Alexandra Carroll is an adjunct professor of religion and peace studies.
My Introduction to Peace Studies class discussed Einstein’s views on arms reduction on Oct. 1 my. Ten days later, the Nobel Committee announced that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would receive the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. I wondered: What might Einstein have to say about this?
On the one hand, Einstein may be pleased that an organization that actively works toward disarmament has been acknowledged. On the other hand, he might be highly disappointed at the need to bestow a Peace Prize for such work in 2013, considering he began his own efforts in the 1920s and 1930s.
More than 80 years have passed since Einstein took up the quest for arms reduction. Have we really progressed a decade into the 21st century with this disarmament monkey still on our backs?
The OPCW came into being following the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, which enacted a ban on the production and storage of chemical weapons. According to the ban, the deadline for destroying stockpiles of chemical weapons was April 2012. However, as the Nobel Committee observes in their press release: “Certain states have not observed the deadline […] for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.”
Our age is full of escalating global tensions and news reports concerning shootings, bombings, genocides and gender violence. Governments declare their desire that other countries decrease their munitions, yet they rarely speak about reducing their own. States build their nuclear weapons programs as a show of might against possible threats, because, frankly, they can. It is reassuring to know that there is someone – the OPCW – putting money where everyone else’s mouth is.
Given Einstein’s advocacy for global disarmament over 80 years ago, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW, a relatively young organization, demonstrates that we still have much ground to cover on this peacebuilding path. This year’s award not only celebrates continued efforts at disarmament, it serves to remind the global community that we need to elevate the well-being of humanity above a government’s need for power, strength and control.
This is not only a moment of congratulation and celebration, it is a call to self-reflection that we cannot ignore. As Einstein wrote in “Mein Weltbild”: “Whether we find the way of peace or continue along the old road of brute force, so unworthy of our civilization, depends on ourselves.”