Swords to ploughshares
Swords to ploughshares (or Swords to plowshares) is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications.
The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah:
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.—Isaiah 2:3–4
The ploughshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit humankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use.
In addition to the original Biblical Messianic intent, the expression "beat swords into ploughshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups.
An ongoing example as of 2013 is the dismantling of nuclear weapons and the use of their contents as fuel in civilian electric power stations, the Megatons to Megawatts Program. Nuclear fission development, originally accelerated for World War II weapons needs, has been applied to many civilian purposes since its use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including electricity and radiopharmaceutical production.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
An expression of this concept can be seen a bronze statue in the United Nations garden called Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a gift from the Soviet Union sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich, representing the figure of a man hammering a sword into the shape of a plowshare.
- After World War II, military surplus AFVs were sometimes converted into bulldozers, agricultural, and logging tractors, as seen in the American television series Axe Men. Two are currently preserved at the Swords and Ploughshares Museum in Canada. French farmers sometimes used modified versions of the obsolete FT-17 tank, and similar vehicles, based on the T-34 tank, remain in widespread use in the former USSR. Robert Crawford, a British agricultural engineer and collector of classic tractors, owns a Sherman tank that was adapted to plow Lincolnshire's fields in response to the shortage of crawler tractors.
- From the 1970s onwards, several anti-war musicians play guitars made from military surplus weapons. Jamaican reggae star Pete Tosh famously owned a Stratocaster built around an M-16 rifle. In the present day the Escopetarra, a guitar converted from the AK-47, is the signature instrument of César López, Souriya Sunshine and Sami Lopakka of the Finnish death metal band Sentenced.
- Nitrogen mustard, developed from the chemical weapon mustard gas developed in World War I, became the basis for the world's first chemotherapy drug, mustine developed through the 1940's.
In political and popular culture
- Twelve term US Congressman and three time presidential candidate Ron Paul wrote a book entitled Swords into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity in which he discusses growing up during World War II and living his life through war after war.
- In his farewell address, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, when speaking about the military-industrial complex stated:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
- In their speeches at the signing of the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin all referenced the saying in calling for peace.
- In Ronald Reagan's Address to the 42d Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York.
Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences world-wide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien than war and the threat of war?
- The popular anti-war song "The Vine and Fig Tree" repeats the verse
And everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid,
Everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more.
O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Create a world with no fear
Together we'll cry happy tears
See the nations turn
Their swords into plowshares
- Finale of the musical Les Misérables:
They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk beughshare,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.
- A poem by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:
Don’t stop after beating the swords
into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating
and make musical instruments out of them.
Whoever wants to make war again
will have to turn them into plowshares first.
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- According to the traditional Jewish numbering and an alternate and non-customary (in English) transliteration scheme for the Hebrew, Yeshayahu 2:4
- See above: Yoel 3:10
- See above: Michah 4:3
- Civilian Shermans
- Shermans into Plowshares
- Swords and Plowshares Museum
- Ukrainian tractor tank
- Sherman tractor tank
- Pete Tosh's guitar
- Cesar Lopez
- United States Department of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (May 2004). "Introduction to Industry Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention" (PDF). cwc.gov.
- Gilman A (May 1963). "The initial clinical trial of nitrogen mustard". Am. J. Surg. 105 (5): 574–8. doi:10.1016/0002-9610(63)90232-0. PMID 13947966.
- https://www.amazon.com/Swords-into-Plowshares-Ron-Paul/dp/0996426507. Missing or empty
- Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Office of the Federal Register. 1979. pp. 518–520.
- "Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Archives". UTexas.edu. 1987-09-21. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- "Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp Songbook". Fredsakademiet.dk. Retrieved 2013-01-01.