Sunday, June 24, 2012

Defeating the enemy

Potentially war could be eliminated and replaced by effective conflict management procedures and institutions. 
--Douglas P. Fry (2005, p. 10)
Douglas Fry is an anthropologist. He studies and writes about cultures all around the world. His subspecialty is conflict resolution and this combination is one that has always been of interest to thoughtful and inquiring anthropologists, including Margaret Mead, who noted back in 1940 that, since some societies have zero history of war, war is not mandated in human nature, but is rather just one potential outcome of human decision-making. Fry carries on this logic that is quite tantalizing now that we have such a strong research record showing the relative effectiveness of nonviolence compared to violence. 

In our modern age, said Denzel Washington's character in the movie Crimson Tide, the enemy is war. Washington played an officer on a nuclear ballistic missile-carrying submarine (SSBN), the USS Alabama, and any imaginative person would cringe at the absurd, blasphemous, obscene destructive power on any SSBN, aka boomers. Each one of the 14 Ohio-class Tridents can carry up to 408 independently targetable nuclear warheads, enough to wipe out all major cities in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, and, while we're up, Cuba. The surgical precision of the potentially thousands of nuclear bombs would, oh by the way, loft so much radioactive debris into the various levels of the atmosphere that all of life on Earth would be diminished, if not dead, due to fallout that would persist for at least a decade and a similar period of zero direct sunshine falling on Earth as a result of those megatons of suspended, gradually precipitating radioactive particulate. Photosynthesis would essentially stop. The base food for all life--plants--would die. In other words, war involving our "best" weapons would be the ultimate maladaptive move made by a humanity doomed by its apotheosis of unwise cleverness. How to end the evolution 'debate'? End evolution.

So let's listen to the social scientists who look at what we have done that is an alternative to war. Some are anthropologists like Fry. Some are political scientists like Gene Sharp and Erica Chenoweth. Guess what? Nonviolence is a great way to fight. It is our only chance to defeat the true enemy: war.


Fry, D. P. (2005). The human potential for peace: An anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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