Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nonviolence and national defense

On the question of nonviolence and our national defense, at least consider the Center for Defense Information and their approach. They are NOT nonviolent, but their much more accurate ideas about homeland security would cut TWO THIRDS of our military budget. These are all high-ranking retired military and are quite amazing in their candor and assessments. All of them are career military, not pacifists like me. Or look at the remarkable work done by analyst Frida Berrigan on aspects of how our military spending negatively affects our national security. Her mentor and colleague, William Hartung, also produces excellent reports showing the insecurity produced by many of the programs sold to us as security.

Could we have a completely nonviolent national defense? Not if we wish to defend our consumption. Not if we wish to take more than our share. Nonviolence is predicated upon justice, even as it offers the best method of seeking justice. And even if we were totally just, we still would have to be prepared to engage in massive nonviolent noncooperation if some foreign power decided to invade. So it wouldn't be easy, but it would be possible under the right circumstances.

Did it work for anyone ever? Yes. Gandhi showed us and others took his example. During the long era of decolonization nonviolence was used to get democracy and liberation in Zambia, Ghana, the Philippines, South Africa, Iran, and all the nations of the Velvet Revolution who tossed out the puppet governments of the Soviet Union. Those struggles took some time, but so does violence.

What most say now is that nonviolence would not prevent an initial invasion of the US and so we must keep our violent defense. As a pacifist I cannot support that, but I completely understand the argument and its logic. This is why I refer people to the CDI analysis. It addresses the only situation where nonviolence would not have a good success rate compared to violence in the short term, in my estimation. (photo: general strike, 1911, Liverpool)

I would argue that the more justice and equality we promote nonviolently globally--that is, end military aid to others and just send humanitarian aid that will truly help--the less and less likely it is that anyone would want to attack us, either in revenge or to invade.

Civilian-based defense, entirely nonviolent but based on organized nonviolent noncooperation, is hard to do without preparation and we are not prepared. The link offers a pdf document by Gene Sharp, the conceiver of CBD, and is a blueprint for nonviolent defense against invasion and occupation.

Believing in nonviolence is not believing in an unrealistic option; indeed, given the ecological and economic realities, it is the ONLY realistic option in the long run. We'd better start learning about it now.

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