War has always been a fascinating anthropological problem. A culture’s attitude to war determines in a funda¬mental way its construction of the self and its relation to the other. Defeat in war, or even victory, can virtually generate a crisis in the structure of a society’s categories of percep¬tion. For instance, in recent times, two events have called into question the very basis of modern technocracy as a mode of thought.
The first episode was the success of guerilla warfare. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu marked, in a manner, the end of Orientalism as a stable discourse. The ‘savage-peasant’ and the ‘mandarin’ escaped from the confines of the text to inflict on a modern military force a devastatingly traumatic defeat. The Ameri¬can experience in Vietnam was an escalation of this same con¬flict. The writings of Frances Fitzgerald (Fire in the Lake) and, more particularly, Michael Elliot Bateman (Defeat in the East) are fasci¬nating attempts to understand guerilla warfare as alternative technology, with its accom¬panying theory of communica¬tion and organization. The other crisis of modern techno-cracy arose from the opposite end of the spectrum and centres around the problem of nuclear armaments.
The three books under review are succinct but limited at¬tempts to describe how techno¬cratic societies think through war. The first is a lucid and almost didactic analysis by the British zoologist, Solly Zucker¬man. Lord Zuckerman, a character out of CP. Snow, was scientific adviser to the British Government and his everyman’s guide to nuclear war stems from this experience. The second book, by Carl Jacobsen, a sovietologist and defence consultant, arose out of a Canadian University of the Air television series. The evidence presented by the first two writers suggests that a de-escalation of the arms race demands a radical break with technocratic thought. The authors show how the conven¬tional logic of the nation state, of military strategy, of man¬agement rationality, of the scientific imperative, are grossly inadequate to contain the violence of the atom staat. While they are successful in describing the technocratic paradigm in crisis, Zuckerman and Jacobsen stop short of outlining or even suggesting the need for rethinking on the problems of knowledge, lang¬uage or power. Such tentative beginnings are made in the third book, an anthology edited by Mary Kaldor and Dan Smith. It is a modest collection of studies describing Europe’s attempt to break away from the schizogenetic scenarios of the armament race. Smith is a member of the END (European Nuclear Dis¬armament) Committee, while Mary Kaldor, better known to Indian audiences through The Disintegrating West, is a Fellow of the Science Policy unit at Sussex. The first part of the review will follow Zuckerman and Jacobsen’s attempt to unravel the struc¬ture of the arms race, and the second, Europe’s efforts to break away from the coerciveness of NATO, not only as a system of politics but as a mode of thought.
The scenario of nuclear war conventionally begins with the stolid architecture of a bipolar world. One would expect ideo¬logy to play an important role, but Jacobsen brushes it brusquely aside, beginning instead with the pathology called the nation-state. He argues that impelling the race to nuclear death is the mindset of nineteenth century national¬ism. Ideology, he argues, pro¬vides merely the idiom rather than the logic of the discourse, masking the imperial ambi¬tions of a Reagan or a Brezhnev. Each country preaches a new colonial version of the zone of influence theory; each speaks a dialect of the manifest destiny rhetoric of nineteenth century imperia¬lism. One feels that the dis¬missal of ideology is a trifle peremptory and one is also left undecided as to whether ideology would be a restrain¬ing or an escalating factor in the nuclear race.
Once ideology recedes from the analyses, the logic of the convergence thesis comes into play. Both writers show that the technocratic imperative is far more insidious than nationalist rhetoric, and it is in analysing its internal dyna¬mic that both writers are at their best. We begin with the USA: In America, the con¬scious divorce between mili-tary and civil power has given way to incestuous cohabita¬tion.’ Managers of industrial firms serve as advisers to defence departments, while Pentagon officials retire to second careers in military industrial concerns. In the USSR, the technocratic beast has a different genealogy but the consequences are the same. Jacobsen shows that the mili-tary and the party are both in¬terlocking parts of one struc¬ture. The third component of this directorate in both coun-tries is the scientist, and we have to confront the fact that over 50 per cent of scientists today work for the military-industrial complex. By 1975, in both the USA and the USSR, over 750,000 scientists were involved in military pur-suits of one form or other. The number of people directly paid by defence ministries exceeded 100 million. Today, as a result, ‘the military-technological tail wags the political dog’.
The consequences of such a vested interest in defence are awesome. There is little or no independent criticism of the economics or rationale of defence programmes. In the USA, neither the Department of Defence nor the Congress has recommended the cancel¬lation of a single military procurement programme. The Lockheed affair, where the US administration bailed out an industrial concern by forcing one of its allies to buy the aircraft, reveals its attitude to the continuing health of the military industrial complex. The atmosphere of scientific military planning is even more devoid of criticism in Soviet Russia.
The third fact we have to con¬front is the escalating eco¬nomy of all technological pro¬grammes. Zuckerman states it as
an inexorable law that one cannot find any examples, except in small arms ammunition, where the application of more science and technology has reduced the cost of individual weapons.
