Soldiers? No, Britain lost 700,000 poets, teachers, inventors… and fathers

On 11 November 2018, Peter Hitchens wrote: “I’m not against war, as a necessity. Attack me, and I will defend myself. Threaten me, and I will stand up to you. And I believe in being ready for war, to maintain peace. Respect your own army, or you will one day have to respect someone else’s”. His article follows:

What do you think about during the two minutes silence? I used to think of men at war, and hear in my head the shouts and the clash of arms. Now I see a narrow street of small houses at dusk. A young man in army uniform is embracing his wife and little children in a lighted doorway. He will not return.

I recently learned that, on the first day of commemoration, in 1919, the silence was often far from silent. In many places, when the traffic and the factories stopped, the sound of uncontrollable weeping could be heard in many towns.

Nearly three quarters of a million young men had died far away. In an age when death was still marked by elaborate rituals of mourning, they’d had no funerals. For the first time, the bereaved had an opportunity to grieve properly.

This commemoration is above all about the First World War, which has just ceased to be a warm, living memory and become the cold untouchable past. As a child I knew and talked to people who had lived through it, who had seen Zeppelins caught in the searchlights. In my teenage years, the Great War was as close to us as the 1960s are now.

I knew, when I first learned about it, that the 1914 war was a chasm between us and another world.

I rather liked the look of the world that had been lost – calmer, slower, more solid than ours. I had a feeling we were now a smaller people than we had been, scuttling about in the ruins of a lost civilisation.

It has also struck me, since I am so often told that those who fought in 1914 did so for our freedom, that we are far less free as a people, from all kinds of government interference, than we were before that war. It was 1914 that began the era of heavy taxation, surveillance, regulation and general snooping and bureaucracy which now stifle us.

It was also 1914 that swept away the restrained and quiet world of yesterday, and the great, stuffy cumbersome empires of Austria, Germany and Russia, replacing them with the slick murderous modern empires of the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. Was this progress?

As for the squandering of young men, the best we had in every class, how much have we suffered the absence, before they could make their mark, of all those lost fathers, scientists, teachers, inventors, poets, parsons, businessmen, composers, geniuses, or just plain good kind honest citizens?

I’m not against war, as a necessity. Attack me, and I will defend myself. Threaten me, and I will stand up to you. And I believe in being ready for war, to maintain peace. Respect your own army, or you will one day have to respect someone else’s.

I happen to think that modern Britain has foolishly allowed its defences to grow far too weak, and I would strengthen them.

But after a century of silences, as we remember the intolerable numbers of the beloved dead, as the bugles call once again from the sad shires, I beg all those with any influence over our national policy to be a little less enthusiastic about war than they seem to be.

In the past 100 years, war has not made us greater, but diminished and ended our greatness.

And when we remember the dead we should, above all, remember and regret what they might have been, had they lived.

Read the full article here: Soldiers? No, Britain lost 700,000 poets, teachers, inventors… and fathers


Welcoming UAE mediation between India & Pakistan and leaders’ conciliation moves

An eight-member Pakistani delegation headed by Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Meher Ali Shah travelled to Delhi for Indus treaty talks today (24 March), with the Indian team led by Indian Commissioner Pradeep Saxena, to be held after more than two years (read more in World News Era).


As the Financial Times reports, this is the first act of formal re-engagement since the two countries came to the brink of war (paywall) over a 2019 suicide bombing in killed 40 paramilitary police in India’s Kashmir region.

India then carried out a “pre-emptive strike” on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and an Indian military jet was shot down over disputed Kashmir territory and an Indian fighter pilot was captured by Pakistani forces.

Months later Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, under which the majority-Muslim region was stripped of its former high degree of autonomy

2Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, called for dialogue between the two countries, recalling that “some of the world’s biggest wars were triggered through miscalculation” and adding in a video: “Can we afford miscalculation given the  given the weapons you have and we have?”

