Threats to Peace.

The Nobel Laureates in their Nobel Lecture acceptance speeches documented the greatest threats to peace in their time. Many of the speeches in the atomic age, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cite nuclear proliferation as humanities greatest threat, the prospect of which threatens the annihilation of the human race. Make no mistake, no one will be the victor of a nuclear holocaust. Only if we have learned, if we have suffered enough will we avoid this catastrophe and take the responsibility of the survival of our species and our planet.
The following sets out many of the Laureates compiled threats to peace: rampant nationalism, economic disparity, bigotry, inequality, imperialistic aims, oppression and injustice, to name a few. I will add one more, the threat of a madman, we have seen it before with disastrous consequences. The laureates point out these threats for a purpose, so we may endeavour to avoid them and instead find hope and follow the path to peace.

This post offers insights from Nobel Laureate Ralph Bunche

Ralph J.Bunche Nobel Peace Prize 1950
Some Reflections on Peace in Our Time
In this most anxious period of human history, the subject of peace, above every other, commands the solemn attention of all men of reason and goodwill. In these critical times it is not easy to speak of peace with either conviction or reassurance.
The words used by statesmen in our day no longer have a common meaning… Words in a constant flow of propaganda – itself an instrument of war – are employed to confuse, mislead, and debase the common man. … Truth and morality are subverted by propaganda, on the cynical assumption that truth is whatever propaganda can induce people to believe. … With what great insight did Voltaire, hating war, declare; “War is the greatest of all crimes; and yet there is no aggressor who does not colour his crimes with the pretext of justice.”
To the common man, the state of world affairs is baffling … People everywhere wish and long for peace. If war should come, the peoples of the world would again be called upon to fight it, but they would not have willed it.
But the horrible realities of modern warfare scarcely afford even this fateful choice, with the threat of atomic war … we may not survive this choice.
This is mankind’s great dilemma.
If human relationships were governed by the sagacity of the great philosophers, there would be little danger of war. For in their collective wisdom over the centuries they have clearly charted the course to free and peaceful living among men.
However man has but little heeded the advice of the wise men. He has been – fatefully, if not willfully – less virtuous, less constant, less rational, less peaceful than he is capable of being.

He has been lead astray by his addiction to narrow nationalism, racial and religious bigotry, greed and lust for power.
The values he has created have been predominantly materialistic; his spiritual values have lagged far behind. He has demonstrated little spiritual genius and has made little progress toward the realization of human brotherhood. In the contemporary atomic age, this could prove man’s fatal weakness.
The peoples of the world find themselves precariously on the brink of total disaster. The fateful alternative of peace or reversion to the Dark Ages.
Mans inventive genius has outreached his reason – not his capacity to reason but his willingness to apply reason.
If we speak of peace, we speak of the United Nations. If the United Nations cannot ensure peace, there will be none.
The United Nations is the greatest peace effort in human history. There is an optimism in those who work there, and also a sense of deep frustration, which flows from the knowledge that mankind could readily live in peace and freedom if there were but a minimum of will to do so. There is the ever present, simple but dark truth that though the peoples long primarily for peace, they may be prodded by their leaders and governments into needless war, which may at worst destroy them, at best lead them once again to barbarism.
With nationalism there may be no quarrel, but narrow exclusively self-centered nationalism is the prime obstacle to enduring peace.
As Alfred Nobel finally discerned people are never deterred from the folly of war by the stark terror of it. But it is nonetheless true that in atomic war there would be no survivors, there could be no victors. What then could war achieve which could not be better gained by peaceful means, given a genuine will for peace and even a modicum of mutual good faith.

The fatal prelude to war:
Fear, suspicion and recrimination in the relations among nations tend to be dangerously self compounding. They induce that national hysteria which in its rejection of poise and rationality, can itself be the fatal prelude to war.
There will be no security in our world, no release from agonizing tension, no genuine progress, no enduring peace, until in Shelley’s fine words “reason’s voice, loud as the voice of nature, shall have waked the nations.”


