Philosophy and Literature

Armed Peace vs. Real Peace

The means to real peace: an excerpt[1]

No government [or community, Turkana, Pokot, Samburu] admits any more that it keeps an army [community’s warriors] to satisfy occasionally the desire for conquest. Rather the army [warriors] is supposed to serve for defense, and one invokes the morality that approves of self-defense. But this implies one’s own morality and the neighbor’s immorality; for the neighbor [Turkana, Pokot, Samburu, Karamojong] must be thought of as eager to attack and conquer if our state [own community] must think of means of self-defense. Moreover, the reasons we give for requiring an army imply that our neighbor, who denies the desire for conquest just as much as does our own state, and who, for his [the rival community] part, also keeps an army only for reasons of self-defense, is a hypocrite and a cunning criminal who would like nothing better than to overpower a harmless and awkward victim without any fight. Thus all states [communities] are now ranged against each other: they presuppose their neighbor’s bad disposition and their own good disposition. This presupposition, however, is inhumane, as bad as war and worse. At bottom, indeed, it is itself the challenge and the cause of wars, because, as I have said, it attributes immorality to the neighbor and thus provokes a hostile disposition and act. We must abjure the doctrine of the army as a means of self-defense just as completely as the desire for conquests.

And perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories and by the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifices for these things, will exclaim of its own free will, “We break the sword,” and will smash its entire military establishment down to its lowest foundations. Rendering oneself unarmed when one had been the best-armed, out of a height of feeling—that is the means to real peace, which must always rest on a peace of mind; whereas the so-called armed peace, as it now exists in all countries [communities], is the absence of peace of mind. One trusts neither oneself nor one’s neighbor and, half from hatred, half from fear, does not lay down arms. Rather perish than

hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared—this must someday become the highest maxim for every single common-wealth too.

Our liberal representatives, as is well known, lack the time for reflecting on the nature of man: else they would know that they work in vain when they work for a “gradual decrease of the military burden.” Rather, only when this kind of need has become greatest will the kind of god be nearest who alone can help here. The tree of war-glory can only be destroyed all at once, by a stroke of lightning: but lightning, as indeed you know, comes from a cloud—and from up high.

Some questions to ponder over:

Are there such things that can make us best armed that do not involve possession of guns and nurture of hostile attitudes about other groups?

Of cycles of ethnic violence and lack of peace of mind at individual’s level, which one precedes the other?

Do we have the capacity or must we wait for a “god” to mediate/intervene amongst our warring communities?


[1] By Nietzsche, Friedrich; Kaufmann, Walter (1977-01-27). The Portable Nietzsche (pp. 71-73). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

5 thoughts on “Armed Peace vs. Real Peace

  1. I really like that you bring up this important and thought-provoking issue of countries/governments/communities perceiving threats from others and therefore building “defensive” (but really offensive) armies. It’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time and it’s interesting to see it put in an ethnic violence context.

    The question that comes to mind when considering this topic for me is: what is the moral responsibility of the government/community leaders to their people? Do leaders not have a responsibility to protect the lives of the people who live within their borders and who trust them with their bodily security? It would be nice if countries/communities could simultaneously “render themselves unarmed” but I don’t believe that the perceived threat is really only perceived—I think that threats from another country/community (or even one’s own without one’s knowledge) is real and needs to be honestly protected against. Before disarmament can happen, there must be appropriate education on both (or multiple) sides so that people become aware of diverse positions and perspectives and learn to be tolerant so that they can construct creative non-violent solutions to their conflicts.

    As Nietzsche said, hatred and fear are two incredibly strong emotions that dictate much reaction in conflict situations, especially hatred and fear that stem from a will to survive. I don’t know if there will ever be an entire population (community, country, or otherwise) that would be willing to perish instead of maintaining those two poisonous, yet self-sustaining, affects.

    • You speak like one of the domineering nations. That appropriate education is what is needed for both sides. I suspect inwardly you mean more appropriate education for the other side-a side like the one I originate from. But what kind of appropriate education are you advocating for? The American/western kind, and what kind of education is this? An education that can make us, we from the other side, tolerant? Can the westerners accept for instance an African form of education? Education: All we on the other side ever get is the western kind.

      I think Nietzsche was kinder to talk only about these presuppositions of groups. In our current times, I think the status quo is even worse. Things would have been nicer had countries like the U.S. [or communities like Turkana and Pokots] been only misled by the presuppositions that Nietzsche mentioned. But there exist, besides the presuppositions, an infectious intend and desire to conquer all possible competitions in the global market and technology, and staying on top of the niche forever by all means. This intend/inhumane desire drives almost every political agenda and activities of countries like your own. What do you guys mean when you say, ‘U.S. is and will be the greatest country!” Greatness in what sense? Does this greatness not necessitate at least in the economical sense dependency of other countries on the U.S.? Can this form of greatness be achieved without one soiling (dirtying) ones hands? We on the other side, my side, are not only presupposed as immoral but also as competitors. From a subordinated/voiceless part of the world’s perspective, I will claim that the intend/the inhumane desire of the domineering nations like your own is more real than the perceived threat that we pose to your country.

