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Why We Need Peace: Quotes From Famous People on War and Peace

Updated on November 3, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano is a writer and public speaker who often speaks out on political matters.

During the Vietnam War, I marched in protest marches. Now I’m a septuagenarian with a bad back, so marching is “not my bag” anymore. Now, I must use my words. Or better still the words of famous people.

An Atomic Bomb Explosion

A mushroom cloud from a test of a nuclear bomb.
A mushroom cloud from a test of a nuclear bomb. | Source

Is Nuclear War Unimaginable?

How many times have you heard it said: “Nuclear war is unthinkable”? It is literally unthinkable in that our minds do not know how to think of it. The devastation is unimaginable. And because we cannot imagine it, we think it will not happen.

But it could happen. Millions of people dead in an instant. Whole countries obliterated. Perhaps all of civilization gone. We must imagine it because it could happen.

I remember the duck-and-cover drills I did as a young child in school. I don’t think I really understood why we did it.

I didn’t really begin to think about nuclear war until the Cuban missile crisis. I was a freshman in college at the time. I remember how scared everyone was about the prospect of nuclear bombs. Fortunately, President Kennedy kept a cool head and diffused the situation.

And that was the last time I ever thought of nuclear war as a real possibility until recent times. Donald Trump is president, and no one thinks he will ever keep a cool head. He and Kim Jong Un of North Korea, another hothead, and hurling personal insults and threatening nuclear war. Trump has promised “fire and fury like the world has never seen before.” I fear he may deliver on that promise.

We also have Iran to worry about. If President Trump withdraws from the “Iran-deal,” there will be nothing to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb within a year or two. The ayatollahs of Iran are not known for keeping a cool head either.

Since the end of WW II, nuclear weapons have not been used due to the MAD deterrence. MAD stand for “mutually-assured destruction,” but it could just as easily stand for the insanity of using nuclear weapons. When madmen have their finger on the nuclear trigger, the MAD strategy may no longer work.

I am far from alone in fearing that we are on the brink of unthinkable war due to President Trump's recklessness. Here are two quotes from October 2017.

Senator Bob Corker: Chair of Foreign Relations Committee

"We could be heading towards to WW III."

Kim In-ryong: North Korea Deputy UN Ambassador

"A nuclear war may break out any moment."

Please remember to give your opinion about Donald Trump's affect on the threat of nuclear war by taking the poll at the end of this article.

I feel like we are in a crazy world where the words of George Orwell from his novel "1984" apply: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Consequently, I searched for words of wisdom on the topic of war from wise people in the fields of science, philosophy, politics, and literature. I distilled their quotes into the four most important facts I think we must remember about war at this time in history. I present them below, followed by some words about achieving peace.

P.S.: I've included some songs. You might want to listen to them a you read. I listened to them as I wrote.

Reason #1. War Does Not Resolve Anything

No war is ever won.

No country ever wins a war. The mass killing may stop and the soldiers may go home, but the hostility often remains unless countries actively work to prevent enmity from boiling over again. Wars don’t bring peace.

Anonymous

"War does not determine who is right, only who is left."

Benjamin Disraeli: Former Prime Minister of the U.K.

“War is never a solution; it is an aggravation.”

Sun Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

An unidentified U.S. major to reporter Peter Arentt

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,”

Vietnam antiwar protest song by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong

“War—What is it Good For? Absolutely nothing!”

"War..." Sung by Bruce Springstein

Wars are the result of failing to talk.

The United Nations was founded after WWII in the hopes that countries could come together and talk out disagreements. Diplomacy, done with a sincere desire for success, can prevent war.

David Friedman: Writer

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations."

Margaret Atwood, Author

“War is what happens when language fails.”

Reason #2. War Could Annihilate Mankind

Weapons of war are becoming ever more sophisticated and deadly. In addition to nuclear weapons, there are chemical and biological weapons.

Weapons of mass destruction have been directed against civilian populations—so far, fortunately on a small scale. The worst case was the use of atomic bombs on two cities in Japan in August, 1945. It resulted in 200,000 deaths. The hydrogen bombs in the military arsenals of several countries today are 1000 times more powerful.

What if weapons of mass destruction were used on a national, or even, global scale? They could, directly and indirectly, destroy all of mankind, and maybe virtually all life on the planet. (I’ve heard, cockroaches may survive.)

John F. Kennedy: 35th President of the United States

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.

H.G. Wells: Writer

“If we do not end war — war will end us. Everybody says that, millions of people believe it, and nobody does anything.”

Albert Einstein: Nobel Prize winning scientist

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Noam Chomsky: Linguistic scientist, Professor at MIT

“There are two problems for our species' survival - nuclear war and environmental catastrophe - and we're hurtling towards them. Knowingly.”

Stephen Hawking:, Theoretical physicist, Cosmologist

“Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”

J. Robert Oppenheimer: Theoretical physicist

“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable.”

From a poster designed by Lorraine Schneider

“War is not healthy for children and other living things.”

Reason #3. War Wastes Resources

It is obvious that every dollar (euro, ruble, etc.) spent on war is a dollar not spent for social good, for things like education, medical care and research, etc.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: 34th President of the United States

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Charles Sumner: 19th century U.S. Senator

"Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth."

Abraham Flexner: 20th century educator

"Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Civil rights leader

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Anonymous

“It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.”

Joan Baez, folksinger and antiwar activist

“…modern war is impractical and stupid. We spend billions of dollars a year on weapons which scientists, politicians, military men and even presidents all agree must never be used.”