“last clear chance” George C Marshall

General George C Marshall delivered his Nobel Lecture in 1953.

He began by describing the disposition of Roman forces during the famous Roman Peace. Their positions were identical to those of the Allied Forces 1800 years later while the peace commission was sitting in Paris evolving the League of Nations. This remarkable historical repetition of Pax Roman and the deployment of protective NATO forces suggests “we have walked blindly through history, ignoring the lessons of the past, with, in our century, the tragic consequences of the two world wars and the Korean struggle as a result.

In my country my military associates frequently tell me that we Americans have learned our lesson. I completely disagree with this contention and point to the rapid disintegration between 1945 and 1950 of our once vast power for maintaining the peace.

For the moment the maintenance of peace in the present hazardous world situation does depend in very large measure on military power together with Allied cohesion. But the maintenance of large armies for an indefinite period is not practical or a promising basis for policy… we must find, I repeat must find another solution.

I am a soldier. I know a great deal of the horrors and tragedies of war. I am deeply moved to find some means or method of avoiding another calamity of war.”

Marshall considered the state of the world in 1953 a “highly dangerous situation” and for this, a very strong military posture was required; but for a lasting enduring peace he suggested other factors which would be as necessary and important as a moderated military strength.

“The most important single factor will be a spiritual regeneration to develop good will, faith and understanding among nations. Economic factors will undoubtedly play a part.  Agreements to secure a balance of power, however disagreeable they may seem.  There must be wisdom.  And the will to act on wisdom.  And a careful education of all the factors which have marked the breakdown of peace and have lead to the disruption of life and the horrors of war.”

“There may perhaps have been a last clear chance to avoid the tragic conflagrations of our century. In the case of World War II for example, the challenge may well have come in the early thirties, and passed largely unrecognized until the situation was unlikely to be retrieved. We are familiar with specific events such as the march into the Rhineland or aggression in Ethiopia or Manchuria. Perhaps there was also a last clear chance to begin to build up the strength of the democracies to keep the military situation in equilibrium. There may also have been a last clear chance to penetrate to the spirit of the peoples of the nations threatening the peace, and to find ways of peaceful adjustment in the economic field as well.”

I mark this part of this Nobel speech because there is once again “remarkable historical repetitions” which suggest we are “once again walking blindly, ignoring the lessons of the past” with potentially “tragic consequences”.

General George C. Marshall set out a soldiers framework for an enduring peace. He also and most importantly presented to us the concept of “the last clear chance”.  Be Vigilant, do not ignore the warnings.  Do you see them?  I see them every day.

As we journey through the Nobel speech, many threats and warnings are highlighted. So are other paths to peace.  We will find a way.

The following are more Nobel Quotes for your comfort:

“Our problems are manmade – therefore they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants.”

“Is not peace in the last analysis basically a matter of human rights – the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation?”

“In the final analysis, our most basic common link is we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future and we are all mortal.”

“Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many facts.  It must be dynamic, not static.  For peace is a process – a way of solving problems.”

“Enmities between nations, as between people, do not last forever, (need not last forever).  Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself.  Too many of us think it impossible.  Too many think it unreal.  But this is a dangerous, defeatist belief.  It leads us to the conclusion that was is inevitable – that mankind is doomed – that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.  We need not accept that view.”

“The United States, as the world knows will never start a war . . . we shall do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.  We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid we labor on – not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.”

~ John F. Kennedy    The Peace Speech

JFK did not receive a Nobel Peace Prize (I believe he would have, had he lived.)


The next blog will highlight some of the Laureates stated threats to peace.     You will recognize these threats as if they were happening today.

The Laureates believe that a rational, peaceful, new world order is possible. They have set our a path.  We must find it.








