In my latest reading of Richard Nixon’s 1962 book Six Crises, Nixon addresses the question of whether or not Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union sincerely desired peace.
On the one hand, the answer was “yes”. A former Ambassador to Moscow told Nixon: “Khrushchev wants the world. But he knows the consequences of modern war as well as we do. He wants to accomplish his objective without war. In that sense, he wants peace.” Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany expressed a similar sentiment, only more graphically: “There’s no question but that Khrushchev wants to rule the world. But he does not want war. He does not want to rule a world of ruined cities and dead bodies.”
On the other hand, Khrushchev did brag to Nixon about the Soviet Union’s military capabilities. According to Nixon, Khrushchev said that he preferred missiles to bombs because “missiles were much more accurate and because humans were sometimes incapable of dropping bombs on targets because of emotional revulsion, a factor which was not present where missiles were concerned” (Nixon’s words on page 265). Khrushchev also justified Communist revolutions in other countries.
And yet, my impression was that Khrushchev was trying to deny that the Soviet Union was an aggressor, but rather was portraying the Soviets as building up their military for defensive purposes: because the United States might act aggressively in the future. Nixon did not seem to buy that Khrushchev seriously saw the U.S. as an aggressor.
Do the leaders of nations in the world want war, or do they desire peace? A relatives of mine is skeptical when leaders talk about “peace”. One passage that he cites is Isaiah 59:8, which states (King James Version): “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” Another is I Thessalonians 5:3, which says: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of leaders would like to have the sort of peace that Nixon’s acquaintances said that Khrushchev desired: they get their way, and others peacefully comply with that. But are there leaders who desire war? I think of X’s statement in the movie JFK that there are major corporations in the U.S. that desire war because that helps them economically, or M. Scott Peck’s point that the prosperity of the military is, in some sense, dependent on war. X’s statement about the corporations may be outdated, since my understanding is that the U.S. outsources several aspects of its war production; there are corporations in the U.S. that may want war because they desire other countries’ resources (in which case, like Khrushchev, they’d probably be open to peace if the other countries would simply do what they wanted them to do, voluntarily), but I don’t think that they’re profiting from producing materials for warfare. It might be the case, however, that, when there is peace and little threat of war, the government is more inclined to cut back on the military—-in terms of the number of soldiers, the number of bases, etc.—-and there are people in the military who probably would not like that.
In my opinion, it would be much better for everyone involved—-even people in the military—-if there were a lot of jobs that were committed to creation rather than destruction, jobs in infrastructure, green energy, etc. And it would probably be better if people around the world could share their resources peacefully, through trade, allowing many countries to benefit rather than for one country to exploit another. But does such a vision rest on an overly-optimistic view of human nature?
Here’s another thought: maybe war-hawks are open to peace, as long as the peace is consistent with a strong military. If the U.S. military is enforcing the peace throughout the world, giving the impression that peace is dependent on the U.S. military’s existence, then that could be the sort of peace that war-hawks like!
These are just my reflections, and some may find them simplistic or inaccurate. But I don’t claim that my reflections are the final word on any subject!