A ceasefire, said to have been brokered by the United Arab Emirates, which has hosted ‘back-channel talks’ for months between India and Pakistan, was announced in February.

Last week, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s army chief, delivered a speech in which he said it was time to “bury the past and move forward”.

Following Bajwa’s speech, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister wished his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan a “speedy recovery” from coronavirus.


The meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission in New Delhi to discuss a water-sharing pact which controls the division of water from the Indus river system between the two countries, marks the formal re-engagement of India and Pakistan.


Disarmament diplomacy using the Stepping Stones Approach

 As Alan Cottey points out, in ‘the confused and angry conditions of today’ conflict resolution is vitally important work and – in ‘a wisdom scenario’ – conflicts of interest occurring would generally be admitted and addressed in a constructive manner (Barash and Webel, 2018) – Journal of Global Responsibility (2019). 

At the 2019 Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparative Committee in April 2019, the Swedish Government launched a promising initiative which seeks to unlock disarmament diplomacy using the Stepping Stones Approach. Paul Ingram, executive director of The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) at the time, outlined some of the thinking that supports the approach in this report.

Early incremental stepping stones in the direction of achieving progress on the established disarmament agenda would possess the following characteristics:

Dynamic flow. Each would be seen by some or all of the international community as contributing to an incremental move in support of nuclear disarmament by building trust and confidence, or capacity, or by reducing nuclear salience or risk . . ..

No strategic security sacrifice. All states involved would be able to deliver the stepping stone without requiring them to accept any significant shift in their strategic situation in relation to another state with whom they are in strategic competition . . .

No conditions necessary. Similar to the previous criterion, each step would be possible without requiring a prior improvement in the international security context.

Value. The value of each step therefore is in its signalling credible intent towards agreeing further (undefined or adaptive) stepping stones on the journey as much as its direct contribution to lowering nuclear salience, risk or tensions . . .

Flexible. Steps could be unilateral, bilateral or multilateral, involve formal or informal agreement, or indeed no agreement at all.

In December Paul made his way back from SIPRI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, where the “Stepping Stones Approach” was being developed.

He wrote that this had been an exploration in applying much of his personal development journey to nuclear diplomacy. It felt like the right decision for him.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was nominated for the 2019 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year for its leadership in launching the “Stepping Stones Approach” initiative to jump-start support for nuclear disarmament in the #NPT2020 #RevCon.

2020 update

The Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament reported that on 25 February, representatives from 16 countries gathered in Berlin to elaborate proposals on nuclear disarmament within the context of the Stockholm Initiative.

The 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The Swedish Mission reported that ministers of Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the NPT and its three mutually reinforcing pillars: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

They underlined that past NPT commitments remain valid and form the basis for making further progress in fully implementing the treaty and achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and pledged to take responsibility in promoting, including, but not exclusively, these stepping stones on the way to implementing nuclear disarmament, inviting all states to consider, support and implement them.





Peace researchers challenge NATO 2030 project

NATO Watch, which conducts independent monitoring and analysis of NATO and aims to increase transparency and accountability within the Alliance, has issued a press release recording peace researchers’ challenge to the NATO 2030 project which proposes that NATO adapts itself for an era of strategic rivalry with Russia and China.

NATO Defence Ministers, meeting via secure teleconference on Wednesday and Thursday (17-18 February 2021), are expected to discuss the next steps in the NATO 2030 project and review an expert group report, NATO 2030: United for a New Era. This is a process that will ultimately lead to the alliance’s first new Strategic Concept since 2010.

“NATO has to adapt itself for an era of strategic rivalry with Russia and China, for the return of a geopolitical competition that has a military dimension but also a political one’’.

Dr Wess Mitchell (above), co-chair of the NATO report, described this as the main message of the NATO report.

This approach could help to entrench a systemic three bloc rivalry between China, Russia and NATO-EU-US, with all the attendant risks – from nuclear war to weakening cooperation when addressing the existential threat of climate change and future pandemics.

