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Peace is a broad subject that has been a course for concern throughout the history of mankind. All civilizations have had peace as one of their topmost agendas in their quest for a better quality of life. The subject of peace has been addressed across religions, nationalities, and cultures. Also, some of the most popular icons throughout the history of humankind have tried to preach peace including Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Martin Luther. Most cultures’ “commitment to faith in God and the religious experience is inextricably linked to the centrality of peace to most, if not all, major religions” (Johnson 2007, p. 20).
In modern times, the quest for peaceful co-existence among human beings has been encompassed into a discipline namely ‘Peace Studies’. Peace studies aim to formulate ‘ideas, better solutions, and vital answers’ that have the capacity of bringing harmony among the populous. In modern times, militarism stands in contrast to peace. On most occasions, a people’s commitment to a path of peaceful co-existence is usually guaranteed by societal militarism. However, most areas of studies within the subject of peace provide solutions to the current prominence of societal militarism. This essay explains how peace studies have proposed to deal with the problem of societal militarism. The paper begins with an exploration of the concept of societal militarism and then shows how peace studies can counter this social problem.
Militarism lacks a universal definition but its explorers have come up with the common characteristics that apply to the concept. Consequently, militarism has mostly been associated with statehood and politics. One scholar makes a distinction between ‘the military way’ and militarism whereas the former “is simply a focused effort to win a particular war with the least amount of bloodshed while the latter signifies a range of values that are associated with armies and wars yet transcending true military purposes” (Vagts 1981, p. 13). Militarism can become part of the entire society regardless of the security factor.
The concept of militarism as it applies to modern times works towards deviating the true purpose of military solutions and the immoralities of war and other conflicts. For instance, it is common for bloody and immoral wars to be fought through military actions under the auspices of ‘national interest’. This approach means that every citizen of the invading nation is a party to the war regardless of his/her social status.
Militarism also presents confusing structures whereby military domination is used as a measure of social or political superiority. Consequently, other aspects and structures that apply to modern societies are often overlooked on the account of militarism. Through militarism, “a nation’s armed services come to put their institutional preservation ahead of achieving national security [and] the assumption by a nation’s armed forces of numerous tasks that should be reserved for civilians” (Johnson 2007, p. 23). The process through which civilians are led to perform military tasks involves a certain level of normalization.
Eventually, ordinary citizens find that they can carry out untold atrocities on their social equals through the process of militarism. Militarism can also have the effect of using the values that human beings allure against them. For instance, some of the most pronounced aspects of militarism include obedience, hierarchy, force, and competition. These factors are often exaggerated with the view of furthering militaristic agendas. In the course of history, these simple elements have been used to carry out genocides and other forms of mass killings. In modern times, the culture of militarism has been perpetuated through video games, war toys, and films (Goertzel 2005).
In the course of studying international relations, militarism is mostly relevant to nationalist governments. Government organs are responsible for laying out highly militarized societies that honor and recognize militaristic systems such as authority, hierarchy, and the use of force against opponents. In recent times, militarism has been studied about slavery, colonization, and the subsequent neo-colonization. In most areas of South America, militarized governments have been used to defer authorities to certain personalities or ideals.
Peace Studies as a Solution to Militarism
One of the most significant highlights of militarism is the fact that the system glorifies the use of violence and force as opposed to all the other available options. Under this system, there is a tendency to consider military quagmires as ‘grand issues’ that require the use of immediate and great force. In the United States, militarism is well represented throughout the ranks of the society from the beginning of the 21st century.
As a result of the First and Second World Wars, the country has shown any inclination to consider military power as a sign of America’s greatness among other nations. Furthermore, the most regarded presidents in American history have achieved their statuses as a result of their contributions as military leaders. Peace studies immediately nullify this mentality beginning with Einstein’s sentiments that “we need an essentially new way of thinking if mankind is to survive, force must no longer be an instrument of politics” (Burns & Aspeslagh 2014). Overall, peace studies oppose the notion that war is part of normal politics.
Militarism is not confined to the elements of warfare but it also encompasses the events that unfold in the course of war-preparedness. Currently, the world has a prominent war industry that encompasses a significant amount of the world’s financial resources. Estimates project that “the major powers alone possess some 30,000 nuclear weapons and global arms-spending was roughly US$ 55.8 billion annually at the turn of the twenty-first century” (Menon 2001).
Peace studies attempt to highlight the irony of this situation by pointing out that war economies thrive even in places where basic human needs are ignored. According to peace studies, denying certain demographics basic human needs amounts to structural violence. Consequently, the hefty military and defense budgets constitute a form of violence within themselves. On the other hand, militarism depends on fear-mongering, the anxiety of the populous, and persistent insistence on insecurity to survive.
