Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun | Summary and Q&A

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January 30, 2012
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TED
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Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

TL;DR

In this TEDxAmsterdam talk, the highest military commander of the Netherlands explains why he chose the gun as his instrument for creating a better, more peaceful world.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ’” Guns are not a part of everyday life in peaceful countries like the Netherlands, but in many countries, people are oppressed and intimidated by guns.
  • πŸ’ͺ The speaker chose the gun as their instrument to create a better world, not to shoot or destroy, but to protect the vulnerable and defend democratic values.
  • πŸ“š The spread of the constitutional state, with a monopoly on the legitimized use of violence, has contributed to decreasing violence and conflict globally.
  • 🌍 Failed states without a controlled use of force can lead to chaos and regional conflicts, highlighting the importance of promoting the constitutional state concept.
  • ❀️ The speaker hopes for a world without violence and oppression, but until then, it takes hard work, well-trained soldiers, and good equipment to maintain peace and stability.
  • πŸŽ“ The use of guns as instruments of peace may sound contradictory, but statistics show that violence has declined, especially between developed countries.
  • πŸ”‘ The armed forces implement the state monopoly on violence in a legitimized way, contributing to reducing the statistics of war and conflict around the globe.
  • πŸ’‘ Peace and stability require support for the efforts of armed forces, proper training, and equipment for soldiers who risk their lives to create a less violent world.

Transcript

As the highest military commander of the Netherlands, with troops stationed around the world, I'm really honored to be here today. When I look around this TEDxAmsterdam venue, I see a very special audience. You are the reason why I said yes to the invitation to come here today. When I look around, I see people who want to make a contribution. I see... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did the speaker choose the gun as their instrument?

The speaker chose the gun as their instrument to create a better world out of respect and gratitude for those who risked their lives to liberate their country. They believe that sometimes only the gun can stand between good and evil, and they want to stop those who would do evil and protect the vulnerable.

Q: How does the speaker view the gun as an instrument of peace and stability?

The speaker views the gun as one of the most important instruments of peace and stability in the world. They believe that the spread of the constitutional state, where the use of violence is controlled and legitimized by a democratically elected government, has contributed greatly to reducing violence and conflict globally.

Q: Why are failed states considered dangerous?

Failed states are considered dangerous because they lack a legitimized and controlled use of force. Without a functioning judicial system and a state monopoly on violence, failed states can plunge entire regions into chaos and conflict. This is why spreading the concept of the constitutional state and building judicial systems in countries like Afghanistan is crucial.

Q: What is the speaker's hope for the future?

The speaker hopes for a future where armies can be disbanded and humans can find a way to live together without violence and oppression. However, until that day comes, they emphasize the importance of supporting the efforts of the armed forces and recognizing the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices made by soldiers in the pursuit of peace and stability.

Summary

In this TEDx talk, the highest military commander of the Netherlands, shares why he chose the gun as his instrument to create a better world. He tells a personal story of his father's frustration with an old gun during World War II and expresses his respect and gratitude towards the soldiers who risked their lives to liberate his country. He emphasizes that he does not stand to glorify weapons but to highlight the gun as an instrument of peace and stability. He argues that the spread of the constitutional state and the state monopoly on violence have contributed to the decline of violence globally. He discusses the importance of the armed forces in implementing the legitimate use of violence and promoting the international rule of law. He concludes by urging support for the soldiers and their efforts to create a less violent world.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did the speaker choose the gun as his instrument?

The speaker chose the gun as his instrument out of respect and gratitude for the soldiers who liberated his country. He believed that sometimes only the gun can stand between good and evil, and he wanted to use it to protect the vulnerable, defend democratic values, and contribute to making the world a better place.

Q: What story from the speaker's father influenced his decision?

The story of the speaker's father being a conscripted soldier in the Dutch armed forces during World War II influenced his decision. His father had an old gun that couldn't reach the German soldiers, and he was frustrated about missing the shots that could have made a difference. This story made the speaker realize the importance of having a good gun to be effective in stopping those who would do evil.