NATO Watch therefore asked a group of ten peace researchers to assess the NATO expert group report. Their analysis is published today in a new report, Peace research perspectives on NATO 2030: A response to the official NATO Reflection Group. It  argues, among other things, that:

  • The NATO expert group’s analysis of past events and future trends, especially in relation to Russia, arms control and violations of international law, are riddled with biases and omissions;
  • Concepts like ‘human security’, as well as the ‘women, security and peace’ and ‘climate change’ agendas, have been co-opted by and reshaped by military actors like NATO;
  • Adopting a pre-occupation with great power competition will lead to a costly and dangerous arms race and risk a nuclear war with either China or Russia; and
  • NATO’s partnerships in the South are largely based on self-interest and military security rather than being rooted in the complex mix of problems faced by countries in North Africa and the Sahel.

Among the alternative proposals are strengthening dialogue and the search for common ground with China and Russia, de-collectivizing the nuclear sharing policy in NATO and withdrawing all remaining US tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

The pandemic has revealed fundamental flaws in the strategies many states employ to provide security for their people. New efforts are needed to reduce the chances of nuclear war and achieve nuclear disarmament, address climate change and strengthen defences against future pandemics.

“Based on the expert group report, NATO is not up to this task”, said NATO Watch director Dr. Ian Davis. “Instead, NATO is doubling down on the militarist approaches to security and conflict that have not worked. A more comprehensive and honest reflection of NATO is necessary by all of its members”, he added.

The report is available here





Abolish War! The finest endeavour

The Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) is part of an ongoing world-wide uprising, challenging the inevitability of war and guided by the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations signed in 1945; a vision of a world in which conflicts are resolved without resort to violence, to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” which to this day continues to bring untold suffering to humankind as well as deepening the climate crisis.

A principled rejection of war and violence (absolute pacifism) is expressed by major philosophies and religions, starkly in the Christian commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill’! But though severe sentences are handed out to those who kill individuals, those who have killed hundreds or thousands are rewarded and respected for their achievements.

They are sometimes formally honoured for dealing in death and destruction – debasing an honourable word by calling this activity ‘defence’

Our government sanctions joining in cowardly air onslaughts, with our ‘allies’, on those who cannot strike back, on people, hospitals and schools.


Bruce Kent retired from his role as president of MAW at the last AGM

As Peter Stanford points out. his views on nuclear weapons, once so divisive in Catholicism, are now much the same as those of Pope Francis. “He has said it is gravely wrong to use a nuclear weapon and to threaten to use a nuclear weapon. The absolute underpinning of the British hierarchy’s position for decades has been that it is sinful to use them but you can go round intending to use them. Now we have a strong signal to the contrary from the Pope, so I am very encouraged that it will trickle down.” He is, he adds, an optimist by nature.

Stanford describes: “His impressive fluency as a public speaker, and a remarkable brain that could grasp an argument in the blinking of an eye, then either articulate it in such a way that the rest of us could catch up, or demolish it so that it was left in rubble . . .”

This is demonstrated in a brief video, explaining how and why he joined CND:

As Stanford ends: “He continues to live out those gospel imperatives that have, during his long life, taken him away from its preordained course”.






The finest endeavour and the greatest challenge

Professor Paul Rogers agreed to be nominated for the role of MAWs president, following Bruce Kent’s retirement, and was installed at the 2020 AGM.

Emeritus professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford and a global security consultant with the Oxford Research Group (ORG), he has worked in the field of international security, arms control and political violence for over 30 years.

Paul Rogers took a degree in biology at Imperial College and was appointed to a lectureship in plant pathology at the age of 24, before joining an overseas development ministry project in Uganda. “The idea was to improve crops, specifically a new variety of sugar cane. I ran my own unit – the idea was that I’d train a very good Ugandan plant pathologist to take over from me. It was a great learning experience.”

