Scientists, War, Diplomacy, Europe

Citation: George C. Marshall Institute News 3 (4): 2001

Areas of Research: The Scientific Enterprise

I write on the occasion of the publication of a special issue of the journal Technology in Society entitled “Scientists, War, and Diplomacy: European Perspectives.” [1] The issue arises from a joint project of the George C. Marshall Institute (Washington DC) and Futuribles International (Paris) on the role of scientific cooperation in improving relations between nations in conflict.

War, diplomacy, and Europe form a familiar trio, one that has dominated the study of history.  George Marshall supremely understood this trio.  General Marshall served as Chief of Staff of the US Army during World War II and later as Secretary of State.  In 1953 Marshall received the Nobel peace prize for his plans and accomplishments that established the recovery of Western Europe.

Novelty resides in adding scientists to the trio of war, diplomacy, and Europe, and their presence requires comment.

My comment begins with a definition of science.  Science is a system of communication for the control of complexity.  Control of complexity happens to be the central parameter of evolution.  Extremely long, error-free messages are needed for control.  DNA and RNA are life’s famously long messengers with minimal errors.  They dominated evolution for a couple of billion years, a domination a couple of million times longer than the Roman Empire.

More recently, humanity has nourished a competitor, or supplement, to DNA, namely science.  Scientific papers as well as engineering creations of various kinds may be considered attempts to create long, error-free, operational messages, transcending generations.  Operational means predictive.  The model or the machine works, just like the wing of a bird or the gene making a protein.

The bottom line is that the goal of science is power, and science becomes more powerful over time.  Twenty-three centuries ago, Archimedes’ commander-in-chief understood the power of science.  The generals of World War II, including Marshall, watched that conflict end with science’s biggest bang.  Society’s military and civilian leaders are accustomed to making use of science in war.

A by-product of the power of science is the power of its practitioners.  Realistically, the practitioners of science, scientists, retain little of the power they create.  Generals, politicians, and business managers seize most of it.  Still, scientists retain some, and hence acquire responsibilities and opportunities.

The excellent networks characteristic of science amplify the responsibilities and opportunities.  Science functions globally as a single club, with mathematics and computation as its lingua franca.  The strength of the international networks varies by discipline, greatest in physical sciences where the syntax is strictest and weakest in non-quantitative social sciences.  As the shooting stops, scientists find themselves networked both with the powerful elites of their own nation and with scientists in other nations.  So, individual scientists who wish to play a role in reduction of conflict or normalization of relations have chances to do so.

In fact, scientists have played surprisingly diverse and timely roles in improving relations between nations in conflict.  This special issue of Technology in Society, generously made possible by the editors of the journal, George Bugliarello and George Schillinger, firmly makes the case for Europe since World War II.  A 1998 volume, published by the New York Academy of Sciences with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, explored scientists’ roles in the diplomacy between Israel and Egypt, Argentina and Brazil, and the U.S. and both the Soviet Union and China.[2]

If we believed conflict were at an end, the capacity identified would matter little.  Alas, humans are territorial animals, and conflicts abound even where expanses of land are no longer in dispute.  In fact, urbanized populations fight block by block.  The desire for control of territory is controlled by the most ancient part of the brain, the part humans share with snakes and other reptiles.

Here we must think of emergent Europe, the subject of a conference in Paris in February 2000 conducted as part of the joint project between Marshall and Futuribles.  Incidentally, the father of the director of Futuribles, Hugues de Jouvenel, was Bertrand de Jouvenel, author of the profound book, On Power, written in occupied France.[3]  The conference was the source and stimulus of the papers in “Scientists, War, and Diplomacy: European Perspectives”.  The papers, by authors who have distinguished themselves in science, in war, and in diplomacy, look both backward and forward.

One of the authors is the late William A. Nierenberg, a member of the Board of the Marshall Institute, accomplished physicist and oceanographer, and former assistant secretary general of NATO.  Bill, as well as Marshall Board members John Moore and Frederick Seitz, strongly encouraged this activity.  Bill’s paper is one of several in the volume, including those by Joseph Rovan and Alexander King, that offer candid, personal accounts of protagonists in cooperative activities.  The immediacy of their reports is complemented by the more detached assessments of such leading historians and social scientists as Hartmut Kaelble, Pierre Gremion, and Jean-Jacques Salomon.  Salomon, together with Israeli biologist Alexander Keynan, the principle author and editor of the 1998 volume, were the main organizers of the project along with Jeffrey Salmon, former executive director of the Marshall Institute.

As an American, I find several aspects of the papers striking.  Looking back to World War II, I am impressed by the quick, clever, and numerous roles international scientific cooperation played in the normalization of relations after the War.  Actions were taken directly between the key bloodied dyads, such as England and Germany and France and Germany.  But third parties, such as the scientific community of Denmark, also played vital roles.

