ON THE POSSIBILITY AND DESIRABILITY OF PEACE
In 1967, a book was published by Dial Press which purported to be the report of a secret government commission, leaked by one of its members. Entitled The Report from Iron Mountain – On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, the book exposes the kind of thinking, cold, dispassionate and entirely free of humane values, which informs long-term government planning at the highest levels. Offering paradigm-shaking insights into the world of top-level policy-making, The Report from Iron Mountain became a huge bestseller and fed into the anti-war movement. Meanwhile the establishment media circulated rumours that the report was a spoof, and its publication as nonfiction a hoax.
Five years after its publication, the editor of the book, one Leonard C Lewin, confessed that he was indeed the author, stating that the work was intended as a satire on the values of elite government think-tanks such as the Rand Corporation. Eighteen years later, in 1990, Lewin substantiated his authorship claim in a copyright action against Liberty Lobby, who had republished the report, claiming that as a government- commissioned study it was inherently in the public domain. Liberty Lobby settled with Lewin, paying him an undisclosed sum and handing over to him more than a thousand unsold copies of the book. Lewin later authorised a new edition published by Simon and Shuster, insisting in an afterword that he was the author, and that the text was satirical fiction.
If so, it’s a strangely brilliant piece of work. Dr Strangelove without the laughs, it eschews the defining acid-tones of satire. Lewin has used instead a much subtler irony, creating a text so convincing, so coldly authoritative that the reader continually has to remind himself that it is not authentic. You look again at the title of the report – On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace – and feel unsettling swirls of irony. The report assumes the theoretical possibility of peace, citing the probable admission of Communist China into the United Nations, but it does not assume its desirability:
Previous studies have taken the desirability of peace, the importance of human life, the superiority of democratic institutions, the greatest “good” for the greatest number, the “dignity” of the individual, the desirability of maximum health and longevity, and other such wishful premises as axiomatic values necessary for the justification of a study of peace issues. We have not found them so. […] In this case [the normative value] has been simply the survival of human society in general, of American society in particular, and, as a corollary to survival, the stability of this society. (p 22)
What is assumed is that war is essential to economic stability and the structure of society, and this assumption calls into question the desirability of ending the ‘war system’ unless problems of transition can be solved. The great challenge in moving to a condition of permanent peace and universal disarmament would be to find replacements for the non-military functions of war. War sustains scientific and technological advancement, cultural paradigms, and the ‘ecology’ of human society; above all it alone creates political authority, and preserves the hierarchical structure of society, including the widespread poverty which is essential for an elite still dependent on human labour.
Lewin perfectly evokes the style of top level government think-tanks such as the Rand corporation or the Hudson Institute. Using a military contingency model for peace studies, the Report is tasked to achieve “military-style objectivity” and “avoidance of preconceived value assumptions […] without, for example, considering that a condition of peace is per se good or bad” (p22).
A chillingly persuasive rationalism is convincingly achieved; even if the reader knows the publication history of the document, doubts can’t be entirely allayed. The contents of the report are experienced as simultaneously horrifying and completely logical. Such is Lewin’s mastery – creating this level of ambiguity is a beautiful balancing act.
But did he write it? Was he the hoaxer, or was the hoax a hoax? Would it be so difficult to threaten or induce an editor into claiming authorship in order to discredit an authentic document?
If it is fiction, it’s arguably an achievement worthy of a place alongside the dystopian visions of Huxley and Orwell. In fact it somewhat resembles Orwell’s book-within-a-book, ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’, and has a similar effect on the reader. Suddenly what we see in the world starts to make sense, and the juggernaut of warfare, crushing millions beneath its wheels, becomes comprehensible — and even more sickening and terrifying. The system stands revealed in all its psychopathic glory. War is essential in maintaining balance in the economy by destroying surpluses. War perpetuates poverty, for without the poor the system would collapse. Orwell, through his off-stage character Emmanuel Goldstein, makes a similar revelation. In Chapter III of ‘The Theory and Practice’, we read:
But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction – indeed, in some sense was the destruction – of a hierarchical society… For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away.
A permanent condition of peace, then, is only possible if economic, sociological and political surrogates for war can be found, and it is the purpose of the report to identify and evaluate such surrogates. Whether real or fictional, the report is eye-opening and, to the innocent reader, disorienting, like passing through Alice’s looking-glass, or peering through the wrong end of a telescope. Orwell’s paradox becomes clear. Peace is defined as stability. Stability is ensured by war. War, therefore, is peace.
The report is presented as contingency planning for a world at peace. How could sufficient human product be destroyed, wasted or taken out of the system, without war? How could political authority and class hierarchy be maintained? In a system where nation states no longer make war, how can a credible enemy-image be maintained to unify the population, and sustain political authority?
The report considers a number of surrogates for war and assesses their feasibility and effectiveness, ultimately concluding that at the present time it is not possible to solve the conundrum. It fulfils its remit to approach the question ‘without preconceived value-assumptions’ by considering ideas such as the reintroduction of slavery in a euphemised and technologically up-to-date form. It even spends time discussing the use of ‘blood-sacrifice’ or ‘blood-games’ along the lines of empires from the past such as the Inca and the Maya. It briefly touches on the proposal of simulating an extra-terrestrial threat to the planet, before concluding that this is currently out of reach technologically. Indeed, it holds back from fully endorsing any of the proposed surrogates, and its conclusions are dominated by the need for ongoing research into the problem. However, one possible surrogate is given considerable space and revisited in the conclusions, and that is the threat of environmental collapse.