He worked in the 1960s with the Haslemere Group, an early pressure group concentrating on trade and development issues, and began the transition that would take him from biological science to international relations. According to Huw Richards ‘s Guardian profile, the oil shock following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war was the direct stimulus for his shift of focus. Paul said: “I had to learn about the issues around this for a course I was teaching. If you want to learn a subject, one of the best ways is to have to give a lecture course on it.”

One glance at the titles and summaries of his ORG briefings will give an indication of his calibre. His recent address to CND’s National Conference may be read on this site.

Amongst the issues he raised when addressing a parliamentary defence select committee in 2013, looking forward to the next Defence and Security Review, was a subject of concern blighting Britain’s economic and political life:

“There remains an enduring and deep-seated problem in the area of defence equipment development and acquisition which has led to entirely unacceptable performances, cost overruns and cancellations . . . (He suggested that) a starting point might be an exploration of the pervasive “revolving door” process of senior uniformed and civilian R&D and procurement officials moving after retirement to second careers in the defence industries”

Richards says that Paul’s book, Losing Control: Global Security in the Twenty-first Century (2000), gives him a legitimate claim to be regarded as one of the prophets of 9/11.

Paul explains the thesis: “The real long-term conflict in the world is between an elite and the marginalised majority.”

In the book he describes the spectacle of a World Bank conference on poverty cocooned in a five-star hotel amid the squalor of Dhaka, in Bangladesh, and the grotesqueness of a gated community in South Africa surrounded by a 33,000-volt fence. He advocates: “more effective, sustainable development underpinned by proper debt relief, trade reform and effective development assistance. At an environmental level, we need to get serious about climate change, which dwarfs every other issue.”

And in a November letter to the Guardian, he and Geoff Tansey concluded: “This is the time to progressively shift resources away from military approaches to national security in every country into activities that will truly defend people on this planet from these main threats, and to put much greater efforts into peacekeeping and peacemaking rather than gearing up for future conflicts, made all the more likely by the failure to use our resources to address these existential threats.”






Sir Brian Urquhart, 1919-2021

There have been some great men in the UN. Sir Brian Urquhart was one (Hansard).

Sir Brian Urquhart, who died at the age of 101 on January 2nd,  was the second person recruited to the United Nations and in 1974 he was named Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs. He played a crucial role in the founding and development of UN peace operations and was responsible for all peacekeeping operations until his retirement in 1986.

The early years

After two years as a Hinchcliffe history scholar at Christ Church, Oxford, at the outbreak of war he abandoned his studies to join the Dorsetshire regiment, which first appointed him beagle officer.

“It was a wonderful education, if you were lucky enough to survive,” he said. He nearly died when his parachute failed in training in 1942, leaving him with a broken femur, three compacted vertebrae, and a limp for the rest of his life. He later attended military staff college, and became chief intelligence officer to the commander of British airborne forces. Read more about his war service here.

He volunteered to be an anti-aircraft gunner on a minesweeper in St Margaret’s Bay. It hit a mine and the crew had to be rescued by a trawler, which was then attacked by a force of Italian biplanes. Urquhart landed, to be severely reprimanded for letting his revolver go down with the minesweeper. 

His next appointment was as intelligence officer to Major-General Browning of the Airborne Forces, and he was subsequently posted to work with him on the forthcoming Arnhem raid in Holland. 

Among the first British paratroopers, in 1944 he cautioned his superiors against the disastrous Operation Market Garden and went on to liberate Bergen-Belsen. 

He had several hair-raising experiences (many related in the Telegraph obituary) , including a non-opening parachute during the second world war and a kidnapping by Congolese rebels. He saved himself from freezing in an unheated plane by drinking a large quantity of Canadian Club whiskey, arriving in Beirut in high spirits to tell the teetotal Yasser Arafat that the choice was between arriving drunk or dead.

