New Internationalist

Book Reviews

Issue 95

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THE DISABLING WORLD[image, unknown] Book reviews

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NEW BOOKS

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Two of the books reviewed this month explore the justifications for war, ancient and ultra-modern; the third looks at violence from the complex position of a pragmatic, Christian leader of an African nation.

Editor: Anuradha Vittachi

Fighting war not wars

Drawing: Hans Georg Rauch The War Machine
by James Avery Joyce
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Quartet (Hbk) UK: £6.95 US: $14.00
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Just and Unjust Wars
by Michael Walzer
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Penguin (Pbk) UK: £2.95 Aus: $8.95
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In reviewing books there are not many chances to give a resounding three cheers. This is just such an opportunity. We badly need more academics like Dr. Joyce who not only know the facts and figures of the arms race but who are also personally committed to bring the struggle to an end.

The War Machine is an admirable book. Information about the present arms race is well set out and the risks which it involves are made very obvious. On the first page stands that sobering 1979 quotation from Earl Mountbatten: `The world now stands on the brink of the final abyss. Let us resolve to take all possible practical steps to ensure that we do not, through our own folly, go over the edge.'

The illusory pursuit of nuclear balance in a world of overkill, the fragility of any economic system of defence employment and the corruption of arms sales are described and exposed. So they should be. In a world of Super Power strength it is irrational to urge, as militarists do so regularly, that yet more weapons would make us stronger. That is the language of 1914. Today, with 60,000 nuclear weapons deployed, there are simply not enough targets to go round.

There is also an excellent section on the Soviet perception of threat which we too often ignore. Few in the West have any idea of the significance, in the mind of Soviet leaders, of the new cordial relationship between NATO and China. The USSR has constantly to plan for a future major war to be fought on two fronts.

Education for peace, the Brandt report and the recent vision of a Europe free from nuclear weapons are all discussed.

Drawing: Hans Georg Rauch
In the year 1980 the World spent a million dollars a minute on armaments. Drawing: Hans Georg Rauch

Reviewers are expected to make at least a couple of mildly negative remarks, so, in that spirit only, I would ask for a little more about alternative non-nuclear defence systems and of social justice, national and international, as the basis for any true peace. But qualifications are not really necessary. This is an excellent textbook for all who are concerned about the arms race and determined to do whatever they can to bring it to an end.

Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer is an erudite and compelling piece of work which once taken up will not easily be put down. It cost me most of a night's sleep.

Nevertheless I am not sure that it achieves quite what the author set out to describe. He wanted to show that humanity has a `more or less systematic moral doctrine (on war) which sometimes but not always overlaps with established legal doctrine'. It seems to me that what he actually described is a steady downhill moral slide to the present point when,in the view of the author nuclear deterrence `for all its criminality' may fall under the `standard of necessity'.

The high level search for a continuous pattern in war morality is not really successful. But what we do have here is a rich variety of examples of all sorts. From General Sherman to the Six Day War, from the Athenian Generals facing Melos to the Germans facing Leningrad, from terror bombing to the My Lai massacre, these pages are full of examples of real situations in which moral issues had to be faced.

The account of Winston Churchill's commitment to city bombing and of the subsequent repudiation of `Bomber' Harris, who actually did the job, is especially interesting.

The weakest section of the book is in its last few pages on non-violent alternatives. Here the author is not at home but nevertheless he has a good point. Consciences do exist and at least one part of an alternative defence strategy must involve awakening them. Bruce Kent (General Secretary of the CND and previously chairman of War on Want).

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Chains are worse than bayonets

Kaunda on Violence
by Kenneth Kaunda
edited by Colin M. Morris
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UK: Collins (hardback) £5.95
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Unlike A Humanist in Africa, in which President Kenneth Kaunda started to develop a philosophy of humanism which makes Zambians themselves the touchstone of political and economic action, Kaunda on Violence is directed not to fellow citizens but to his critics abroad - conservative as well as pacifist.

Notable for his espousal of non-violent resistance during the struggle for independence in Zambia itself, Kaunda writes: `Strategies of peace are infinitely preferable to those of war if they work,' but `the demands of political realism have led me to modify my pacifist convictions.' He says: `I ended up supporting armed struggle in Zimbabwe because I could no longer believe that anything is preferable to the use of force.' War redefines power relationships: where, he asks, would the balance of power have been struck in Vietnam if the Buddhist peace movement had succeeded? He points out that the opposition to the World Council of Churches' contributions to the freedom movements in Southern Africa came mainly from non-pacifist Christians.

Throughout the book his arguments are directed to his fellow Christians. There are many contradictions - some inherent in the tension he feels between personal and political morality. He admits finally, `I do not feel I have got much nearer ... reconciling involvement in the use of force with my belief in the central importance of the cross'. But in a `Postscript about Forgiveness' he emphasises the importance of reconciliation after war, quoting Mugabe's magnanimous speech broadcast on Zimbabwe's Independence Day.

