Friday, December 31, 2004

The end of war

There was a time, about fifteen years ago, when I felt as does the author of this fine essay, that humankind possessed the capacity for peace, that the prospect of world peace was at hand. Walls had crumbled, dictatorships had ended, new alliances were being formed in place of decades of hostilities. There was talk among economists of a "peace dividend," the reversion of massive sums of money and effort that could be turned to humanitarian goals now that major enmities had ended.

I wish I shared the author's view--it's more of a hope, really--that humans can know peace, but while I acknowledge her perspective, I find little comfort in it. True, we now embrace wider notions of justice and include more humans within our concept of entitlement to decency. But as we've done so, we've also expanded our capacity to kill and exploit. Our race may indeed be more sensitive to suffering, but it is also more able to inflict it, creating, in my mind, a race much closer to the finish than ever before.

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