Peace as a Transnational Theme

| May 31, 2013

Peace is normally understood as the absence of war among nations. But that definition presupposes the overarching importance of nations as the key units of human association. There are, however, many other nonnational entities, such as races, ethnic communities, religions, cultures, and civilizations. These entities, too, engage in conflict from time to time, as exemplified by the interracial violence and religious antagonisms in various parts of the world today and, of course, that which took place in the past. Yet why do we preserve the terms “war” and “peace” only for interstate relations? This is a very limited perspective, inasmuch as wars are a phenomenon whose appearance long preceded the formation of nations in the modern centuries; and besides, a presumed state of peace among countries can conceal serious hostilities between races or religions within and across national boundaries. Nazi Germany was technically at peace with all countries till 1939, and yet violent acts were committed there against groups of people domestically who were not considered racially acceptable. In today’s world, there are no large-scale international wars, but domestic tensions and physical assaults occur daily within many countries. Terrorists wage war against states and their citizens alike, but they are not nations. To counter their threat, war preparedness in the traditional sense may be useful, perhaps, but it is much less effective than the coming together of individuals and groups to create a condition of interdependence and mutual trust. World peace must fundamentally be founded on a sense of shared humanity, regardless of which country people happen to live in. To consider war and peace purely in the context of international relations, therefore, is insufficient, even anachronistic. What we need is less an international than a transnational idea of peace.

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Category: Article, Issue 27.2, Roundtable: Reflections on International Peace, The Ethics of War and Peace

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