“MANKIND must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.’’ The late former President of the United States John F Kennedy, uttered these fateful words in 1962. However, despite the best intentions, not a single world leader has been able to move the world significantly towards lasting world peace.
A study of the history of mankind is a study in the history of war. According to the estimates of a Swiss firm, in the past 5 500 years, there have been no fewer than 300 years without a recorded war. In the last century, for instance, the world was ravaged by two world wars, which took a heavy toll on human life and caused immense misery and suffering to mankind.
An editorial in the US News World Report noted: ‘The first World War claimed the lives of 10 million soldiers and 8 million civilians, with 20 million more civilians perishing due to war-related famine, disease and political unrest. The second World War caused the death of 17 million combatants and 48 million civilians.’
Military experts have warned that the blood that was shed during these two world wars would be a trickle compared to the torrent of blood that will flow if a third world war was to break out in this nuclear age.
People generally shun the topic of nuclear warfare because the horrific aftermath of a nuclear conflagration is so terrifying that most people don’t want to think or talk about it. People generally practise what one prominent psychiatrist termed “psychic numbing”. People recognise the threat of nuclear warfare, but rarely contemplate the consequences it holds for humanity.
The foregoing notwithstanding, however, consensus is widespread among serious-minded world leaders, scientists, clergymen et al that unless humanity undergoes a radical transformation in its basic thinking processes, nuclear war will come. And when it comes, it will be “a calamity unprecedented in human history” according to the US Office of Technological Assessment.
What boggles the mind, however, is that there are some people, who postulate that nuclear weapons will never be used in a war. They contend that the existence, proliferation and stock-piling of these weapons is a deterrent to a nuclear war. This line of thought is hollow, misguided and far removed from reality. The record of history shows that there is not a single weapon made by mankind, which was not eventually used on the battlefield.
It is important to stress that nuclear weapons are not the only weapons that can bring about the total annihilation of the human race. British scientist Robert Watson-Watt, the developer of radar, once said: “I am not optimistic the human race will survive. Apart from nuclear weapons, many nations, including the US, China, Russia, the UK have produced and stockpiled chemical and biological weapons. These ‘’doomsday’’ weapons have enough destructive potential to obliterate all life on earth.’’
He added that thousands of gallons of deadly nerve gas, which is odourless, tasteless and virtually invisible have been manufactured and stored in several countries: “A single drop of this nerve gas, if inhaled or applied on the skin, can kill instantly,’’ he said.
Speaking about biological weapons, Barry Commoner, a former director of Washington University’s Centre for Biology of Natural Systems, warned that chemical and biological weapons make nuclear weapons “look like child’s toy.”
He said: “A huge question mark hangs over the logic and advisability of using biological weaponry on an enemy nation.” Even the best-informed scientists are afraid that an all-out biological war might result in worldwide epidemics. No one can predict what would happen because such biological weapons have never been adequately tested in a war.
In the interim, the world has pinned the hope of human survival on the United Nations. World leaders hope that through talks, conferences, agreements and treaties ratified at this international forum, war will be abolished forever and peace will reign supreme throughout the world.
This optimism is bereft of realism. It is of paramount importance to note that when World War II ended in 1945, world leaders gathered in San Francisco to put their signatures to a document, which they hoped would help in ushering in world peace. The Charter of the United Nations, which saw the light of day in one of history’s most momentous ceremonies, held out the promise of a new world order with peace and prosperity for all
However, the UN, dubbed ‘The World’s Last Hope for Peace’ has, like its predecessor The League of Nations, ignominiously failed to end global wars and conflicts and establish lasting world peace. Since the UN was founded in 1945, the world has been ravaged by a myriad of wars and conflicts.
In a speech before the UN Special Session on Disarmament held on June 23, 1982, the then British Prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, noted: “There have been something like 140 conflicts fought with conventional weapons since the end of World War 11. In these conflicts, up to 10 million people have died.”
The world is today shaking with socio-economic and political convulsions, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the UN appears to be on the horns of a dilemma in terms of ending this bloody conflict and restoring peace in that region.
At the risk of being labelled an alarmist or a doomsday prophet, I must, however, point out that what has added a chilling dimension to the plight of mankind are the gloomy prognostications of numerous, farseeing scientists and world leaders that nuclear warfare is imminent.
They aver that mankind is doomed; that in the not-too-distant future, the earth will be rendered desolate and uninhabitable, as a result of nuclear warfare.
“We will all be dead and the earth will be an incinerated relic,’’ Noel-Baker, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, said.
- Cuthbert Mavheko is a freelance journalist based in Bulawayo. Contact Details: Phone 0773963448.