The successes in normalization rapidly evolved into activities to promote the next step, European integration.  This integration refers primarily to the early seven or so members of the European community.  While politicians created European Community institutions to deal with coal, steel, and other shared economic concerns, durable transnational scientific institutions also arose in fields such as nuclear research (CERN), space science and meteorology (ESRO/ESA), and molecular biology (EMBO).  Importantly, the scientific institutions often previewed the diplomatic issues for the economic institutions.  Which countries could belong under what terms?

One question now of course is how science contributes to a Europe not of seven nations but of forty or so.  Europe is both integrating and fragmenting.  What roles does scientific cooperation play in reducing conflict when not only are new states joining in the East but also Scotland, Wales, Brittany, the Basque regions, Corsica, Northern Italy, and other regions seek more autonomous voices?  Perhaps science’s power to contribute to the reduction of common problems of industrialized societies will help tip the scales toward peaceful relations.  The high cost of the ante to enter the game of modern science in some fields might also favor integration.  For common action, science’s networks must penetrate rather fully into all the duchies of the emerging neo-medieval Europe.

Europe is changing in another important way for scientific cooperation.  Christian Europe, the usually tolerant host of most science for the seven centuries since Roger Bacon, is fading.  Demographically, Europe is becoming Muslim and African.  Will the new Europeans, who could form the majority by 2050 or so, tolerate science and enter effectively into its networks?  And can science form bridges to the Mahgreb and other regions with which 21st century Europe might conflict?

By now it should be clear that the quartet of scientists, war, diplomacy, and Europe belong together on one stage.  In fact, George Marshall understood this.  His plan included not only economic but also agricultural and technical assistance.  For the rest of us, less experienced and wise than Marshall, I hope this and the earlier volume on scientists’ roles in mitigating conflict between belligerent or recently belligerent nations prove the capability, as well as limits, of scientists in conflict resolution.  And I hope that more scientists, diplomats, and others concerned with international relations will make use of the practical possibilities that definitely exist.

Table of Contents

Scientists, war, and diplomacy:
European perspectives

Jesse H. Ausubel, Alexander Keynan, and Jean-Jacques Salomon, editors

Technology in Society 23(3), 2001
Special Issue

  1. Jesse H. Ausubel and Alexander Keynan
    Foreword: The history of studies of scientists’ roles in international conflict resolution
  2. Jean-Jacques Salomon
    Scientists and international relations: a European  perspective
  3. Arnold Burgen
    The United Kingdom and the reconstruction of German science: the rebirth of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft
  4. Joseph Rovan
    France-Germany 1945: building a common future
  5. Alexander King
    Scientific concerns in a Post-War economic  environment: science in OEEC-OECD
  6. André Lebeau
    Scientific organizations and European unification: a personal view
  7. William A. Nierenberg
    NATO science programs: origins and influence
  8. Fernando Carvalho-Rodrigues
    NATO science programs: putting scientists and politicians in the same loop
  9. Regina Gusmão
    Research networks as a means of European integration
  10. Rudolf Botzian
    Scientific cooperation and technical assistance in German foreign policy
  11. Hartmut  Kaelble
    Science and Franco-German reconciliation since 1945
  12. Pierre Grémion
    The role of the social sciences in East-West relations
  13. Geneviève Schméder
    A reconsideration of the idealistic vision of science for peace
  14. Pieter J. D. Drenth
    Scientific academies in international conflict  resolution
  15. Eugene B. Skolnikoff
    The political role of scientific cooperation
  16. Abdelhamid Chorfa
    Maghrebi scientists and regional conflict
  17. Nur Yalman
    Science and scientists in international conflict:  traditions and prospects

The history of studies of scientists’ roles in international conflict resolution

Jesse H. Ausubel and Alexander Keynan

Jesse H. Ausubel directs the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York City.  From 1979 to 1981 he researched global warming at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, near Vienna, Austria, a think- tank established by the Soviet and U.S. academies of sciences to study common problems of industrialized societies.

Alexander Keynan, a microbiologist at the Hebrew University for much of his career, is now based at the Israel Academy of Sciences & Humanities.  Dr. Keynan co-chaired the Committee for Scientific Cooperation between Israel and Egypt from 1979 to 1984.

Observers of the scientific enterprise broadly accept that science is international in scope and activity, and that international cooperation has always been intrinsic to it.  Indeed, much experience suggests that the permanent framework of international intellectual communication that operates among scientists is essential for the advancement of science.

After the bombs of World War II, scientists became increasingly aware of their social responsibilities.  Some scientists used their communication networks not only for cooperation in science, but also to reach across international lines of conflict, in attempts to mitigate such conflicts.  Some of these activities are well known and documented — for instance, the activities of the international Pugwash movement, which was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.  Many other activities of similar nature but smaller in scope, or limited to regional conflict, are little known and less documented.   Until recently, scholars had not examined these activities and their influence on international relations.  Several of us with personal experience in these activities became aware of their increasing scope and concluded that they merited serious study.

