Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sort the wars--and stop them

Interstate conflicts are conflicts between states. Ethnonational conflicts are conflicts to determine the identity of the state. Ideological-government conflicts are conflicts to decide the nature of the state. Economic-factional conflict are conflicts to control the resources of the state.
--Oliver Rambotham, Tom Woodhouse, & Hugh Miall (2012, p. 415)

I have students who come to class sure that there is one underlying reason for war and that all other reasons are secondary. "It's all about religion." "Underneath all the wars are the competition for resources." "You'll always find basic ideology at the root of all war, even if the players are proxies."
But wars are each uniquely caused and uniquely tragic. Each are uniquely avoidable.

The field of Peace and Conflict Studies has enough of a research base now to offer the problem-solver a hypothetical path toward nonviolent management of all conflicts. This was not true in the past--we had to rely on philosophy and values and our own ideologies, none of which were ever going to produce replicable results in the real world. But now, thanks to social sciences, historians, and brave peaceworkers in many societies, there is a corpus of case studies, narratologies, quantitative research and other knowledge that allows us to construct a hypothetical prevention strategy for any likely war.

This, of course, begs the questions, why don't more of us know about this, why doesn't Congress seem to understand this, and why aren't the experts being sourced by policymakers and mainstream media? Americans are looking for hope, hoping for alternatives, and have now finally achieved a majority opinion to end the occupation of Afghanistan and reduce the grotesquely bloated military budget. But where are the policymakers who can deliver on these desires?

They will come around. It is going to be like Abba Eban predicted about the Israel Palestine conflict, that the parties will do the right thing--after they've exhausted all the other alternatives. The key to progress is to get more peace expert voices into the public conversation earlier and earlier, offering other choices. Imagine that in the 1980s, when the US helped lure the Soviets into invading Afghanistan, when the US then gave military aid to Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the other mujahedeen, and then when the US engineered a 1990 Saddam sucker punch by helping to lure them into Kuwait, fed lies to the Saudi royals to convince them to allow US soldiers into Saudi Arabia, and then rolled into war on Iraq followed by a decade of killer sanctions. Peace educators were aware then of the alternatives, many of which would have prevented that long sad chain of events that helped ultimately produce the invasion of Iraq in 2003 justified by a pack of lies.

We never had the moral margin to kill innocents. Now we have no more economic margin for the endless waste of the Pentagon war machine. It is long past time to insist that mainstream media access the peace experts whenever conflict is in the news. The potential savings are massive.

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