Can A Violinist Stand In The Way Of War With North Korea?
With each passing day, war with North Korea seems to draw closer. Kim Jong Un continues to test his arsenal; Donald Trump issues new threats and nicknames his nemesis "Rocket Man"; Kim responds in kind, saying the U.S. president's speech yesterday at the United Nations was "the sound of a dog barking." Some say the path toward armed — and possibly nuclear — showdown is starting to look inevitable.
So if traditional diplomacy isn't working, could there be other ways to prevent war?
On Aug. 27, 1928, 15 major national powers signed the Paris Peace Pact, which outlawed war as a tool for international policy. Since its signing, the Pact has largely been dismissed by historians, who discounted it for its idealism. It's more a promise of good behavior than an actual policy. How could a flimsy piece of paper really stop global wars?
Can Beethoven really prevent a war?
But in their new book The Internationalists, Yale University law professors Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro argue that the Pact was actually a pivotal point in history. Since 1945, inter-state warfare has actually gone down significantly, which Hathaway and Shapiro credit in no small part to the legacy of the Pact that articulated a new idea that waging war in itself was an unacceptable form of statecraft.
As The Internationalists points out, ideas — and ideals — can make a difference. So perhaps we should not be too quick to discount a blatantly idealistic plan to defuse the current North Korean nuclear crisis. As Swiss daily Le Temps reports, South Korean violinist and activist Hyung Joon Won wants to invite the leaders of both Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States to a private concert in Panmunjom, just north of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula.
He plans on playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony (the "Ode to Joy") and the Korean folk song "Arirang" for the politicians, to convince them to change their tune and start working towards peace. "Music is the only universal language," Won declared.
His plans call to mind past political-musical performances, such as Rostropovich at the Berlin Wall or David Martello outside the Bataclan concert hall or violinist Wuilly Arteaga playing during the recent anti-government protests in Venezuela.
But can Beethoven really prevent a war? Maybe Elton John is better? It might not be such a long, long time before we find out.