An Army of Hopeful Laymen

THE astonishing political revolutions taking place in Eastern European nations today seem to have caught most professional warriors (PWs) by surprise. (Definition of a professional warrior: anybody who genuinely likes the functions and profits of planning for war, or likes to engage in war, or likes reliving wars once they are over.) PWs weren't ready for the fact of millions of everyday East Europeans taking to the streets for a minimal-bloodshed kind of revolution. Without military advisers or PWs they overthrew a handful of totalitarian governments. En masse, the governed became unconsented.

That most unlikely of PWs, Dwight Eisenhower, knew of this possibility. He said a number of years ago, ``People want peace so much that someday governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.''

Most PWs tell hopeful laymen (HLs) that we need instruments of violence and suppression because one nation never knows what another nation will do. History has proved this so many times, they say. A nation must create offensive and defensive sciences of violence to survive the dominant and dark side of human nature, they say.

Most PWs insist that an individual, no matter what his or her nationality or education, will inevitably act in a destructive manner toward another individual. His nature dooms him; he can't help it. But put six, 12, or 600 HLs on two islands and some will inevitably become PWs, devise ``foreign policies,'' build defenses, and regard one other with great wariness if not actually engaging in war.

But Richard J. Barnet, in his book from the 1970s, ``Roots of War,'' suggests that foreign policy ``is more an expression of our own society than a programmed response to what other nations do.'' To be sure, outside events have a role ``in the shaping of the national interest,'' says Barnet, but our policies are ``primarily a reflection of American habits of mind, American fears, American hopes and American values.''

PWs insist the fault is human nature, not national values. Gerald A. Johnston, president of McDonnell Douglas Corporation, told the American Defense Preparedness Association last October that ``the wool is being pulled over millions of eyes'' by Gorbachev because the ``United States cannot afford to trust'' him.

Johnston said he believes historian and philosopher John Ney's conclusion about mankind. ``Let us not hoodwink ourselves with notions of perpetual peace and the millenium,'' wrote Ney. ``These only increase the danger of war, for they rest upon a misunderstanding of human nature. Men and women are not angels.''

My initial reaction is to respond, ``Largely bunk.'' But what do I know of Gorbachev except what he has said and done? What do I know of human nature, except my own, and that of my wife and daughter, and my mother and father, and my brothers and all relatives on both sides of the family, and a majority of friends from almost a half century spent in California. And my colleagues in Boston, and the millions of HLs in the United States who actively work for peace, and the tens of millions of East Europeans who eviscerated totalitarian governments with their feet and hearts more forcefully than weapons could have.

Mr. Johnston probably won't buy it. But maybe we are witnessing the first feeble steps of nations getting ready for a common assault on global enemies. Rid of totalitarian governments, are we not able to join in the attack on drugs, pollution, poverty, ignorance, famine, political corruption, and the pervasive fear of third-world countries that there isn't enough on Earth for everybody?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to An Army of Hopeful Laymen
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today