Diana Francis

Rethinking War and Peace

Review, from Around Europe, the newsletter of the Quaker Centre for European Affairs, July/August 2004:

‘Promoting peace and security in the 21st century requires a fundamental shift in how we respond to the challenge of violent conflict’. Thus the introductory sentence of the first of the guiding principles which were agreed as part of the Dublin Action Agenda of the European Regional Conference of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict in April 2004.

Diana Francis, in her book Rethinking War and Peace (Pluto Press, May 2004, ISBN 0 7453 2188 7, £11.99 in paperback), meets the challenge of that guiding principle by setting out clearly, concisely and accessibly the shift in thinking we need to make ourselves and in our dialogue with others.

Diana Francis sets the scene of the world we find ourselves in, goes on to set out the justifications given for war and the reasons why those justifications don’t work. She then examines the question of whether violence and war are inevitable parts of human nature and finds that they are not. She also looks at the questions around ethics and war and in particular addresses the ‘Just War’ debate, Importantly, she also addresses the questions around responses to tyranny – the ‘What about Hitler?’ question.

The final chapter of the book is a call to action and a clear statement of what needs to be done and why. She acknowledges the size of the task – the action points specifically listed number 38 – and she is clear that this list is not exhaustive.

Importantly, she is clear about the need for significant commitment to alternative methods of dealing with conflict to be taken seriously. ‘We must take non-violent methods as seriously – and if necessary fund them as generously – as we currently do our military methods’, she says and a little later: ‘We need to start preparing – on a realistic scale, with proper resources – for constructive solidarity and intervention, so that we are not left as bystanders while atrocities happen.’

This is the book you must read this year. This is the book you must give to your friends, colleagues, families and acquaintances. This is the book you must make the subject of your study groups. This is the book that will help you to answer the question: ‘If not war then what?’ It will answer them convincingly.