Q: How does the speaker view guns?

The speaker does not stand to glorify guns or see them as macho instruments to brag about. He does not like guns himself, and he knows from personal experience that being under fire brings home the reality that guns are not something to boast about. However, he believes that guns can be important instruments of peace and stability when used properly.

Q: How has violence decreased over the past few centuries?

Violence has decreased due to several factors. One of the main drivers behind less violent societies is the spread of the constitutional state and the state monopoly on the legitimized use of violence. This legitimized use of violence by a democratically elected government, supported by checks and balances and an independent judicial system, reassures people and removes the incentive for an arms race. The existence of penalties that outweigh the benefits of using violence also tips the balance in favor of abstaining from violence. Additionally, trade and mutual interdependency between parties has made war less profitable compared to the mutual gains of trade.

Q: How do failed states contribute to chaos and conflict?

Failed states, which lack a legitimized, democratic control over the use of force, are dangerous because they do not recognize the gun as an instrument of peace and stability. Without a state monopoly on violence, failed states can drag down entire regions into chaos and conflict. It is crucial to spread the concept of the constitutional state and help build judicial systems in failed states to uphold and promote the international rule of law.

Q: What is the rationale behind the existence of the speaker's armed forces?

The armed forces exist to implement the state monopoly on violence. They do so in a legitimized way, only acting after democracy has authorized them. By using the gun as an instrument of peace, the armed forces contribute to reducing the statistics of war, conflict, and violence globally. They participate in peacekeeping missions, resolve civil wars, and promote the spread of the constitutional state and international rule of law.

Q: How does nonviolence work like a flywheel?

Nonviolence works like a flywheel as mutually beneficial trade enhances peace. When there is no conflict, trade flourishes, and parties become mutually interdependent. With interdependency, both sides stand to lose more than they gain by starting a war, making nonviolence more profitable. Thus, nonviolence becomes a reinforcing cycle that further enhances peace.

Q: Why is the spread of the constitutional state important in foreign missions?

The spread of the constitutional state is crucial in foreign missions because failed states lack a legitimized, democratic control over the use of force. By helping build judicial systems in Afghanistan and providing training to police officers, judges, and public prosecutors worldwide, the armed forces aim to uphold and promote the international rule of law. It is essential to prevent failed states from dragging down whole regions into chaos and conflict.

Q: How does the presence of penalties outweighing the benefits of violence contribute to peace?

The presence of penalties that outweigh the benefits of using violence tips the balance in favor of abstaining from violence. When the potential consequences of violence, such as legal penalties or loss of reputation, are greater than the benefits gained, it becomes more profitable to abstain from violence. This makes nonviolence a more attractive option and contributes to peace.

Q: Why does the speaker hope for a world without guns?

The speaker hopes for a world without guns because he believes that one day humans will find a way of living together without violence and oppression. His ultimate aspiration is for conflicts to be turned into peace and threats into hope. However, until that day arrives, the speaker stands for the soldiers who risk their lives to create a less violent world and believes that peace and stability come at a price that requires hard work, good equipment, and support for the armed forces.

Takeaways

In his TEDx talk, the speaker highlights the gun as an instrument of peace and stability. He emphasizes that the constitutional state, with a legitimized use of violence under democratic control, has contributed to the decline of violence. He argues that the armed forces play a crucial role in implementing the state monopoly on violence and promoting the international rule of law. The speaker urges support for soldiers' efforts to create a less violent world and emphasizes the need for good equipment, well-trained soldiers, and care for those injured in their service. Despite hoping for a world without guns, he acknowledges the current reality and the hard work required to achieve peace and stability.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker, who is the highest military commander of the Netherlands, chose the gun as his instrument to create a better world and protect democratic values.

  • He believes that the spread of the constitutional state and the state monopoly on violence has led to a decrease in violence and conflict globally.

  • The speaker argues that failed states without a controlled use of force can lead to chaos and conflict, and emphasizes the importance of upholding the international rule of law.

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