On coming out of the Army in 1946, Urquhart (MBE) first worked with the Foreign Office research department under Arnold Toynbee before joining Gladwyn Jebb in organising the committee which was drawing up a blueprint for the new United Nations, which first met at Church House, Westminster.

Peacekeeping began in earnest with the creation of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in Egypt in 1956. Urquhart invented a “brand” for the peacekeepers, to distinguish them from three other foreign armies on the ground.

He bought surplus US army helmets, and had them spray-painted bright blue to match the UN flag. Ever since, UN peacekeepers have been the “Blue Helmets”.

He mediated from Namibia to Kashmir and across the Middle East with what the Jerusalem Post called “an unblemished record for dispassionate compassion”.

He was the anti-bureaucrat: plain-speaking and even once criticised for keeping too small a staff. After four decades serving the UN he resigned to work on its reform

Urquhart was acutely conscious of the contradiction at the heart of the UN, torn between the high-flown ambitions in its charter and the cynical national interests of its most powerful member states.

He argued that a more reliable international system is needed: “If you are looking for a calmer world, you have to make the international system not so much reactive—as it has been up to now—as preventative of unnecessary and unexpected crises”(Hansard).

His work with Erskine Childers included several books of methods which he believed would make the United Nations more effective. In Renewing the United Nations System (left)  he recommended the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly through Article 22 of the United Nations Charter.

This brief video summarises his work

COMMENT (Dr Peter van den Dungen)

I was a great admirer of Sir Brian Urquhart and enjoyed reading his memoirs many years ago.

I had the pleasure of meeting him privately in Oslo in 1988 when the UN Peace-Keeping Forces received the Nobel prize.

It would have been more in the spirit of Alfred Nobel if the award had been shared with him, a great and inspiring  ‘champion of peace’





Fredrik S. Heffermehl (below left) writes:

“The Norwegian Parliament and Nobel Committee continue to sabotage the actual intention of Alfred Nobel – a profound reform of international relations . . . The world needs a less dangerous, not life-threatening, security system. It is time for all responsible politicians to consider the alternative solution, a global demilitarization, that Alfred Nobel intended to support by his testament.

“It may seem scary and radical – but a politician who dares at least to call for the start of the new and open discussion we urgently need will probably harvest a solid influx of votes”.

Read more here:

He informs readers that a letter from the Nobel Peace Prize Watch (NPPW) has been sent to all MPs in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. Parliamentarians around the world have the right to nominate a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

NPPW has also started helping young people to nominate. Teachers and youth workers are asked if they would like to tell anyone 15-25 about this option? More information here:

Fredrik adds: We want to reach MPs in Japan and several other countries. More information here:

The committee appreciates short and concise nominations and we would recommend sending an email that opens roughly as follows:

To promote Alfred Nobel’s idea of a peaceful world order, above all through global cooperation on disarmament, international law and strong international institutions, I hereby nominate (name, country, main reason), 50 words. Then further arguments and documentation of merits, each of a maximum length of 200 words. 

The Nobel Peace Prize 2020–Nomination info in six languages may be helpful to those who decide to send emails to parliamentarians. We are happy to assist with further advice and information.

Click on to see examples of what kind of candidates conform to the intention of Alfred Nobel. We also encourage nominators to make their nomination public (openness is important to enhance public interest and debate).

The address is: Norwegian Nobel Committee, the deadline is always 31 January. Use of the nomination form on is optional. 

NPPW welcomes copies of all good nominations for screening and possible recommendation and publication. Send a copy by email to


Fredrik S. Heffermehl: Oslo   – Tomas Magnusson: Gothenburg






Human Rights Day- pamphlet launch

Human Rights Day, commemorates the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10 1948.

