A quixotic dream

Faisal C.K

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in his memoirs, India Wins Freedom, recalls an interesting anecdote. Gandhiji visited Viceroy Lord Linlithgow in 1940 when Europe was immersed in World War II. Gandhiji persuaded the Viceroy to give up arms and oppose Hitler with spiritual power. ‘’When Gandhiji told Lord Linlithgow that the British should give up arms and oppose Hitler with spiritual power, Lord Linlithgow was taken aback by what he regarded an extraordinary suggestion. It was normally his practice to ring the bell for an ADC to come and take Gandhiji to his car. On this occasion he was so surprised that he neither rang bell nor said goodbye. The result was that Gandhiji walked away from a silent and bewildered Viceroy and had to find out to his car all by himself.’’ 

          The daunting sound of war drums is invoking a mass paranoia in India nowadays. India and Pakistan are indulging in fratricidal clashes.  But nobody floats extraordinary suggestions as Gandhiji did. In this juncture, let us ponder a little bit over the meaninglessness of the jingoistic patriotism and the pyrrhic nature of war. And dream a world devoid of arms, army and war!

          Leo Tolstoy humorously demonstrated the hollowness of the militaristic vainglory in his short story titled Ivan the Fool. It is the story of the three brothers- Simeon the soldier, Tarras the merchant and Ivan the fool. All of them became kings in three different countries. The jealous old Devil was hell-bent to ruin the bothers. Simeon was succumbed to his militaristic ambitions and Tarras to his greed for money. But the old Devil was hapless with Ivan whose subjects were all fools. The devil instigated Ivan to raise an army. But Ivan saw no purpose in army.

          The Devil instigated the king of Tarakan to invade Ivan’s kingdom. The Tarakan army marched to the frontier provided with arms and ammunitions. The Tarakan army was astonished to see that Ivan had no army. Ivan’s people welcomed the Tarakan army and hosted them. The soldiers found it dull work, and they came to the king and said: ‘’we cannot fight here. War is alright, but what is this? It is like cutting pea-soup! We will not make war here anymore.”

          The king ordered to destroy the villages and burn the grain and the houses. But the fools offered no resistance and only wept. At last the soldiers were fed up. They refused to go any further, and the army disbanded and fled. Thus Simeon’s kingdom with great army ruined and Ivan’s kingdom without a single soldier survived!

          Tolstoy’s argument that a state could survive without army may look naïve. But it is not impractical. One such luminous example is Liechtenstein, a small principality in Europe.  After the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the army of Liechtenstein marched home. Popular legend claims that 80 men went to war but 81 came back-the army had befriended an enemy! In 1868 Liechtenstein disbanded its army of 80 men and declared its permanent neutrality, which was maintained during both World Wars. When Andreas Kieber, last surviving soldier of Liechtenstein, retired from the army, his wax statue was made and the statue is the sole eternal guard of the principality!

          Costa Rica is an adorable example of a big country prospering without an army. Seventy-one years ago, they have disbanded their army. Result has been awesome. Costa Rica’s neighbourhood is always marred with poverty and chaos. Yet Costa Rica remains an island of political stability, economic prosperity and contentment. The country’s secret is that they have no army to squander money for. It has pumped the savings from defence spending to improve education, health care and a durable social safety net. Costa Rica ranked first in Latin America and 13 the in world in happiness, according to the 2018 World Happiness Index. It also enjoys a standard of living that is about double that of other Central American nations.

          Costa Rica’s experiment without a military began in 1948 to spend more for education and health. The outcome has been wonderful. Costa Rica leads the Latin American and Caribbean region in health and primary education. It has the second lowest infant mortality rate after Chile and a 98% literacy rate. Costa Rica as having the best health care system in Central America and 36th best in the world as per the WHO records. But countries like India are ruthlessly spoiling their scarce resources for vainglorious game of war and military while their people are remaining starving, sick and illiterate. They should learn from Costa Rica.

          The border between Costa Rica and Panama became the only non-militarized frontier in the world after Panama followed Costa Rica’s pacifism and abolished its military in 1989.

          As Liechtenstein, Costa Rica and 13 other nations of the world sloughed off their military forces, can the whole world get rid of the onerous paraphernalia of military forces and perennial threat of war, for ever? It may sound quite quixotic. But when Jules Verne conceived Moon landing in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, it was more quixotic. If man could achieve Moon landing, why not a world without war and military? First step in this direction should be criminalisation of war.

          In eighteenth and nineteenth century America, dueling was a popular way to resolve disputes. A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two persons, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules. Duels in this form were practiced in early modern Europe and continued into the modern period (19th to early 20th centuries).

           Men, hoping to defend their honour, turned to dueling to settle the score. Interestingly, the majority of duels in America were fought by lawyers and politicians. Andrew Jackson, who became the seventh president of the United States, killed a man who accused him of cheating on a horse race bet and then insulted his wife, in a duel in 1806. Jackson was not prosecuted for murder, nor did it affect his successful campaign for the presidency in 1829. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President Aaron Burr killed former Treasury secretary and founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

          By the natural growth of civilization, duels became illegal in the countries where they were practiced. War is duel between countries. Duel and war have same logical premises. If duel is illegal, then why not war?

           Criminalise war, formalise international law, set up a global government with an international police force to maintain law and order among the community of nations and a meaningful international court for adjudicating among them – this is the only way out for the survival of mankind. The development of human organisation started with the family; then clans and tribes, then feudal states and national states. The next logical stage in the development is a global state comprising the whole humanity. If it does not happen, it means mankind is stymied. The proliferation of nuclear and other disastrous weapons makes the thinking and movement in this direction absolutely necessary.

          Bertrand Russell, in his essay The Future of Mankind, reached the same conclusion. Barring major unforeseen events, Russell says, there are three possible fates for the humanity by near future (1) human life, and possibly all life, finished off by nuclear and other disastrous weapons; (2) return to the Stone Age after a massive depopulation; (3) a single world government controlling weapons of mass destruction. In case of a nuclear apocalypse, Russell prophesied-“Although the last survivor may proclaim himself universal Emperor, his reign will be brief and his subjects will all be corpses. With his death the uneasy episode of life will end, and the peaceful rocks will revolve unchanged until the sun explodes.’’ The only option open to avoid first two possibilities is to materialise the third possibility- a world government committed to eliminating the scourge of war.

                So the Quixotes of the World unite; you have nothing to lose but your fears and prejudices! You have a world without soldiers and wars to win! Pray then like this: “Ivan the Fool, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’’ Surely a kingdom of Ivan the Fool would be far better than a kingdom of Ivan the Terrible.

Faisal CK is an independent researcher with graduation in law and post-graduation in political science. He writes on Philosophy, Law, and Diplomacy.

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