Why Hopes Grow for a “Generation of Peace”
STRANGE events are taking place in our time. And their true significance goes much deeper than their surface appearance.
No doubt you are aware of the surprising series of world changes that have happened in the short span of less than a year. Among these are:
● After twenty-two years, Communist China—controlling more than one fifth of earth’s total population—finally gained membership in the United Nations Organization. By late 1971 it had become one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
● For the first time in history, a U.S. president went to mainland China, making a “journey for peace” in February 1972. Trade, travel and communications barriers that have separated these nations for decades are steadily disappearing.
● A crucial four-nation agreement was signed to bring about freer and closer relations between East Germany and West Germany—divided since the close of World War II.
● At a Moscow summit conference in May 1972, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States officially ratified a series of agreements. The agreements included:
A joint U.S.–Soviet space flight projected for 1975.
Mutual exchange of scientific and technological data.
Cooperation in solving medical and public health problems.
Joint research and mutual effort to protect the human environment against growing pollution.
A pact aimed at preventing dangerous confrontations between the two nations’ naval vessels on the high seas.
And, of particular importance, an arms-control pact to curtail the costly nuclear arms race.
After signing these accords, the two superpowers soon began implementing them by major trade agreements, including a $750 million Russian purchase of U.S. grain. Negotiations also were completed for a multibillion-dollar deal between the Soviet Union and an American oil company to provide technical help in developing Russian oil and gas fields.
● Then, beginning in June 1972, there has been a period of unequaled diplomatic activity by the great powers. Their representatives have been hurriedly crisscrossing the earth from one capital to another. Hopes rose for a solution to the long and bloody Indochina conflict. India and Pakistan held a summit conference to settle their differences. At a meeting in Seoul, Korea, of the nine-nation Asian and Pacific Council, the majority of members manifested a changed attitude toward Communist China. The governments of North and South Korea surprised the world with announcement of an agreement on principles for unifying that divided land.
Something New Developing?
The dramatic moves by the United States, China and the Soviet Union toward what the French call rapprochement (a coming together in cordial relations) have stirred worldwide comment. Voices are heard in many nations expressing hope that something new may indeed be developing on a world scale.
An editorial in Life magazine said: “We seem just now to be standing at some great doorstep, all three nations, ready to trade our fiercer ideologies for common sense and common good.”
Writing in The Observer (London), Robert Stephens described President Nixon as having “set his international sights high, no less than laying the foundations of a new world order.”
Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin called the Moscow summit results “a victory for all peace-loving people because security and peace is the common goal.”
But why view these moves toward ensuring international peace and security as anything different from past efforts? What is unusual?
Consider, for example, what took place back in 1918 when World War I ended. Shocked by that war’s unprecedented slaughter, the nations determined: ‘It must not happen again.’ So they formed the League of Nations to ‘guarantee world peace and security.’ But nineteen years later it failed and an even greater conflict erupted. In the book Swords into Plowshares, Professor I. L. Claude, Jr., suggests a major reason for this failure was that “the League was created to prevent the outbreak of [another] World War I,” just as “the French Maginot Line was also built to win the battles of [another] World War I.” Thinking of the past, they did not foresee the new circumstances that brought about the second world conflict.
After World War II dwarfed the destructiveness of World War I and ended with atomic bombs exploding in Japan, the League of Nations was revived in the form of the United Nations Organization. According to its Charter, it, too, was to “maintain international peace and security” among the nations. But within a few years the major powers who were its principal formers—the United States, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China—were already seriously split, with an “iron curtain” separating East from West.
So where does the current peace effort differ from these?
Where the Difference Lies
First, unlike the League and the U.N., this peace drive has not come in the heat of global conflict nor in the immediate aftermath of global war, with the horrors of such slaughter fresh in mind as a moving force. This peace move is being pushed in a time of relative peace to ‘defuse’ the potentially explosive circumstances that could trigger all-out nuclear war.
This means, too, that it is not a case of victorious nations imposing their own peace arrangement on defeated and weakened foes unable to offer effective opposition. This, in fact, is what has caused many to express amazement over the recent developments.
On the one hand, they see the United States, vastly superior to China in wealth and nuclear power, taking a conciliatory attitude. They see its president, in effect, making a pilgrimage to Peking to attempt to draw the earth’s most populous nation out of isolation and into new avenues of communication and commercial relations.
And, on the other hand, the “Moscow Summit” saw the United States declare itself willing to accept a state of “nuclear parity” with the world’s second superpower, the Soviet Union. During the 1960’s the United States insisted on “nuclear superiority.” Now it talks only of “nuclear sufficiency.”
Calling it “the strangest summit meeting to date,” Time magazine pointed out that the Moscow summit took place despite the fact that the United States had just mined North Vietnam’s harbors and was steadily destroying its rail lines. Yet the Soviet press played down this all-out American effort to stop the flow of armaments to the Communist’s ally and played up Russian persistence in going ahead with the summit as a major achievement in its quest for peace.
There is, however, an even more distinctive factor about these peace movements, one with a significance few realize. What is this largely unnoticed but significant factor?
It has to do with religion.
You may object, “But what has religion to do with all this? Where has it entered the picture?” Consider the following evidence.
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Unusual moves toward international peace and security are now under way. What is their significance?