rn: re: UN, peace “force”… quoting Camus


Jan Slakov

Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 11:07:25 -0400
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: rn> re: UN, peace "force", etc...[posting of Aug. 11]

Dear Richard,

Quite right, the UN is a limited and flawed instrument for peacemaking and
peacekeeping. Linda Melvern in "The Ultimate Crime - Who Betrayed the UN
and Why" (Allison & Busby London, 1995) being one of its sharper critics.

For now the UN is still an assembly of nations, that is of governments,
rather than of people. Thousands of NGOs are still on the outside looking
in. Most critically, the UN does not have its own tax base and is
financially dependent on the largesse of individual governments and open to
manipulation. In this context, the rapidly expanding organization  ATTAC in
France, has been arguing for the past two years successfully for the
taxation of international financial transactions. Some day we may have
something like the "Tobin Tax" to provide the UN with an independent income. 

I agree, it is futile and potentially counter productive to talk in the
abstract about a regime for holding peace, without constant reality check.
I personally subscribe to Albert Camus' belief that "the struggle in the
coming years will be between violence and friendly persuasion". Thus, we of
Peace Brigades International, send unarmed teams into conflict situations
to protect community activists against death squads. Admittedly, this is a
drop in the bucket and works, so far, only in a limited way, especially in
situations such as Colombia. Consequently, we are arguing for the creation
of a Non-Violent Peace Force at the UN level - knowing full well the
current limitations of the UN. 

Also true, the roots of armed conflict are in many respects economic. The
question seems to be how we wage this conflict, violent or non-violent.
Even in countries such as Canada (rated number one in the world for all
round livability) there is conflict and will continue to be conflict, in
some measure. It is thus encouraging to see that people struggling for
social justice are increasingly using the strategies and tactics of

Best wishes.

[Jan:] Dear Hans and others on RN,

How interesting! Earlier I was thinking of quoting from Camus' _Neither
Victims Nor Executioners_ as well (in explaining why I feel that we must
develop, even now, the tools to "wage peace" nonviolently).

Like Hans, Camus lived through the Second World War. If the war had gone on
any longer, I suppose Hans might have ended up in deadly combat against
people like Camus. As it was, when the war ended Hans met some Italian
soldiers, who had not undergone the same ghastly training as Hans had been
subjected to, and he sensed he could do with some re-education. He caught
the first boat he could out of Germany and we here in Canada are very lucky
that it landed here! And so it is that I have had the pleasure of meeting
Hans and of corresponding with him over many years, and now of discovered we
have both been marked by that marvellous essay of Camus'. 

I'll copy some from it, for it states so eloquently why one might do
something as apparently foolhardy as try to create unarmed peace brigades to
intervene in areas of violent conflict, (which Hans has been closely
involved in and which I 
have also contributed to as well).

From the first part of: _Neither Vicitms Nor Executioners_:

The Century of Fear

        The 17th century was the century of mathematics, the 18th that of
the phyical sciences, and the 19th that of biology. Our 20th century is the
century of fear. I will b told that fear is not a science. But science must
be somewhat involved since its latest theoretical advances have brought it
to the point of negating itself while its perfected technology threatens the
globe itself with destruction. ...

...then [we] must first of all come to terms with fear.

        To come to terms, one must understand what fear implies and what it
rejects. It implies and rejects the same fact: a world where murder is
legitimate, and where human life is considered trifling. This is the great
political question of our times, and before dealing with other issues, one
must take a position on it. Before anything can be done, two questions must
be put; "Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to be killed or
assaulted? Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to kill or
assault?" All those who say No to both these questions are automatically
committed to a series of consequences which must modify their way of posing
the problem. My aim here is to clarify tow or three of these consequences.

[Now, quoting from the end of the essay:]

Towards Sociability 

        Yes, we must raise up our voices. Up to this point, I have refrained
from appealing to emotion. We are being torn apart by the logic of History
which we have elaborated in every detail - a net which threatens to strangle
us. It is not emotion which can cut through the web of a logic which has
gone to irrational lengths, but only reason which can meet logic on its own
ground. But I should not want to leave the impression, in concluding, that
any program for the future can get along without our powers of love and

        To conclude: All i ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world,
we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can
distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves
or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all
their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually
exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five
continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be
pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle which, granted,
the former has a thousand times the chances of success of the latter. But I
have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool,
he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth,
the only honourable course will be to stake everything on a formidable
gamble: that words are more pwerful than munitions. 

(translated by Dwight Macdonald)

[For those who are interested, here is the last bit as it was written by Camus:]

 Vers le dialogue

        Oui, il faudrait élever la voix. Je me suis défendu jusqu'à présent
de faire appel aux forces su sentiment. Ce qui nous broie aujourd'hui, c'est
une logique historique que nous avons créé de toutes pièces et dont les
noeuds finiront par nous étouffer. Et ce n'est pas le sentiment qui peut
trancher les noeuds d'une logique qui déraisonne, mais seulement une raison
qui raisonne dans les limites qu'elle se connaît. Mais je ne voudrais pas,
pour finir, laisser croire que l'avenir du monde peut se passer de nos
forces d'indignation et d'amour....

        Je puis maintenant conclure. Tout ce qui me paraît désirable, en ce
moment, c'est qu'au milieu du monde du meurtre, on se décide à réfléchir au
meurtre et à choisir. Si cela pouvait se faire, nous nous partagerions alors
entre ceux qui acceptent à la rigueur d'être des meurtriers et ceux qui s'y
refusent de toutes leurs forces. Puisque cette terrible division existe, ce
sera au moins un progrès que de la rendre claire. A travers cinq continents,
et dans les années qui viennent, une interminable lutte va se poursuivre
entre la violence et la prédication. Et il est vrai que les chances de la
première sont mille fois plus grandes que celles de la dernière. Mais j'ai
toujours pensé que si l'homme qui espérait dans la condition humaine était
un fou, celui qui désespérait des événements était un lâche. Et désormais,
le seul honneur sera de tenir obstinément ce formidable pari qui décidera
enfin si les paroles sont plus fortes que les balles.

all the best, Jan