Therefore, for militarism to exist there has to be war or another form of instability be it natural or manmade. Without the lingering fear of war, citizens would not allow resources to be diverted from other existing problems such as health, education, and food. Peace studies categorically point out that militarism is a source of the ‘military-industrial complex’, a paradox that creates problems while claiming to pursue peace. For example, former US President Dwight Eisenhower once lamented that “the confluence of the private defense industry with the government led to the “mindless pursuit” of “redundant weapons systems” (Roland 2001, p. 5).
Peace studies aim to neutralize the causes of war such as competition of resources and other manifest phases. This goal can only be accomplished if the real elements of societal militarism are highlighted. Peace studies propose that “individual need to understand that violence has latent and manifest phases and direct-violence is only a culmination of other factors” (Salomon & Nevo 2005).
The field of peace research gained particular prominence in the Cold War period because during this era the effects of militarism were fully manifested. In the ensuing arms race, the discipline gave rise to ‘disarmament education’ to counter the rising incidences of militarism and the consequent war symptoms. Further investigations into the Cold War phenomenon indicate that the major cause of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was militarism.
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There were no tangible threats to violent combat but militarism created threats of nuclear warfare on a major scale. The efforts of the peace studies during this period “were first taken up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) efforts to promote disarmament education as the counter-measure to the high levels of militarism at the time” (Wahlstrom 1999, p. 6). The United Nation also highlighted the importance of disarmament education as a solution to militarism. Part of the disarmament education sought to teach scholars methods of resisting propaganda and other militaristic tendencies.
Furthermore, most scholars at the time were concerned with the “present developments of militarism and suppression” (Haavelsrud 2004, p. 38). The threat of direct violence during the Cold War era was the main motivation for the peace studies, which sought to alleviate the looming physical, combat, coercion, and aggression threats without mirroring or mimicking them. The threat of nuclear weapons created a situation of minimalist peace, which gave nations the feeling that the weaponry could be used against their enemies. However, the same nations failed to acknowledge that nuclear weapons could also be used against them.
Peace studies have proposed to eliminate militarism by pointing out that the concept is never a factor but just a means for patriarchal systems to sustain themselves. Furthermore, observers need to distinguish the parallels between militarism and patriarchy for peace. The main project in peace studies is to dismantle the notion that violence is part of humankind and at the same time highlight its misleading nature. One peace researcher points out that “militarism is a ‘belief system’ based on the presupposition that ‘human beings are by nature violent, aggressive, and competitive’” (Reardon & Cabezudo 2002).
Militarism propagates a skewed system whereby service in the military outfits is closely connected to the use of power and violence to take down competitors or enemies. Consequently, militarism carries with it other misinformed notions such as sexism and patriarchy. Peace studies propose that stakeholders engage in interpretive practices instead of hanging on to past events, basic psychologies, cultural practices, and belief systems. For example, observers point out the fact that most military activities are carried out by men as an indicator that militarism is a misinformed notion. Also, peace scholars reckon that militarism is eerily similar to most of the existing patriarchal constructs.
In most scenarios, the fear of losing control is the main driving force behind most militarism agendas. Nevertheless, the most important thing in all these scenarios is the realization that like patriarchy, militarism tends to overstate the aspects of force and hierarchy where military actions are involved.
Peace studies also focus on reversing the effects of militarism by updating the current conflict-resolution skills within all possible environments. It is important to note that ultimate peace starts within the small outfits such as homes, schools, organizations, and other administrative units. If peace is mastered within these units, its effects will be felt up to the national and international levels. Consequently, peace studies aim to combat militarism by formulating ways of resolving conflicts among individuals at lower levels.
One way of promoting conflict resolution is by highlighting the fact that human beings are well-balanced organisms that can operate without relying on militaristic tendencies. This was the case when the ‘Seville Statement on Violence’ sought to discredit the prevailing notion that ‘war is caused by instinct’ and at the same time reveal that civilizations can flourish without war (Wahlstrom 1999). Studies on peace use solid data to conclude that militarism is often the most expensive and time-consuming solution to any conflict.
The main aim of peace studies is to promote a peaceful society when it comes to all contexts including national and international. This discipline has endeavored to water down the rising dominance of militarism in the twenty-first century coherently and soundly. The peace discipline has been adopted by various global organizations including UNESCO and the UN. Eventually, militarism will only be reversed when individuals uncover their root causes and identify alternatives to this system. On the other hand, the ultimate goal of peace studies is to present a culture of maximalist peace as a viable alternative to peace.
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Goertzel, T 2005, ‘Militarism as a sociological problem: The political sociology of US military spending’, Research in Political Sociology, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 119-139.
Haavelsrud, M 2004, ‘Target: disarmament education’, Journal of Peace Education, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 37-57.
Johnson, C 2007, The sorrows of empire: Militarism, secrecy, and the end of the republic, Henry Holt, New York.
Menon, B 2001, Disarmament education: A basic guide, United Nations/NGO Committee on Disarmament Affairs, New York.
Reardon, B & Cabezudo, A 2002, Learning to abolish war: Teaching toward a culture of peace, Hague Appeal for Peace, New York.
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