“the last clear chance”

The problem of peace seems both timeless and universal. The Nobel Laureates for Peace would seem to disagree. Many continue to suffer as nationalism surges and imperialistic designs become clear. Resource, ideological, ethnic and economic divides continue to threaten the stability of nations and our world. The Nobel Laureates acknowledge the challenges and despite them all provide hope and paths to peace. Solutions to these problems, if we want them; and we do for it is the peoples of the world who suffer the miseries of war. And all peoples of the world want peace. Join me in the rediscovery of the paths to peace offered to us by the greatest thinkers of their time. Those who have turned their minds to peace and created an ideology from which we can learn, and through which we can create a world we may not even believe possible . . . but the Nobel Laureates do; a world of peace.

The following are quotes or excerpts from several of the reviewed Nobel Peace Prize Lectures delivered by Nobel Peace Prize Winners or related speeches. In future posts these quotes will appear in the context of the speech from which it was taken. (The full speeches are available online.)


“We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each others children.”

Jimmy Carter – Nobel Peace Prize winner 2002


“I speak of peace as the necessary rational end of rational men.

Is not peace in the last analysis , basically a matter of human rights- the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation?

In the final analysis, our most basic human link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.” 

~John F. Kennedy Commencement Address – The Peace Speech                                                                    American University   1963


“Since we now know what a terrible evil war is, we must spare no effort to prevent its recurrence. In the course of the last two wars we have been guilty of acts of inhumanity which made one shudder, and in any future war we would certainly be guilty of even worse. This must not happen.

I believe I have expressed the thoughts and hopes of millions of men who live in fear of war to come.”

~ Albert Schweitzer   Nobel Peace Prize Winner


“Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” 

~ Barak Obama Nobel Peace winner 2009  Iowa Caucus Victory speech.


“Trust must be the foundation of the new world order. Knowledge and trust, pooling the efforts of scientists, philosophers and humanitarian thinkers within the UN framework.

Discard old stereotypes, give up old habits of seeking and exploiting each others weak spots…these decisions can be made.

The decisions taken by the members of the world community should not affect the security, sovereignty and vital interests of its other members or damage the natural environment and the moral climate of the world.  We must face these challenges now, tomorrow may be too late.

I am an optimist and I believe that together we will be able to make the right historical choices so as not to miss the great chance at the turn of the century and the millennia to make the extremely difficult transition to a peaceful new world order. A balance of interests rather than a balance of power, a search for compromise and concord rather than a search for advantages at other people’s expense, and respect for equality rather than claims to leadership – such are the elements which can provide the groundwork for world progress and which should be readily acceptable for reasonable people informed by the experience of the 20th century.” 

~ Mikhail Gorbachev Nobel Peace Prize winner 1990


“The attainment of man’s highest aspiration – the establishment of enduring peace based on justice and fair dealings for all.

With all its imperfections the United Nations Organization offers the peace loving nations of the world, a fully workable mechanism which will give them peace, if they want peace.”

Cordell Hull Nobel Peace Prize winner 1945


“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe…there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice…can be lifted from this dust to reign supreme among the childrens of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up…I still believe that we shall overcome.”

~Martin Luther King Jr Nobel Peace Prize winner 1964


“Yes I have faith. Faith in G-d and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. Action is the only remedy to indifference; the most insidious danger of all.”

~ Elie Weisel Nobel Prize winner


“I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.

We are living in the modern age and we believe that nothing is impossible. We have reached the moon 45 years ago…then in this 21st century, we must be able to give every child quality education.

We must work…not wait. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. We. It is our duty. Let us become he first generation to be the last. Let us be the first generation that decides to be the last that sees …lost childhoods and wasted potentials….the last to see a child killed in war. Let this end with us.” 

~ Malala Yousafzai Nobel Peace Prize winner 2014


The next post will begin with . . .

“The last clear chance” George C Marshall Nobel Peace Prize Winner speaks of the need to be vigilant. He feels the leaders in the early 1930’s missed signs of impending war. He speaks of the ‘last clear chance’ to negotiate with the countries who were to become the Axis powers and the time lost when the other countries could have been building the balance of power which may have dissuaded, or changed the course of the Second War.

Please return.