have enormous symbolic significance. This will effectively demonstrate that humanity is able to make a conscious choice in favor of peace.

It is clear that it will be important for all nations, for all governments, for political leaders of all countries to understand and support the initiative for a World Without Wars, to guarantee a peaceful beginning for the 21st century. For this I make my appeal.

The future belongs to the book, not to the sword - so said the great humanist Victor Hugo. I believe that this will be so. But to accelerate the coming of this future, we need ideas, words and actions. The campaign World Without Wars is an example of such in the highest degree of noble action.


March 3, 1996


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