Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alternatives to war

Do you want to bomb somebody or just do nothing?

Could there be a third way?
For a few thousand years, all we could imagine was violence or cowardice, war or surrender, attack or apathy. Now, in the past 107 years since Mohandas Gandhi offered us a model of people power, and in the past 65 years or so of studying mediation and other paths to solutions not involving violence, we have expanded our palette of conflict colors, or our menu of options. Here is a short list and I have faith you could add more:

1. Meet with the offending party. Find out what they want--not their position, but their interests behind the position. Begin thinking of nonviolent ways to satisfy them.

2. Ask the other party or parties to also tell you their interests.

3. Cease all destructive aid or support to any party. No arms, no help to anyone in their destructive approaches.

4. Seek the parties who are using nonviolent approaches. Support them. It is likely they will have been overshadowed, overwhelmed, and overmatched by the violent ones or destructive ones. Help them level the playing field by listening to their support needs and meeting them.

5. Devise sanctions to nonviolently coerce all parties into stopping the violence. This subset of alternatives might include freezing assets, blocking travel, preventing participation in institutions and events, etc.

6. Work to expand the agreement of external parties to assist in all these nonviolent measures. The bigger your coalition, the more effective.

7. "Build a golden bridge over which your opponent can retreat," said Sun Tzu. Find ways to help the violent one in power understand that if he negotiates in good faith, he need not fear enraged mob attack nor kangaroo court 'victor's justice.'

8. Support a Truth and Reconciliation process of some sort.

9. Help organize a peace conference. Bring representatives from all contending parties, including the nonviolent players. Provide neutral mediators as well as a safe space to air views, listen to stories, suggest solutions.

10. Work to create and expand corporate support, much as Louis Sullivan did when he led corporate opposition to apartheid and corporations helped turn the tide toward a peaceful outcome in South Africa.

11. Support a new UN unarmed, nonviolent, peacekeeping force.

12. Outlaw war profiteering locally, nationally, regionally, and ultimately globally. Take the profit motivation out of arms transfers.

13. Use all forms of media--corporate, social, advocacy, YouTube, state, independent, electronic, print, billboards and other signage, film, television, radio--to oppose all violence and promote nonviolent alternatives.

14. Raise funds, divert resources to refugees and internally displaced victims of violence.

15. Organize massive peace rallies or massive numbers of peace rallies, supported by petitions, phone calls, emails, and in-person lobbying to any public official who might be able to affect any decision to use violence.

These are just a few steps to take to try to achieve the best outcome, even if the best outcome still produces some injustice and lack of sufficient punishment for those who have committed violence. I'm still waiting for Dick Cheney to go to prison and we can wait for Basher al-Assad to serve time too; just get them out of power. The primary advantages of taking a nonviolent stance include a lessening of damage and an end to the desire for further revenge. The only way to end the cycle of passive-aggressive responses is to do so unilaterally with creative alternatives. The world is composed of too many smart people, too many creative geniuses, to continue to shoot at each other. Bend our brains toward expanding this list and making it happen. We can change history. War is obsolete and far too costly, especially when there are other ways.

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