A Warm Room


Prof. Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

Salvador de Maderiaga, from Spain, the chairman of the unsuccessful disarmament talks in the League of Nations in the 1930s, wrote in his memoirs something like,

“We failed because we started at the wrong end. We put the cart before the horse. To tell people to disarm in a climate full of hostility and distrust is like telling people to take off their coats in the midst of a cold winter storm. Bring them to a warm room, and they will take their coats off on their own, without any committee having to tell them how to do it.”

Similarly, if conflicts underlying violence can be resolved, and the wounds and hatred caused by past wars which stimulate a desire for revanche and revenge, can be healed through reconciliation, then the interest in arms declines by itself. Johan Galtung once said,

“Disarmament does not appear to be the road to peace, but peace may be the road to disarmament.”

As long as peace negotiators focus on the elimination of weapons, anyone with a gun or bomb can sabotage the peace process. Violence relates to an unresolved conflict like smoke to fire. To stop the smoke, it is necessary to quench the fire, not the other way round.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 May 2018.

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