An effective political substitute for war would require ‘alternate enemies,’ some of which might seem equally far-fetched in the context of the current war system. It may be, for instance, that gross pollution of the environment can eventually replace the possibility of mass destruction by nuclear weapons as the principal apparent threat to the survival of the species. Poisoning of the air, and of the principal sources of food and water supply, is already well advanced, and at first glance would seem promising in this respect; it constitutes a threat that can be dealt with only through social organisation and political power. But from present indications it will be a generation to a generation and a half before environmental pollution, however severe, will be sufficiently menacing, on a global scale, to offer a possible basis for a solution. It is true that the rate of pollution could be increased selectively for this purpose; in fact, the mere modifying of existing programs for the deterrence of pollution could speed up the process enough to make the threat credible much sooner. But the pollution problem has been so widely publicised in recent years that it seems highly improbable that a program of deliberate environmental poisoning could be implemented in a politically acceptable manner. (p 51)
The report repeatedly returns to this environmental-collapse surrogate, clearly viewing this proposal as the one with the most potential, though with caveats:
When it comes to postulating a credible substitute for war capable of directing human behavior patterns in behalf of social organization, few options suggest themselves. Like its political function, the motivational function of war requires the existence of a genuinely menacing social enemy. The principal difference is that for purposes of motivating basic allegiance, as distinct from accepting political authority, the “alternate enemy” must imply a more immediate, tangible, and directly felt threat of destruction. It must justify the need for taking and paying a “blood price” in wide areas of human concern. In this respect, the possible enemies noted earlier would be insufficient. One exception might be the environmental-pollution model, if the danger to society it posed was genuinely imminent. The fictive models would have to carry the weight of extraordinary conviction, underscored with a not inconsiderable actual sacrifice of life; the construction of an up-to-date mythological or religious structure for this purpose would present difficulties in our era, but must certainly be considered. (p 53-4)
Is Emmanuel Goldstein’s description of the world system – our world system – any less descriptive because it is embedded within a fiction? If Lewin wrote this, the text shows tremendous prescience. If he didn’t, it’s a blueprint: the architect’s amazing premonition of the building.
In 1991, round about the time that Lewin was quashing Liberty Lobby’s re-publication of On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace as an authentic government document, a book was published by the globalist think-tank The Club of Rome which came to similar conclusions. The Club of Rome is an elite association of approximately one hundred scientists, economists, businessmen, high level civil servants and future-planners, heads of state and former heads of state, which exercises considerable influence, specifically and especially over United Nations policy. Its earlier reports, The Limits to Growth (1972) and Mankind at the Turning Point (1974) had promoted Peak Oil and laid the foundations for the modern environmental movement, influencing policy in the industrial West and underpinning the United Nations’ Agenda 21. Its 1991 report, entitled The First Global Revolution, addresses what its original prospectus called ‘The Predicament of Mankind’, and contains some widely quoted passages which evoke the premises and conclusions of Lewin’s earlier work.
The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor. Some states have striven to overcome domestic failure and internal contradictions by blaming external enemies. The ploy of finding a scapegoat is as old as mankind itself – when things become too difficult at home, divert attention to adventure abroad. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose. With the disappearance of the traditional enemy, the temptation is to use religious or ethnic minorities as scapegoats, especially those whose differences from the majority are disturbing. Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised. (The First Global Revolution, p75)
Like the earlier work, the Club of Rome’s report addresses the problem of moving from a military to a civil economy, and returns – decisively, this time – to the environmental-collapse surrogate.
In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself. (p 115).
Here, the report explicitly admits the political efficacy of ‘the threat of … global warming’, whether or not that threat is factual. As in the Iron Mountain document, it arises out of a search for ‘a new enemy to unite us’. The congruence of both perspective and language between the two reports certainly raises the credibility of the 1967 document.
Problems of attribution can be fascinating, but in this case it is crucial to our understanding of what is happening in our times. Lewin’s only other publication was a science fiction novel called Triage (1972). I haven’t read it, but according to reviews Lewin eschews traditional aspects of the novel such as characterisation and action, and constructs his new satire in the style of an epistolary novel, entirely through government memos and transcripts, media reports and so on, interspersed with Lewin’s ‘didactic comments’, according to the New York Times reviewer. It sounds to me like a fairly clumsy attempt to build on his putative success with Iron Mountain, retreading its mimicry of ice-cold euphemistic bureaucratese masking the sociopathic inhumanity of high level governmental future-planners. The trick didn’t come off, and the book received poor reviews and did nothing. Whether Lewin’s failure to sustain a literary career of his own has any bearing on the authorship of Iron Mountain is an open question— his clumsy failure with Triage after such huge earlier success might be thought to be more consistent with the ‘cover-up’ interpretation, but there are, after all, too many confounding variables in literary success for this to be considered a conclusive argument.
But there is sufficient doubt for readers to have an extra incentive to acquaint themselves with the Iron Mountain document and make up their own minds. The idea that the cryptocracy and its planners have identified the necessity not only of exaggerating but of deliberately exacerbating the degradation of the environment in order to bring about their twenty-first century goals — the depopulation of the planet and the herding of the remnant into digitised cities under a technocratic world system — cannot be dismissed out of hand in the light of current events, including the holocaust of geo-engineered, aluminium-accelerated mega-fires across the planet which have consumed on average more than a million acres of forested lands every year for the past decade.