Why I decided to start the Bristol Institute for Peace

Ed Lander
The Bristol Institute for Peace
3 min readFeb 11, 2022
A peaceful future is possible, but we must invest in peace first

Ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where UK Prime Minister Tony Blair took the United Kingdom to war against the will of the British people, who marched in their millions in opposition, I’ve taken a keen interest in UK foreign policy. In the wake of the appalling and tragic attacks in New York City on September 11th 2001, the so called ‘War on Terror’ was launched by the George Bush Jnr. administration, resulting in seemingly endless conflict in the Middle East, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and later Syria.

Since the invasion of Iraq, it’s now well known that Saddam Hussein’s threat was over-stated and reports from the United Nations on Saddam’s nuclear, conventional and chemical weapon capability undermined the United States’ intelligence briefings by former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld etc. Also later, during the Obama administration, we learned that the leader of the terrorist group who attacked New York City on 9/11 — Osama Bin Laden — was being protected by the Pakistani military.

It seems like almost every war is predicated by a deception, either by the intelligence communities or by opportunist politicians. More recently, under the Trump administration, we saw President Trump ratchet up tensions with the Chinese Communist Party. Sanctions upon sanctions were layered onto the Chinese economy, and Huawei — the giant Chinese telecommunications company — were blocked from developing the UK 5G telecommunications network. Clearly the decision was partly political — about maintaining the integrity of the so called ‘Five Eyes’ security cooperation network — but also about business and attempts to further undermine the Chinese economy.

Clearly the political landscape is very different now, post COVID-19 and post-Trump, and fortunately tensions on the Taiwan Strait have simmered down under the Biden administration, notwithstanding the somewhat confusing support for both the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘One China policy’ and also the US Taiwan Relations Act. However tensions are now rising in Eastern Europe, as NATO and Russia butt heads over the Ukraine, and the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Clearly, we are only ever a few mistakes away from major armed conflict, and with flash points such as Israel / Gaza / East Jerusalem, the Taiwan Strait and the Ukraine, marking major boundary disputes between powerful military nations, building a movement for peace has never been more urgent and important. And despite the worst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic being behind us now, humanity still faces enormous challenges in the 21st century, not least the energy crisis — as we pivot from fossil fuels to green and clean energy — linked closely with the climate crisis, which looms large in the background and sets the stage for mass migrations and armed conflict (as large parts of the planet will become uninhabitable to humans and animals alike). Now, more than ever, we need strong, compassionate and honest leadership.

So help me build the Bristol Institute for Peace, to help cement recent gains in the peace movement in a transition to a World Beyond War, and support peaceful solutions to the world’s problems as we navigate some very tricky junctures ahead.