      To quote Nietzsche: Political superiority without any real human superiority is most harmful. There has been a lot of harm that is a consequent of U.S (and nomadic communities like my own) involvement with its (their) neighbors. So when you speak of leaders, clearly these leaders have no mores that guide their leadership; or maybe they have invented their own national or communal “mores.” But can there be a Kenyan, Turkana or American morality? So you wrongly attribute to these leaders qualities of moral responsibility and yet they lack them. And since they lack these qualities, then we’ve never had leaders. Or maybe you tell me one of your leaders who was really a leader? Tell me that leaders are the political leaders elected by people and you give me a good laughter.

      Hatred and fear do not stem from a will to survive as you try to claim. A more correct claim maybe that they stem from ignorance and unnatural desires. The Will for Self-Preservation only inspires creations of means for survival such as practical knowledge/craftiness that we hope may facilitate inventions useful for our survival. When these means for survival are unsuccessful or challenges especially by other people, then hate or fear springs forth. Hate and fear are just manifestation of our emotional dissonance that we feel when our supposed means for survival are challenged or do not attain their objects.

      Hate and fear as manifestation of underlying factors, do not dictate conflict-resolution debate. Before emotions/feelings (e.g. hate, fear) influence our perceptions, it is the earlier perceptions of the outside that first informs our affective reservoirs on what to bring forth. Emotions are only “aftermath-influencer” after we encounter/perceive challenges or are denied access to the products of our means for survival. One of the many means for survival revolves around attaining an economic security. The best or first thing that domineering countries like your own or community (though non-domineering) like my own can do in efforts to resolve conflicts is to respect other groups concerns for their economic sustainability. But often one’s own concerns are prioritized over other groups’. I believe it is this inhumane intend and desire to dominate over the rest or become powerful as you guys proud yourself of that is destroying peace and every other good thing. The domineering country and community has more hate and fear than the dominated ones; they (domineering) also have more weapons. And the dominated cannot perish completely since the domineering would love to keep them or some of them for their (dominated) services. If some of the dominated perish, it is not their will; and clearly this is against the notion of Self-Preservation. When you guys invoke the morality of self-defense, it is actually a statement about honestly protecting this inhumane intention and desire rather than a reaction to an imminent external threat. Shame!

      And here you are, claiming that we need an education that can help us tolerate, tolerate what? This inhumane intention/desire? The dominated need no tolerance, I can assure you that. We need nothing but acceptance as full humans with genuine concerns about our economical security. And we won’t mind some respect too.

      • You make some very large assumptions in your response, Longmouth. You assume that I wrote about the relationship between the United States and countries like Kenya and the obvious exploitative affiliation they maintain, but that is not at all what was in my mind. You had originally posted Nietzsche’s thoughts in the context of Turkana/Pokot/Samburu/Karamojong inter-ethnic violence, and so that is the context that I was attempting to comment on as well. While it is true that I do not know their perspective very well, I imagined that this blog was meant to generate ideas from multiple perspectives and therefore did not require my profound familiarity with that mentality. Furthermore, your tone is abrasive and accusatory and does not facilitate an open dialogue, but rather creates more of sense of vicious debate, which I did not think was the intention of the blog. That being said, let me now address the issues you raised:

        Education: When I said education is needed on all sides, I did not mean “more appropriate education for the other side—a side like the one I originate from” as you claimed. Honestly, I am offended that you would make such an assumption, especially since I clearly did not say that. Keeping the conversation in the context of inter-ethnic violence, as I believed was the focus of your original post, do you not agree that each tribe could benefit from being educated to tolerate other tribes instead of seeing “the other” as a threat? If you want to talk about the United States (which, again, I did not bring up) then I most definitely would advocate greater tolerance education, especially one that would incorporate an African form of education as you say. I agree that the western form of education as we know it is much too domineering and stifles much creativity in its general banking form in which learning typically does not arise from students themselves. I would be interested in learning more about the African form of education you mentioned.