But there are other contradictions and tensions that may not be so obvious. He writes: `One must salute courageous conscientious objectors who refuse to endorse their country's policies and actions in time of war.' But Zambia does not allow for conscientious objectors, and opponents of Kaunda's support for Jonas Savimbi's UNITA in Angola were jailed and interrogated for hours on end.

There is very little about Zambia in this book, yet Kaunda's first use of force was in the fierce suppression of the Lumpa Church on the eve of Independence. His very preoccupation with the Southern Africa issue has - quite apart from the direct effect of sanctions and war - prevented worthwhile internal policies being developed in Zambia during the last ten years. Whilst Kaunda helped the Patriotic Front fight colonialism in Zimbabwe neo-colonialism has found yet deeper roots in Zambia.

Ann Tweedie-Waggott


CLASSICS

The Female Eunuch
...being the book that sorted out the women from the girls

IT WOULD be interesting to know I how many men have actually read The Female Eunuch. When the paperback came out in 1971, it sold so well that it had to be reprinted ten times by the following year. But were most of the customers women?

A quick survey among some of my friends showed that although several of the women had read the book, only one of the men had - but they all `knew' what was in it! Even the least sexist among them insisted that he `didn't need to' read the book. The most threatened stated flatly that even if he saw her point he would refuse to change his position, so he certainly wasn't going to waste his time reading it.

It's a shame. To my mind the book provides far more that is refreshing to men than is threatening. Its philosophy frees them from the impossible burden of being storybook heroes, infallibly providing total security for their Dresden china dependents. Germaine Greer makes particular reference (in a book tha is full of literary allusion) to George Eliot's brilliant portrait in Middlemarch of Rosamund Lydgate, an exquisite but spoilt and helpless doll-wife who shows herself in time of crisis to be useless both to her husband and herself.

Ms. Greer's alternative to the porcelain heroine is not the butch man-hater. She isn't asking women to ape men while rejecting them. She wants women to become women: adult, mature and fully sexed. The unliberated woman isn't really a woman - she is a `designing doll' who uses (or misuses) her body because she has no real respect for it; a cutie-pie child flirtatiously manipulating her sugar daddy to give her everything from approval to status symbols. In return, she keeps the status symbols clean and shiny, and becomes one herself.

But her market value decreases with time. The glossy good looks of youth and the novelty of playing house fade. The cosmetics industry and the tranquilliser merchants home in on an easy target. Totally dependent on their men for security, both material and emotional, women `suffer torments of jealousy because they are terrified of abandonment, which seems to them mostly to be all too probable'.

A wife's answer is usually to make herself indispensable by constant self-sacrifice. That indispensability is her hold over her man: the cover of `altruism' is a nice expedient to pretty up the hidden transaction. The transaction is exposed when the marriage founders, and the woman screams `I've given you the best years of my life . . .' demanding her pay-off. `Women are self-sacrificing,' writes Ms. Greer, `in direct proportion to their incapacity to offer anything but this sacrifice. They sacrifice what they never had: a self.'

The Female Eunuch is a book about honesty: plain dealing instead of manipulation. Women are invited to take responsibility; to make clear-eyed choices about their own lives, instead of living vicariously through their men, colluding with them in allowing themselves to be exploited, and then whining about it. No more impotence and resentment masquerading as patient devotion. The chapter entitled 'Resentment' is one of the best in the book. It's a hair-raisingly perceptive analysis of the tactics unconsciously used by husbands and wives to belittle and destroy one another: the `dance of diurnal murder'.

What the book doesn't do is to provide a formula. She doesn't opt for the simplicity of ` equal pay = guaranteed fulfilment'. `Baby farms' chill her, and she cannot `find the factory the real heart of civilization'. Nor is she impressed by women in top jobs, if even they get their way through manipulation: `the Omnipotent Administrator in frilly knickers'.

She does view child-bearing with refreshing eagerness. It's not the child who is the problem, she recognises, it's the over-intense, isolating way that women in urban society are expected to look after children that causes the problems -the same rigid obsessiveness that causes marital relationships to be so tense. Greer wants women to let go addiction (which arises from insecurity) and opt for independence (which arises from self-respect). Her new woman would be energetic, spontaneous, tender, creative, instead of `a vain, selfish, servile bore' endlessly purveying guilt.

Ten years on, the book seems less outrageous - perhaps a tribute to its own influence. Powerful, bitingly intelligent, crammed with ripe observations, it is due for a revival - this time by all those who were put off by the screechy media ballyhoo a decade ago.

Anuradha Vittachi

The Female Eunuch
by Germaine Greer (1970)
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Paladin (Pbk) UK: £1.50 Aus: $4.95
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