Einstein on Peace
by Gary Sloan (e-mail: GSloan@liberator.net) [September 28th, 2002]

Poor Albert Einstein. How he must toss in his grave as the Bush administration preps the world for a peremptory strike on Iraq “to make the world secure and safe.”

“Peace can never be secured by threats, but only by an honest attempt to create mutual trust.”

In the last two decades of his life, Einstein was an indefatigable paladin for world peace. Militant nationalism he deemed the bane of civilization. As the sanguinary history of belligerents attests, wars rarely procure lasting peace. They customarily exacerbate enmities and perpetuate cycles of retributive violence. Typically, the motives for war are labyrinthine and morally opaque. Belligerents are prone to demonize the enemy and to invoke self-defense.

Recipient in 1948 of the One World Award, Einstein crusaded for a potent international organization to adjudicate all conflicts between nations. Comprising representatives from every constituent nation, the organization would be empowered by a constitution approved by all. The unequivocal support of the nuclear powers was essential to the viability of this world government.

So was the big stick. With nothing but paper bullets, the organization could be subverted by recalcitrant nations. All member nations were voluntarily to divest themselves of their armed forces and to contribute soldiers and weaponry to the organization. It alone would have the disposition of offensive weapons.

Nations would mutually inspect methods and installations for the production of weapons. They would freely exchange technical and scientific information with military ramifications.

Nationalism, Einstein maintained, breeds in citizens a propensity for aggression and a perilous assumption of moral superiority.

He reasoned thus: “So long as the individual state, despite its official condemnation of war, has to consider the possibility of engaging in war, it must influence and educate its citizens—and its youth in particular—in such a way that they can easily be converted into efficient soldiers in the event of war. Therefore it is compelled not only to cultivate a technical-military training and mentality but also to implant a spirit of national vanity in its people to secure their inner readiness for the outbreak of war.”

That kind of education, Einstein felt, undermines all efforts to establish moral authority for a supranational security organization.

Einstein encountered massive resistance in his adopted country. Many Americans in the ‘40s and ‘50s, as now, distrusted a world government, especially one invested with military might. They feared unscrupulous powermongers would bend it to their own malevolent wills and, in the process, undermine American interests at home and abroad. Stripped of its puissant firepower, the nation couldn’t protect itself from these forces for ill. We would lose our liberty, independence, prosperity, unfettered pursuit of happiness. We would no longer be a moral beacon to benighted lands.

Why, indeed, should America relinquish its geopolitical and economic hegemony by disarming itself?

Einstein had a simple—some will say simplistic—answer.

America seeks peace, does it not? “A person or a nation,” Einstein wrote, “can be considered peace loving only if it is ready to cede its military force to the international authorities and to renounce every attempt to achieve its interests abroad by the use of force. Peace can never be secured by threats, but only by an honest attempt to create mutual trust.”

Should Einstein have stuck to relativity? The question isn't necessarily rhetorical.

Resources and Avenues for Further Study

  • Waging Peace: Albert Einstein
  • American Institute of Physics: Einstein Speaks on Nuclear Weapons and World Peace
  • Google: Science: Physics: History: People: Einstein, Albert

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