Thursday, August 08, 2013

Envisioning an end to the conflict industry

Applying some of the techniques offered to us by Elise Boulding in her creation of a future envisioning process, how can we someday be rid of the destructive influence of the conflict industry, that is, the influence of parties that tend to benefit from the continuation of destructive conflict?

Some benefit in the obvious financial way, making profits from more violence, more death, more destruction. You would need to include Raytheon, Electric Boat, General Dynamics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, CACI International, Northrup Grumann, and many of the other massive corporations who make ungodly profits from violence and wreckage.

Some benefit politically, proclaiming themselves the champions of their people and proving it by sending those people off to kill and die, paid for by taxing their people. You might think of Osama bin Laden, Slobodan Milosevic, Hamas, George W. Bush, John McCain, or any of the others whose stock seems to rise as they exhibit more belligerence and willingness to use violence.

Can we envision a world without the conflict industry?

What a nice image. There are no profits to be made by hurting others. No corporations are making profits from weapons, nor from supplying warriors, nor from any aspect of destruction. Politicians use methods of conflict management that bypass and avoid all violence or threats of violence. If any of them use such language or techniques they are unelectable since society clearly rejects that sort of approach. Other peoples and nations around the world feel included, unthreatened, and respected. War is a thing of the past.

Nice fantasy, but how did we get there? What is the sort of history that produces that sort of future?
  • By 2028 the militaries of the world were largely disarmed and focused on providing nonviolent divisions of de-escalation experts into zones of emerging conflict in order to help avert outbreaks of violence. Arms trade had diminished to a trickle and very few politicians anywhere engaged in hostile, belligerent, or violent threatening rhetoric. The global norm of nonviolent solution to all conflict was robust and established.
  • In the US, as a result of the global debate and decision in 2020 to enact a law banning war profiteering, the American Peace Race Act of 2024 was passed by a Congress and President who had taken the Positive Peace Pledge, launched by the US Green Party in 2018. That Positive Peace Pledge included a promise to respond to all conflict by seeking nonviolent solutions. It was unpopular at first, but picked up in its support as civil society increasingly entered a new level of sophisticated public discourse around the issue. 
  • PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, was a small-time model of helping peace and justice intellectuals break into mainstream media. It inspired a much larger set of organizations who began to actively seek those peace and justice intellectuals and got their analyses into mainstream, alternative, and social media to a great extent by 2021, at which point the US national public discourse radically changed and, instead of dragging along, began to lead the world in a positive peace analysis, slowly replacing or reforming the political landscape from a war system to a peace system.
  • There was the Global Ban on War Profiteering, passed into law by a majority of the world's nation-states in 2020, the result of a grassroots effort similar to the groundbreaking 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. That 1997 treaty took five whole years to achieve from start in 1992 to finish. The 2020 GBWP took six years after it was launched in 2014, inspired originally by the children in Northern Ireland as they gained international recognition for their insistence on positive peace.
  • In 2013 the children of the worst conflict areas in Northern Ireland declared they wanted the so-called "Peace Walls" (barriers between Catholics and Protestants) taken down to bring all Irish together to stop valuing destructive conflict and start valuing constructive dialog and interfaith integration.
Admittedly, this future's history--also known as backcasting (working back from the desired future instead of forecasting from the undesirable present)--is sketchy and broadbrushed, but a real actionable strategic plan could be worked out in great detail to attempt to achieve this outcome. And, of course, this is only one of many possible paths to that wished-for goal of helping to gain positive peace by eliminating the conflict industry. Imagine, however, that a group of thoughtful, committed people did formulate and commit to carrying out something like this. Margaret Mead told us that is how actual history has been made, so I have no doubt we could make this happen.

We have fantasies, we can make them into dreams, and then into bright visions with clear plans to attain them. It only takes our minds to start and our hands to finish.

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