        Threat and Leadership: When addressing the issue of threat, you carry your assumptions extremely far. Again, I was in no way writing about the threat the United States feels from Kenya. I agree that the US defines “greatness” is nearly purely economic terms, which is obviously problematic (for instance when you look at the policies it recommends for “underdeveloped countries” through the IMF and World Bank in cutting all social program like education and health care in order to focus the economy on exports to raise the GDP, which is not even a good indicator of national wellbeing…but I digress). Staying in the tribal context, do you think that it is more moral and noble for a leader to disregard the perceived threat of an encroaching tribe and to “perish” instead of fighting back to protect the lives of his people? If a leader does in fact take this perspective and allows his tribe to be killed in order to maintain the “moral high road”, then is he not betraying his own tribe? It seems that an entire tribe would have to agree to lay down their arms and be killed together, as opposed to a leader making an executive decision of such magnitude, which I would imagine would be nearly impossible (and I’m not convinced that it is the best solution either).

        There is one particular story that always comes to mind when I think about leaders’ responsibility to care for “their own people” versus for everyone that nicely outlines the complexity of the issue for me (I’m not sure if I told you this story already, but here it is again in case I failed to mention it):
        Senator George Mitchell of Maine (during the 1970s) was known in Congress to have a character of high moral standards and to always attempt to help the cause of the downtrodden. During an exit interview after he left office, Senator Mitchell was asked what made it worth it—why he endured all of the difficulties and stresses of his job for so many years. He then told a story that when he was serving as senator, there was a bill in Congress to make all government documents printed on recycled paper to help the environment, which would in turn shut down a large paper manufacturing plant in Maine. Senator Mitchell at the time voted against the bill and it eventually failed to pass Congress. Senator Mitchell said that a short while after this, he was eating in a restaurant and as he got up to leave, a man went over to him with tears in his eyes thanking him for voting against the bill because had it passed, the man would have lost his job. Senator Mitchell asserted that that moment was one that made his entire career worthwhile—that he was able to save the job of a man from his state to whom he maintained a moral responsibility as having been elected by his constituency.
        This story helps me see the difficulty in prioritizing “one’s people” over all others, because obviously using recycled paper is better in the long run for more people (taking into consideration the health effects of using non-recycled paper, the environmental degradation incurred, ect.), but the simultaneous need to protect the livelihood of those who entrust their wellbeing in the hands of their leaders. Perhaps Senator Mitchell made the wrong decision, but regardless it’s definitely not clear-cut (for me anyway).

        Hate and Fear: Your claim that hate and fear do not stem from a will to survive, but rather “from ignorance and unnatural desires” is interesting. You claim that hate and fear are created by a challenge to our means of survival and not “our will to survive,” but in what world are means of survival ever not challenged?! Are we not required to maintain a will to survive because of the very fact that our survival is constantly challenged?! If our survival was not challenged, we would need no will—we would easily survive and not have to think about anything but picking fruits off of ever-flowering trees, which is never reality. Thus, hate and fear are anything but “unnatural”—they are unfortunately the most intrinsic human emotions associated with survival, and for this reason must be seriously addressed in conflict resolution debate. I do not know which community (the “dominated” or the “dominating”) has more collective hate and fear since emotion is obviously impossible to quantify, but I believe that that framing is not even helpful to the discussion since both sides feel those emotions to some extent and therefore act and react through them. Moreover, I am again working within the inter-ethnic violence framework, which (I image, but correct me if I’m wrong) implies greater social and economic equality than that in the US-Kenya relationship and therefore presents different dynamics. Do the Turkana, Pokot, Samburu, and Karamojong people not fear and hate each other for various economic reasons (and otherwise), for instance to attain wealth from cattle-rustling, that need to be addressed? And in such a situation of greater equality but sustained violence, which side do you believe is the “dominator” or “oppressor” and which is “dominated” or “oppressed”? I would imagine that both (or all) sides are at some point all of those things.

        If you would like to discuss the US-Kenya relationship, I would be happy to, though I imagine that the debate wouldn’t be so stimulating since I believe we agree on many issues, even though you falsely ascribed to me in your response beliefs that I do not hold. In my original response to your post and in this response I was more interested in exploring Nietzsche in the context of inter-ethnic violence, though it is true that many similar concepts arise in both situations—next time just articulate which framework you are addressing for the sake of clarity and intellectual integrity. And do not assume that I maintain certain positions, especially when I purport the exact opposite—I wouldn’t mind that respect either.

        • Check this article, “When Enemies Come Knocking At Our Doors: A Response to Ekal Imana and Sarah Cassel.” Just got published in this blog. Hopefully you don’t owe me nothing any more!!! Thanks for your commentaries.

        • why u know only about that? coz no1 cares to? talk about d 98% turkana life beynod raids n hunger. cow economy’ ppl are ok n even rich. its the cash economy turkana who r poor. so much for ya great transformation. giv dem jobs, n d rest of kenya too. curious where u’ll get dem. pastoralists r self-made n productive, almost d only real production in a semi-desert. nobody is defendin evil here. point is: a cop beatin n killin d innocent is as evil as a warrior beatin or killin d innocent.

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