Each new generation within a class of weapons costs more than its predecessor: a Jaguar costs three times a Hurricane, a Tornado jet forty times a World War II Spitfire. To this we add the first of a series of cumulating ironies. The in¬creasing investment in defence has not brought about an increase in security, each in¬novation being nullified by its consequent response. In absolute terms we face the fact that from the seventies, both USA and Russia confront each other from positions of mutually assured destruction (MAD) and possess, in terms of number and variety of weapons and delivery vehicles, adequate weapons to destroy any conceivable choice of second strike targets. It is a position of absolute over¬kill. The sheer fact of redun¬dancy is demonstrated by Zuckerman when he states that any one of the older Polaris missiles carried more destruc¬tion than all the armaments used in World War II.
Yet what is even more frighten¬ing is the fact that the military today fails to understand the ‘ontological difference’ between nuclear and conventional war¬fare: that, while there is a limit to what ordinary bombing or napalm can do, there is none to the destruction of a nuclear attack. The danger lies in the fact that the military sees the two modes of warfare as a continuum.
Zuckerman cites the case of NATO generals like Norstad and Montgomery.; Norstad contended that any Soviet intrusion which could not be repelled by conventional means would trigger massive retaliation by nuclear weapons. Equally simplistically, Mont¬gomery insisted, T will strike first and seek permission after-wards’. The eerie logic of nuclear war has transformed World War II heroes into stupid schoolboys. Zuckerman adds that most military scena¬rios still think of nuclear war in terms of the metaphor of the boxing ring, with blow and counter-blow, feint and coun¬ter-feint, with a referee provid¬ing some notion of restraint. Such scenarios fail to account for the atmosphere of mistrust within which war operates today, or the possibility of an accidental hit on a nuclear installation. In an atmosphere of paranoia, neither enemy would wait for the other to apologize or to gauge the actual intentions of the aggressor.
Confounding this even further is the ersatz rationality of decision-making scenarios, particularly reflected in their use of language. The rise of acronyms, neologisms, game theories, the reduction of everything to number, presents a false picture of control. It is the language of management which reveals in particular the Alice-in-Wonderland logic of this Frankenstein world. A sense of almost unconscious irony pervades these books. One gradually feels that Rube Goldberg cartoons and MAD magazine comic strips turn out to be finer assessments of decision-making than the pon¬derous tomes of management experts talking of ‘worst case dynamics’ and conflict resolu¬tion. Exposure to this jargon should hopefully perform a vital function, which is to demonstrate the innate hollowness of the scientific-military world. In fact, both authors tend to emphasize the scienti¬fic imperative as the ‘villain of the peace’. For once there are no hygienic distinctions between science and techno¬logy or pure science and applied science. It is the scientific technological impera¬tive that fuels the arms race. As Zuckerman flatly states,
the irrationality of the whole process is the fact that ideas for a new weapons system derive in the first place, not from the military but from different groups of scientists and technologists who are concerned to replace or improve old weapons system.
Zuckerman admits that this is nothing new, but one wis¬hes he had explored the logical consequence of science as cognitive violence. Is science man’s last virus?
There is another unconscious irony that pervades these two books. The language of mana¬gement has depicted techno¬logy transfer as a ponderous process of transfer of skills, equipment and organization, a slow growth from childhood to the technological adulthood of the nuclear club. One observes a bizarre inversion of this in the smuggling and ‘illicit distillation’ of nuclear fuels. We face the fact that Israel obtained its fuel by stealing shipments of plutonium. The open literature available has enabled students to come up with workable designs of the bomb or terro¬rists to produce a dirty variety.
The final irony that pervades these discussions is that this evil tends to get banal as it is over-publicized in our mass media societies. One is remind¬ed of cigarette smoking, where statutory warnings rarely impede consumption, as one notes today a similar banalization of nuclear warfare. One may come to expect warheads to carry the warning ‘Dange¬rous to Civilization’. In a bizarre way Lucky Strikes and nuclear warheads operate at the same level of discourse. One is reminded of the children in the atomic city of Los Alamos who played hopscotch with squares marked ‘radio¬active’ and ‘uncontaminated’. This, in fact, constitutes one of the greatest dangers of nuclear war: that we have somehow learnt to live with the unlivable.
Yet one realizes that it is not easy to break away from the normal science of militarism or the Linus blanket of techno¬logist thought. The Kaldor-Smith anthology chronicles the tentative efforts of Europe to disengage itself from the bipolar plot. The book itself reflects the genre called peace research, standing half-way between the laborious dignity of the policy sciences catering to the requirements of the state and the spontaneous language of local protests, mediating and translating bet¬ween technocratic elites and the people’s movements.