"Last Night I had the Strangest Dream" written by Ed McCurdy and sung by Joan Baez

Reason #4.: War Repudiates Love

War emotionally damages individuals.

It is not just financial resources that are wasted, it is psychic resources. War coarsens the mind, turning people to violence instead of love.

During the Vietnam War, one of the rallying cries of the anti-war protestors was “Make love, not war.” These words are still appropriate today.

Robert E. Lee: General of the Confederate Army

“What a cruel thing war is... to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors.”

Edmund Vance Cooke: 19th-20th century poet

“I have seen men march to the wars, and then I have watched their homeward tread, and they brought back bodies of living men, But their eyes were cold and dead."

War changes the psyche of nations.

War can even destroy an entire country and civilization itself, as war begets more war until people come to feel that war is the normal order of things.

Aristotle: Ancient Greek philosopher

“And so long as they were at war, their power was preserved, but when they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing, and had never engaged in any employment higher than war.”

Ursula K. Le Guin: Author

If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both.

How Can We Achieve Peace?

Is war in our DNA?

It seems like war has always been with us. The urge to war goes way back into our DNA.

Jack Herbert, Author

“War is behavior with roots in the single cell of the primeval seas. Eat whatever you touch or it will eat you.”

H.L. Mencken, Journalist

“War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.”

John Steinbeck: Author

“All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal.”

Many desire to end war.

Many leaders have wished to see an end to war. So far there has not been any success in this endeavor.

George Washington, 1st President of the United States

”My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”

Carl Sandburg: Poet

“Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come.”

From the Negro spiritual, “Down by the Riverside”

“Ain't gonna study war no more.”

"Down by the Riverside" Sung by Louis Armstrong

What is the prescription for peace?

The only prescription is inner peace in the heart of every individual on Earth--all seven billion of us. The human species ever evolve to a point where our instincts to love and nurture overcome our instincts to hate and fight?

Jawaharlal Nehru: Former Prime Minister of India

“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”

Prem Rawat: Ambassador of Peace

“It is not the world that needs peace, it is people. When people in the world are at peace within, the world will be at peace.”

What is "Words of Peace"?

Prem Rawat, the the founder of the Words of Peace organization, has dedicated his life to establishing peace. He believes that every person on earth must find inner peace and then all countries will be at peace.

This is a quote from Prem Rawat taken from the Words of Peace website:

“My commitment is to peace. In my travels around the world, I’ve experienced a lot of things — the most baffling of which is people’s explanation of why there can’t be peace. People focus on the symptoms, but not the disease. My efforts are focused on eliminating the disease — which is, fundamentally, people not being in touch with themselves, not knowing who they are. If we don’t take care of the disease, the symptoms will never go away. And we all know what the symptoms look like: greed, war, selfishness, violence, and an increasing loss of trust. Peace is a real thing. Peace resides in the heart of every human being. Peace has to emanate from each of us."

I had the privilege to hear Prem Warat speak. He is an inspiring speaker—don’t miss it if you have a chance to hear him.

Give Peace a Chance

Is Donald Trump Affecting the Threat of Nuclear War?

Which of these statements best describes what effect the presidency of Donald Trump is having on the threat of nuclear bombs being used?

See results

I welcome your comments.

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    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 8 weeks ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks John Wells II: That is a good quote. It doesn't quite fit into any of my four reasons; perhaps it might fit tangentially into Reason #1 which is the folly of trying to solve issues with war.

    • profile image

      John Wells II 2 months ago

      “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”

      Carl von Clausewitz

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      No doubt.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Eric Dierker: Thanks for commenting on my hub about war. You said war is sometimes good for stopping mass murder of civilians. I have to respond that war often causes mass murder of civilians.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      As always a very interesting read.

      I always love that line "what is it good for?"

      But the problem with it is that war is good for stopping mass murder of civilians.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Dora Isaac Weithers: Those two quotes you mentioned make me think of one song I left out--"Where Have All the Flowers Gone," particularly the refrain "When will they ever learn?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      The quotes from Abraham Flexner and Edmund Vance Cooke are my favorite. Thanks for this well-organized presentation on a very debatable topic.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 months ago from Orlando Florida

      McKenna Myers: I wonder if your in-laws had any exposure to news (not propaganda) prior to the election. I think Trump will go too far and he will be out. I just hope that he be ousted before he initiates WW III.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 months ago from Orlando Florida

      FlourishAnyway: Thanks for your comment. I heard that "The Generals" in his administration plan to tackle him if he reaches for the "football" with the nuclear codes. I bet they thought their days of active duty combat were over.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 months ago from Bend, OR

      Very sobering, Catherine. I fear the people who need to read this the most won't. My in-laws, Trump voters, recently visited us from the Midwest. They bought Sirius radio so they could listen to music, no news, here and back. Like many Trump voters, they've tuned out. That means folks like you and me who didn't vote for him are stuck hearing about his crap and worrying about our planet's future while they live in their protected bubble. Not fair!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      I echo your concerns. The silence of people around Trump is deafening. He’s a dangerous deluded man.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Sally Guibrandsen: We are definitely in a very dangerous time. I feel like I have been shouting myself hoarse (metaphorically, because most of my shouting is online) about this. Trump has made the world a much more dangerous place. Where are the patriots who will remove this man from the presidency before he gets us all killed? Thanks so much for your comment. It is good to know I have allies.

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

      We are entering very scary times. The thought of yet another war is horrifying and the sooner people wake up to think that dialogue is a much better alternative it will be a good day. When will we ever learn?