I just read a book titled Triple Dètente (1974)  by the major science fiction writer Piers Anthony[1] that considers the conundrum of how to achieve peace among three aggressive intelligent space faring races who are pressed by overpopulation to compete for resources, but in their competition could destroy each other completely. Initially, each race was preparing to invade another planet to acquire enough resources for their own species to survive, but the ensuing conflict was likely to destroy all.

The solution to imminent conflict was the diplomatic decision that the three nations would all surrender their planets to one another where Race 1 becomes the conqueror of Planet 2, Race 2 becomes the conqueror of Planet 3, and Race 3 becomes the conqueror of Planet 1.  Each group imposes a benevolent but autocratic dictatorship on the subject planet and enforces draconian policies that reduce population, protects the environment, distributes resources fairly, and results in long term peace and benefit to all.  Of course, each race is convinced they have been unfairly subjected to slavery and loss of freedom.  The author describes the solution as a fair division of cake among competing children.  Essentially, one person cuts the cake, and others choose the slices.   He tackles some big issues. Population control, how large super-powers can live with each other, and the ethics of a greater-good or justice.  One could argue the story is an unusual example of the application of restorative justice.

The book spends a lot of time examining how to achieve peace through a process where all sides may suffer but all sides also gain.

A similar destructive dilemma exists today related to the impasse of nuclear weapons.  After World War II, multiple nations have developed nuclear arsenals: United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, China, North Korea, and (possibly) Israel.   The potential for mutually assured destruction (MAD)[2] has resulted in a seventy-year standoff during which no large military confrontation has occurred between major world powers.  The presumption is that given no nation can “win” a nuclear war, it is not to anyone’s interest to engage.  Some political scientists have christened this period the “long peace.”[3]  Such a period of relative peace between major powers has not been documented in human history since the Roman Empire.

Recall that détente is a word which describes the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation.  In the past it has been used to describe the end of the Vietnam War, the SALT arms treaty, and many other situations where conflict has been lessened or avoided.

[1] Piers Anthony has published 166 works between 1956 and 2013.  He is an English American author born in 1934 and now age 84.  In 1980 he won the Phoenix lifetime achievement award, he has received four Hugo Awards given to the annual best SF, one Nebula award granted by SF Writers of American annually, one British Fantasy award for best British SF members, eighteen Locus Awards polled by readers of the Locus Magazine over 18 years, the Balrog award, the Dilmar Award and a Gandalf Award, and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over.

[2] MAD:

[3] Long Peace:

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