another way to security?

Jonathan Schell's new work, "The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People," proposes a "revolution against violence" in world politics, but he doesn't explain how we are to get there given the current realities of power and opinion in America. Otherwise, judging from the account of the NYTImes review, by Richard Falk, Schell is not merely an idealist. He doesn't depend upon a moral argument to challenge "the strong linkage between national security and war that has dominated both political consciousness and international relations for centuries." His argument seems to be pragmatic.

The book mounts perhaps the most impressive argument ever made that there exists a viable and desirable alternative to a continued reliance on war and that the failure to seize this opportunity will bring catastrophic results to America and the world [my italics].
Schell neither begins nor ends his argument as a pacifist.
The book is infused with the Gandhian ethos of nonviolence as theory and practice, and yet Mr. Schell tells us that although he had wondered whether the process of writing this book had turned him into a pacifist, he decides not: "The difficulty of the creed for me was not the root of the word, pax, but its suffix, ist, — suggesting that one rule was applicable to all imaginable situations."

But more significantly, he adds, a preoccupation with an unconditional renunciation of violence is not integral to his argument, which is to insist that there exists a growing presence, "fostered by historical events, of an alternative" to war, and he explicates and persuasively links his inquiry with his greatest forebear, William James, and his advocacy of "the moral equivalent of war."

Warning of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, "The Unconquerable World," offers a suggestive blend of hope and despair. In Mr. Schell's words, "Arms and man have both changed in ways that, even as they imperil the world as never before, have created a chance for peace that is greater than ever before."

But only if we find a real press and a regime change, at home - soon.

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Published on May 24, 2003 7:58 PM.

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