In his latest editorial. Ben Chacko points out that that Human Rights Day could have been marked by the Labour Party campaigning on UDHR Article 25, which sets out the human right to healthcare: “denied in countries like the United States and threatened here by corporate profiteers”. However, the party’s attention on that day was focussed on Labour’s foreign policy.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy attended the 10th December launch of a new pamphlet for Open Labour and the Labour Campaign for International Development and Dr Harry Pitts and Professor Paul Thompson (left) wrote about their pamphlet ‘Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times’, under the title A special relationship for the centre-left? Labour’s foreign policy reset.

Chacko describes relaunching the doctrine of humanitarian intervention as reheated imperialism.

He believes that “Exposure of the terrible reality of war is the most powerful of all anti-war arguments” and holding accountable those responsible for war crimes delivers justice for the victims and motivates the armed forces to abide by international law:

“War is not, and cannot be, a “civilised” business. War means war crimes. Indeed, as the Nuremberg trials established, starting a war is itself the worst war crime of all. It was an understanding of this that made Corbyn so terrifying an adversary to the British Establishment, especially after his speech following the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 showed that the public were receptive to arguments drawing the connection between funding and waging war and international terrorism”.

Is Labour’s foreign-policy relaunch ‘nothing but an attempt to rehabilitate war’?

Chacko points out that Thompson and Pitts (right) dismiss cases in which Corbyn has been vindicated – such as over Iraq – as “serendipitous”, the result of “unbending principles that … occasionally [place] adherents on the right side of events like Iraq.”

The unprovoked destruction of an entire country is not a crime in this narrative – it is an “event” – and anti-war campaigners deserve no credit for having fought to prevent it. Indeed, the left is accused of “condemning the West and condoning ‘the rest’.

Chacko adds that Corbyn has an honourable record of calling out human-rights abuses wherever they occur, including incidentally in Russia and Iran. It is the pro-war Establishment that ascribes human-rights abuses only to “the enemy camp” and presents the United States and its allies as the global “good guys.”

He says that the inauguration of a less offensive US president is seen by Labour’s leaders as a chance to reject the peace movement and slap a new coat of paint on a “special relationship” that consists of Britain placing its military at the disposal of the United States.

Finally, Chacko states that the carnage inflicted on Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya is reason enough to resist this trend and that the anti-war movement should be at the heart of all left politics. Better still: all politicians should be ‘anti-war’.


Vested interest?

(Ed) Given their area of studies, one is driven to wonder if the employment opportunities offered by war and preparations for war, let alone the funding opportunities offered by arms manufacturers: Paul Thompson is professor of employment studies at the University of Stirling and Frederick Pitts is a lecturer in work, employment, organisation and public policy at University of Bristol School of Management.






UN Secretary General: called for an historic global ceasefire – ‘a crucial window to build lasting political solutions’

In March, the UN Secretary General called for an historic global ceasefire, to allow war-torn countries the chance to focus on the threat of COVID-19. It would provide access for humanitarian aid, allow health workers the chance to prepare for the crisis, and offer a crucial window to build lasting political solutions.

Later that month, Physicians for Social Responsibility reported that the UN (@WHNSC) tweeted: “The United States hopes that all parties in #Afghanistan, #Syria, #Iraq, #Libya, #Yemen, and elsewhere will heed the call of @antonioguterres . Now is the time for peace and cooperation.”

On March 25, The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement about Covid-19 that included this: “We support the respective statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of March 23.”  On March 29, Pope Francis expressed support for the ceasefire.

The next day, 53 nations, including Canada, Mexico, Japan and 24 European nations, issued a joint statement of support for the Global Ceasefire. “We welcome and fully support the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We echo the Secretary-General that it is, ‘time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.’

The statement and list of 53 nations is available here, at the website of the Iceland diplomatic mission.

Several other countries have since piled on. On April 3, in a progress update, Guterres reported that over 70 UN member countries had endorsed  the global  ceasefire. But he urged all combatants to actually lay down their weapons, saying: “We need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19.”   World Beyond War is tracking the list of endorsing nations here.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appeal for a worldwide cessation of hostilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic ends:

Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19. But we need much more.

End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.