Three aspects of the Kaldor-Smith anthology deserve to be highlighted. Firstly, the politi¬cal question of why Europe wishes to break away from NATO, secondly, the proced¬ures of disengagement and, finally, the archetypal models available to peace research and the peace movement in Europe. All three are marked in a deep way by the entry of the Third World into European con¬sciousness.
Mary Kaldor, in a typically forthright paper, elaborates the political background to the peace movements in Europe. The post-war recovery of Europe was anchored on a certain framework of politics and economics. The Marshall Plan was an attempt to estab¬lish a liberal economic order tied to the norms of free trade. The continuity of free trade with it’s cycles of obsolescence and inequality demanded the assurance of military power. NATO was the military com¬ponent of free trade as territoriality, a twentieth century version of gunboat diplomacy. As a regime it was stable as long as the dollar was secure and American nuclear superi¬ority guaranteed West Euro¬pean security. It was also tied to a starkly efficient mythology in which scenarios of World War II were replayed again, with Soviet Russia substituting for Hitler. The entire system is crumbling today.
The resurgence of an affluent Europe has challenged the sta¬bility of the dollar. Secondly, European nations are realizing that they have delegated to America the right to nuclear decisions regarding their lives. Once the Soviet might grew, Europe realized that, rather than being secure from war, it could be the theatre for the next atomic war. The move¬ment from Hiroshima to Euroshima proved traumatic. Simultaneously there was a realization that the logic of free trade had rendered a whole series of communities peripheral. These inequalities have been highlighted in a spectrum of protests: demands for regional autonomy, civil rights, feminism and nuclear disarmament. These convul¬sions reflect the demands for decentralization and pluralization. The rehabilitation of the Left in Europe has added to the fluidity of European politics, triggering new com¬binations and movements. The resurgence of such pluralism is heartening. Yet an outsider must introduce a discordant caveat.
One hopes that the pluralization of Europe does not lead to a new parochialism. Plura¬lism must carry the hallmark of a planetary consciousness or European morality might turn out to be a purely geograp¬hic one, cantankerous when Europe is the site for a nuclear war but silent when a bomb is tested in an anonymous Pacific atoll or the sea around it. In fact this problem was empha¬sized by the Tahitian delegate to the World Council of Churches meeting at Geneva. John Doom remarked:
The Pacific, the forgotten Third World, is well known as being a very big ocean. We are more than five million native islanders who live in that ocean. We say that the Pacific is our con¬tinent. Your continent is Europe or the States. The Pacific belongs to us. We think from sea to land, not from land to. sea, because the sea is our life…I would like to ask a question. We want to ask the Europeans, why do you come to the Pacific to do your testing. Why?
One hopes that Europe does not become a preferred site of peace merely through a geo¬graphy of displacement. It is in this context that we must examine the question of the styles of disengagement from NATO.
The strategy of disengagement has lead to the political revival of a concept once scorned as passive. The idea of neutralism is no longer something unique to Switzerland but is now revi¬ved and provided with a res¬pectable genealogy, including not only the Third World idea of nonalignment but also the Scandinavian notion of neu¬trality. Ulbricht Albrecht’s essay on Western European neutralism states that, by 1980, polls indicated that 43 per cent of West Germans backed a neutralist position between the two blocs. But neutralism is only the first step towards dis-engagement. It is not a radical step towards pacifism. Neutra¬list countries still believe in being armed. Their ideas are influenced more by the guerilla than by the satyagrahi. The guerilla as a paradigm intrigues peace research. He seems more pragmatic, and the Vietnam war has endowed him with a compelling legitimacy. The importance of guerilla warfare, however, lies in the fact that it provides a concep¬tual bridge allowing military minds to move away from highly technological modes of thought into working out alternative frameworks of defence strategy exemplified in such works as those of Adam Roberts, Guy Brussolt, Emil Spannocchi and Horst Afheldt.
All these studies create a half¬way house between the abso¬lute violence of the atom bomb and the absolute non-violence of the satyagrahi. Unlike the latter they are not prepared to abandon altogether the use of military force. Yet they want a defence policy which move away from the MAD positions of the bipolar world. They seek a defensive position which is strong enough to meet any contingency without the use of nuclear weapons and is deli-berately weak in the offensive mode of warfare. The strate¬gies are basically those of a small nation contending against a bigger force. These include Afheldt’s idea of small units of techno-commandos, Brussolt’s idea of militias using PGM (precision guided munitions). Yet one realizes that the European idea of guerilla warfare is still techno-logical. Decentralization is not a result of the initiative of people’s militias but of the advances in electronics technology. For the European guerilla, unlike the Vietnamese counterpart, advanced technology remains an umbilical cord. It is in this context that one feels, more and more, that the technology of consumerism and militarism must be challenged simultaneously as one integrated whole. It is only with a radical change in technological life-styles that one can think of substantial new life-chances for Europe. Here the guerilla must give way to the satyagrahi.
Shiv Visvanathan is a Sociologist, Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Future.