Monday, May 10, 2010

Human Society in Ethics and Politics, Part Two, Chapter VIII

Part Two, Chapter VIII (pages 222-227), “Conquest?”

Insecurity might cause either the West or the communist bloc to launch a war. If the conflict didn’t end in a draw, the remaining power could institute a world government. (Here Russell is going over some ground that he covered a few years earlier in Unpopular Essays, Chapter 3.) What if the Soviets won, and they established military control of the US and Western Europe? Russell does not think that they would be able to maintain quiet client states like those (at the time) in Eastern Europe. “The problem of holding down by force a very large and bitterly hostile population, such as that of the United States would be, is one which the resources of terrorism and secret police would soon find beyond their powers [p. 223].” So a global Soviet empire would collapse, but the thirst for revenge in the West would lead to a long period of turmoil. If, instead, the West were to win the initial encounter, nationalist passions would re-emerge in Russia and China, and the current tension would be back. There is not much hope that a great power war will bring a better world, even discounting the destruction and anarchy that it would involve. (Later, on page 226, Russell details the sort of anarchy and starvation that would develop after cities and industry are destroyed in the war – if mankind survives at all.) The hope for the future lies in cooperation between East and West, not in military conquest. An alliance between these great powers could establish a world government, though to make the institution fully global might require some use of force against smaller, recalcitrant states.

As a great power war would now be devastating, both East and West must be brought to believe that the other side, while fully capable of defensive action, has no interest in initiating an attack. “If both sides were convinced of this, genuine negotiations and a real diminution of tension would become possible [p. 225].” A toning down of hostile propaganda on both sides would be helpful in bringing about the conditions for cooperation. The removal of barriers to the flow of truthful information about the other side also would be a step in the right direction – blatant censorship in the Soviet Union does not imply that people in the West do not face some barriers to acquiring truthful information, too.

If a World War is inevitable, then every delay will render it more destructive, as the means for warfare advance. But rather than hope for a quick conflagration, Russell chooses to hope that statesmanship can develop sufficiently to prevent a major military conflict. “The measures required will be drastic, and will run counter to powerful prejudices, but perhaps the danger will nevertheless force their adoption [p. 227].”

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