In the summer of 1995, Alexander Keynan, after consultation with Jesse Ausubel, Joshua Lederberg (President Emeritus of The Rockefeller University), and Rodney Nichols (President of the New York Academy of Sciences), submitted a proposal to David Hamburg (then President of Carnegie Corporation of New York) to launch studies on “Scientific Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.”  Hamburg at that time co-chaired the Carnegie Commission on Prevention of Deadly Conflict.  The Commission was keen to explore the roles of several occupations, including journalists and spiritual leaders, in conflict prevention, and science was obviously an interesting occupation in this regard.  In 1996 Carnegie Corporation supported a 3-year project, to be conducted under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences.  Because little documentation existed on the subject, the project began with a series of case studies on particular conflicts (such as US-USSR and Israel-Egypt), institutions (such as Pugwash), and natural science disciplines (such as seismology).  Most of the studies were conducted by scientists who themselves participated in attempts to use scientific cooperation for international conflict mitigation and drew on many interviews with other scientists involved in these activities.

An international conference January 28-30, 1998, at the New York Academy of Sciences on “Scientific Cooperation, State Conflict – the Role of Scientists in Mitigating International Discord” discussed the case studies as well as a preliminary synthesis of the literature.  The New York Academy of Sciences published selected papers from the conference as volume 866 of its Annals in late 1998, edited by Allison L.C. de Cerren[tilde]o and Alexander Keynan.  The volume contains 10 examinations of scientists’ efforts to mitigate international conflicts as well as a long introductory essay summarizing relevant literature, the case studies, and the discussions at the meeting.  At publication this volume was the most complete (and probably the only) study on this subject based on much empirical data.

Although the NYAS project included a case study of the Argentina-Brazil conflict, it emphasized U.S. experience during the Cold War and the Middle Eastern conflict.  Attendees at the New York conference pointed to the wealth of experience of cooperation among European scientists after World War II within Europe, cooperation that was not documented or debated.  Moreover, the scope of the NYAS project did not include studies of cooperation in the social sciences nor make much use of the analytic frameworks of the social sciences for examining the experiences in question.

Mindful of these omissions, the French historian of science Jean-Jacques Salomon offered to convene an additional conference based on European experience, broadening the scope of scholarly networks considered to include such disciplines as economics, and deepening the perspectives offered by political economy and other fields.  The meeting, entitled “The Impact of Scientific Cooperation Between Nations – Preventing and Solving Conflicts,” was held February 24-26, 2000, organized by the George C. Marshall Institute (Washington, D.C.) and Futuribles International, which generously hosted the meeting at its Paris offices and did most of the important practical work for it.  The sponsors of the meeting were the Richard Lounsbery Foundation (Frederick Seitz, President), NATO’s Scientific and Environmental Affairs Division (Fernando Carvalho-Rodrigues, chief), American Standard Companies, Ministère francais des Affaires Étrangères (Yves Saint-Geours), Fondation Léopold Mayer (Richard Petris), and Fondation La Ferthé (Gérard Toulouse).The organizing committee included some participants in the New York Meeting (Jesse Ausubel, Alexander Keynan, Klaus Gottstein, and J.-J. Salomon) as well as Hugues de Jouvenel (director of Futuribles), Andre Lebeau (author in this volume), and Jeffrey Salmon (director of the Marshall Institute).  Annie Palmentier ably assisted with all arrangements and Ann Johnston and Dale Langford with translation and editing.  For the high intellectual level and success of the conference, special acknowledgment goes to Jean-Jacques Salomon, who proposed its general concept, led in the selection of participants, introduced the issues, and now interprets the results.

As is clear in selected papers prepared for the conference and published in this volume of Technology in Society, the Paris conference differed greatly from the one in New York, but they share the strong sense that both an intellectual and a practical opportunity reside in this field.   Many relevant conflicts, institutions, and intellectual networks remain unexplored by scholars.  And many diplomats and others concerned with international relations remain unaware of the potential within the scientific community for action for conflict mitigation.  We are grateful to George Schillinger and George Bugliarello for this chance to make information and insights in this field more permanent and accessible.  We hope that the discourse begun in New York and Paris will continue and deepen understanding and use of the relationships between the international networks of science and all societies.

[1] J. H. Ausubel, A. Keynan, J.-J. Salomon, eds., Scientists, War, and Diplomacy: European Perspectives, Technology in Society 23(3), 2001.

[2]A.L.C. de Cerreno and A. Keynan, eds., Scientific Cooperation, State Conflict: The Role of Scientists in Mitigating International Discord, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 866, 1998.

[3] B. de Jouvenel, On power: The Natural History of Its Growth, translation by J.F. Huntington, Liberty Press, Indianapolis, 1993.