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Vijay Mehta's Peace Beyond Borders Book Review by Charlie Fox

Review by Charlie Fox, Brighton Peace and Environment Centre

Vijay Mehta’s book masterfully makes the case for the establishment of a Department for Peace, which Vijay argues will result in not only building a better world with less violence and wars but also in saving billions of pounds in military spending which the UK Government can utilise for job creation, healthcare, education and peace-building.

The book is structured in two parts, part one imagines what a world with a Department of Peace would be and all the benefits that a culture of peace could harbor, including the financial advantages and individual gains. Part two follows with the grim reality of what our world is currently like, including the $14 trillion that war and violence cost the global economy in 2015. However, Vijay provides a positive and constructive alternative with a Department for Peace which will leave readers hopeful and motivated to promote the new development.

Part one, “The World as it might be - A Peace Industrial Complex”, is where Vijay envisions a world where Departments of Peace will focus on creating a society built on direct, structural and cultural nonviolence and where an alternative approach to security and the world is a reality.
The focus of the department Vijay argues, would be to support and promote peace, diplomacy, international law, disarmament and nonviolent approaches to security. Vijay also argues that it would be vital that the Peace Departments avoid creating or sustaining alliances such as NATO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Organisations of Islamic Cooperation, that seek to divide the world. Instead, structures such as the United Nations and its system of international law would be supported by the Departments of Peace.

An appointed Minister for Peace would work on debunking the narratives that convince societies that support overseas invasions and pit one country against the other. The Minister for Peace would also work domestically with contrasting groups who have tensions that may lead to conflict and political instability.

Peace Centres would be set up and take the form of a "civic centres", it would be used as a safe space for adolescents and the vulnerable, as well as a place that handles tensions within society. The Peace Centres would work to promote a culture of peace, which would be a multicultural environment where conflicts can be resolved in a respectful and peaceful way. Workshops and group activities hosted by these peace centres would encourage social inclusion. Everyone would have the same access to the peace centres resources, regardless of race, class or religion. This new found unity amongst societies would help to tackle some of the root causes of conflict worldwide.

Government funding could be redirected away from negative military and arms activities and instead put towards establishing and maintaining peace centres. Military weaponry and systems can be designated away from harmful uses and towards disaster relief and international aid. Vijay suggests that BAE Systems and Raytheon, some of the biggest suppliers of military weaponry, could transform their efforts towards peaceful causes and emergency relief. For example, they could create aircraft and surface vessels to function in extreme winds of hurricane rather than as murder equipment.

This are just a few summaries from the book of what Vijay envisions a world with global Departments of Peace would be like. But it is something Vijay passionately believes can be achieved. “Peace can be institutionalized. It can be made to self-sustain just as the military-industrial complex sustains. The valour of the battlefield can be transferred to the valour of disaster relief, rescue operations, space explorations and intervention in urban violence. Humanity need not fear a world without war. It is the only future we truly have”.

Part two shows the bleak truths of today, the “World as it is - Ever more dangerous.”, where tiny mechanical drone like devices can swarm in their thousands to deploy a mass of poison or explosives on their victims. Where artificial military intelligence is a reality, with countries such
as the US, Israel, Russia and China having military cyber warfare commands that can seize control of their enemies country’s systems in a bid to turn their own weapons against them. What kind of world is this?

Vijay explains how International Peaceful Institutions such as the United Nations have collapsed into superpower rivalries that has fuelled nuclear aggressions and could lead to catastrophic ends. We are in a vulnerable place where Vijay argues the clock is ticking towards World War Three. Beyond nuclear weapons, the richer countries have invested in the causeless mass production of arms which sees artificial intelligence, facial recognition, mass surveillance, unmanned tanks, self aiming sniper rifles and much more. Why is this necessary? The 25 countries with the biggest defence budgets spend $1.5 trillion every year preparing for war. For those smaller countries who cannot afford to match those defence forces, nuclear weapons become more of a feasible option. This creates a standoff between countries, fuels more tensions and hosts a hostile world.

Vijay also addresses the 'War on Nature', where ecological destruction is displacing tens of millions of people. Vijay shares the view of many scientist who argue that our continuous burning of fossil fuels is changing our climate and that it will be the developing countries who are already struggling that will suffer first. These vulnerable residents will then be seeking to migrate to new climates where harnessing water and producing crops is less of a challenge. However, this is turn will lead to mass conflicts as people fight over vital resources and the world falls into further chaos.
Instead of a continuation of this dangerous and tumultuous world, Vijay offers an option for peace where military resources can be used to counteract this dangerous world and where peace centres can ease tensions and unite communities and countries. Vijay makes a compelling and convincing case for a Department of Peace, now we just have to make it happen!

“What we need to do is to create momentum with like-minded people who will become agents for change, who will make the creation of the Department for Peace a reality.

Individual actions can make this possible if we stand up for an idea to improve a lot of others against injustice. These actions will send tiny ripples of hope, full of energy, to create a mighty current which can tear down the walls of oppression and resistance. Each person in this world is a tiny ripple of hope and, collectively, these millions of ripples of energy will carry us forward in building a peaceful world.” - Vijay Mehta