Six Conditions, Create Way to Peace

By Fahey, Joseph J. | National Catholic Reporter, October 20, 2006 | Go to article overview

Six Conditions, Create Way to Peace


Fahey, Joseph J., National Catholic Reporter


Peace scholars tell us that peace has in fact been the dominant human experience and that war--rather than the rule--is an aberration in human affairs. Nor is war very old. War becomes possible with the advent of territoriality (agriculture) about 10,000 years ago and begins to develop with the rise of cities about 5,000 years ago.

Peace research tells us that peace between states is possible under six conditions. The first three of these conditions are informal or citizen-based initiatives: athletic competition, intellectual discourse and artistic celebrations. The next three are formal or government-based actions: trade agreements, diplomatic recognition and international alliances.

Hence, if a nation wishes to have peaceful relations with another nation, it will encourage the exchange of athletes, artists and scholars, while pursuing trade, diplomacy and international law as guarantors of peace. Consequently when conflicts between states arise, there are many cultural, economic, diplomatic and legal alternatives to war as a method of dispute resolution. Communication is the first stage of peace.

Conversely, if a nation seeks war with another nation it will prevent athletes, intellectuals and artists from visiting the targeted nation. Then it will break trade agreements, remove its diplomats and withdraw from international treaties. War can easily develop since there are no peaceful constraints to hold it back. Refusal to communicate is the first stage of war.

These six conditions for peace have been found in ancient, classical, medieval and contemporary relations between states. Although these conditions vary according to time and culture, peace between states cannot exist without most of them being in place.

Perhaps there is no better illustration of this path to peace than the European Union. War has dominated European history for several millennia. Wars were fought between the Celts and the Romans, between Catholics and Protestants, and between the numerous nation states that emerged in the 16th century. The Latin maxim "Si vis pacem para bellum" ("If you wish peace, prepare for war") led many a nation down the path to war, not peace. Knights, fortresses and continuous bloodshed were used to make "peace," but greater wars always resulted.

The bloodshed and slaughter in Europe came to a head in the Great War of the 20th century (1914-45). Nine million people were killed in the first phase of this war (1914-18) and 50 million people were killed in the second phase (1939-45). …

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