War Terrorism and Irrationality

The greatest danger to mankind and really the only one that is presently known to be absolutely life-threatening is deliberate global destruction. And it is a danger that becomes perpetually more formidable. In the Stone Age, tribal warfare occurred at a very local level, typically leading to only small numbers of casualties. But by the 8th millennium B.C. (Jericho), when agriculture permitted division of labor and political organization, war became nonlocal. In the third millennium B.C., the horse, and by the 17th century B.C., horse-drawn chariots, were introduced for warfare, while in Roman times, powerful catapults and siege machines were invented. By that time, the war dead numbered many thousands and in medieval times entire populations were slain.

With the Renaissance and the introduction of firearms, the number of war dead strongly increased. It is estimated that the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) caused 7 million military and civilian deaths. Due to large-scale mechanization and further technological advances (machine guns, tanks, and airplanes) there were 20 million war dead in the First World War and 56 million in the Second World War. And because of associated social and political catastrophes (collectivization and the Holocaust) the total death tolls were easily doubled. During these wars and afterwards, even more formidable weapons of mass destruction were created: chemical and biological as well as atomic weapons. Judging from the enormous advances of weapons technology, mankind will have to face still more powerful and deadly inventions in the future.

But it is not only war that constitutes the great danger; it is the mounting concentration of power put into the hands of a few individuals. Weapons of mass destruction could be found in the possession of fundamentalists, revolutionaries, dictators, bosses of criminal organizations, and of insane individuals. Today, the pressing of a red button would destroy continents by thermonuclear strikes or by massive biological and chemical attacks. Tomorrow, a similar button may endanger the whole of human civilization.

These internal dangers, which arise from ourselves, are particularly worrying, since mankind is faced with an incessant and unstoppable development toward more knowledge, and consequently vastly greater power. In view of the achievements of past centuries, what will we know in a few hundred or a few thousand years? With mankind set in its present ways, it is clear that before long our world is heading for a nightmare of possible destruction. How can we control this irrationality and irresponsibility? Only if we learn how to solidly control these destructive tendencies will mankind be able to survive even the next few centuries.

0 0

Post a comment