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Preparing for Peace

The website of the Westmorland General Meeting 'Preparing for Peace' initiative





The military-industrial-scientific complex.

President Eisenhower pointed out that the very existence of the military, and the industry that supported it, increased the probability of war. This “military-industrial-scientific complex which he identified is supported by both external and internal forces:

  • Externally, citizens see the complex as necessary for their security. Politicians allow their reputations to be associated with the country’s military strength. The public sees the arms industry as essential to the economy and employment.
  • Internally, there are forces keeping the whole structure going, such as the career ambitions of individuals. Patriotism and loyalty are ingrained by tradition and adopted by scientists and industrialists to defend their activities.
  • Self-deception. While many members of the three arms of the complex genuinely believe that what they are doing is for the good of mankind, or at least of their country, others conceal what they are doing from others, even from themselves. Thus an arms dealer called what he was doing “Intercontinental Technology” and claimed that he was satisfying “consumer needs”. He admitted that he avoided thinking about the human consequences of his trade.
  • Moreover, the three elements of the complex support each other. Each nation seeks to deploy weapons superior to those of its rivals. Scientists are employed to devise better weapons. The military request more and better weapons and have to approve the products scientists come up with. Development is long, costly and risky, so governments offer special terms to the arms industry. These are partly covered by selling arms to other countries. Secrecy  is involved at every stage, and so the accountability of governments is hard to establish.


How can people relinquish the willingness to go to war?

Two factors are necessary for war to take place:

·        arms to fight with,

·        individuals willing to use them.

Every war is the result of a network of inter-acting causes. One way of reducing the frequency of war would be to identify the causes common to many wars, and to eliminate them. The fact that this is a very difficult task does not mean that it should not be pursued: a reduction in just one of the causal factors would reduce the probability of armed conflict.

  • At the individual level.  Education, first of parents, so that children grow up with pro-social values, low aggressiveness, and an ability to evaluate government propaganda. But parents cannot be expected to bring up children as pro-social and co-operative individuals unless they are themselves living in a reasonably secure environment. This means that a major effort to reduce world poverty is needed. This in turn requires a reduction in wealth differentials and a fairer distribution of the earth’s resources. This would remove some of the factors that pre-dispose individuals to violence and which trigger and justify its use.
  • At the group level. Attachment to one’s group is an essential part of society and arises from a fundamental aspect of human nature. But loyalty to one’s group can be de-coupled from a readiness to demonise others.

Three issues could profitably be considered here:

o       Education can foster understanding and tolerance of the beliefs and customs of others.

o       Efforts must be made to reduce differences between groups with potential rivalries. An obvious example   here is single-faith schools.

o       Competition between groups could be reduced by a more equitable distribution of resources.


   At the international level. Efforts must be made to discourage nationalism without diminishing patriotism.

    • The power of the military-industrial-scientific complex must be diminished. This does not necessarily mean immediate and total disarmament – the need for defence will remain for many years to come. Peace education could help here. So could education to encourage independence of thought in order to lessen the power of propaganda.
    • Industrial conversion to peaceful purposes has proved difficult but still should not be impossible. Efforts are being made already by the Pugwash Organisation to discourage young scientists from taking jobs in the arms industry.
    • The Arms trade.  This is the Achilles heel of the whole complex. As noted above, armaments industries depend on foreign sales to reduce their development costs, and these sales make wars possible between their customers. Stricter and international control over the arms trade would be an enormous step.


Discouraging people from going to war requires action of many kinds. But the underlying theme that unites all these actions has seldom been better expressed than in the Russell-Einstein manifesto which led to the formation of the Pugwash movement:

 Remember your humanity and forget the rest.

Session 4