January 31, 2019
IT has been predicted by the nuclear scientists that in the event of war between Pakistan and India, as an un-intended consequence, the atomic smoke (radio-active fall-out) will cover the entire earth within two weeks rising to the altitude of 20 to 50 miles above the earth which will stay there for several years. Due to severe lack of temperature, the world would be deprived of 30 to 40% of wheat, corn and rice for years. Nearly two billion people are expected to die of starvation across the globe. With temperature plunging below ice age conditions, no crops will grow and 90% population will starve to death within a few years of war. Hence a full-scale nuclear war in future even between smaller countries will spell disaster of the entire world and, perhaps, extinction of the human race.
It is an irony that world’s eyes are focused more on North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and South China Sea as flashpoints for future nuclear war, but little notice is taken of the severe tension between Pakistan and India, both neighbours and nuclear powers (laced with atomic war-heads 70 times stronger than those dropped on Japan) who have more than once engaged in full scale wars, and even today Kashmir dispute has the potential to escalate nuclear conflagration on any grave or flimsy provocation. Military skirmishes are a daily routine, and one never knows which move may spark off the nuclear war. The irony is that both countries are non-signatories to CTBT and are answerable to none but to their conscience and to their people. If, God forbid, any insane step is taken by any of the leaders driven more by sentiments and less by rational considerations, the resulting escalation will lead to total annihilation where nobody will know who won and who lost.
War has been admitted as an evil throughout the history. It is built in human psyche to fight for one’s rights. In ancient times, despite regarding war as an evil, its justification has been found under certain conditions even by the most moralist of prophets, sages and philosophers. The three major divisions in the ethics of war are: the realist, the pacifist and the just war theory. The realists believe that war is essential to preserve the morals and ethics of a society. Machiavelli, Thucidided and Hobbes were the exponents of this school. Pacifism however, maintains that a moral evaluation of war is possible, and that war is always found to be immoral, since war causes more damage and results in killing of human beings. Such believers advocate pacifistic diplomatic methods instead of war. Advocates of non-violence hold that war is always found to be immoral. Mohandas K Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Leo Tolstoy were all famous advocates of power of truth, lawfulness, soft power, non-violent resistance and civil disobedience methods as weapons instead of war.
Just war theory, along with pacifism, holds that morals do apply to war. However, unlike pacifism, according to just war theory it is possible for a war to be morally justified. The concept of a morally justified war underlies much of the concept of International Law, such as the Geneva Conventions. Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, St Aquinas etc, who are among the philosophers who have espoused some form of a just war philosophy. One common just war theory evaluation of war is that war is only justified if (1) Waged in a state or nation’s self-defence, or (2) Waged in order to end gross violations of human rights. Einstein was a lifelong pacifist. With his characteristic humour he once said, “ I do not know with what weapons World War-III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” By which he meant that WW-III will obliterate human civilization.
All philosophers and political thinkers are one in saying that war is an abominable evil but have at the same time justified it under certain conditions. In recent days we have seen that the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War begun by the United States have often been justified under the doctrine of pre-emption and to prevent further attacks such as those of September 11, 2001. The horrific tragedy of America dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945 sent a wave of terror across the world which abruptly changed the traditional concept of war, and alerted all nations to avoid war at any cost. There have been tremendous fear and hatred of war after the first atomic war. Modern war and its gruesome consequences do provide a deterrence against the war.
Most people argue that nuclear weapons have made the world relatively safer, with peace through deterrence. It has also been argued that nuclear weapons have created a nuclear peace, and further nuclear weapons proliferation might even help avoid the large scale conventional wars that were so common prior to the end of World War-II. The modern two notable philosophers ie. Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky are also opposed to war, but they justify the ‘just wars.’ Russell is a utilitarian and considers that war is justified if it is for the good of mankind as a whole and if it could lead to peace. He even justified colonization by the British on this principle. Noam Chomsky is opposed to war because it results in innocent killings. All nuclear disarmament and anti-proliferation Treaties initiated during President Reagan’s time with Russia and other countries have fairly reduced the chances of spread of nuclear race among countries but have not helped reduction of nuclear warheads of those countries who had already gained nuclear capability. Through these treaties the nuclear powers have only retained their hegemony over non nuclear powers. But the fear of future atomic war still looms large as before.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.