Sunday, October 20, 2013

We'll learn better, if it takes a hundred years!

It was all planned out very carefully in advance, scientifically, one could say.
The generals knew, and the Kings and Kaisers,
But most folks missed those meetings in the War Departments
Where the experts worked out the timetables for troop movements,
Right down to the minute, and the preplanned mobilization plans for millions of men,
Who would report where and exactly when, and how many rifles would be issued.
How the big cannons would get to the front and how many coffins they’d need.
And the common folk were probably drinking in the pubs when the diplomats met
And drew up the entangling alliances so that one thing triggered another,
An automatic cascade into total war.
“But It won’t really happen, will it,” asked the Kings and Kaisers?
And the generals said, “Not to worry.
Just making sure we’re ready if it does.”
So it was all a big surprise.

--Kent Shifferd, from his World War I poems to mark the passage of a century since it began in 1914

What we prepare for, we get. What we invest in, we realize. What we train for, we respond with. What we buy, we use.

Some humans have always been preparing to hurt others, to steal from others, to subjugate others, by brute force. The rest of us have responded by planning to use our own brute force to stop the aggressors.  The problem comes, doesn't it, when the "defensive" violence becomes retaliatory, and retribution feels like a new sort of aggression, which in turn precipitates a violent response and welcome to the Middle East. Or, in the case of Europe, five centuries culminating in World War II, with a 'minor' flare-up in the--of course--Balkans in the 1990s.

Conflict forensics--the science and art of dissecting conflict into its contributory, necessary, and sufficient causes, and then illustrating it in a map or flowchart--can offer us points of entry, intervention, and change. Learning how to apply those counterfactuals to past conflicts can offer hope toward a more constructive and less destructive set of outcomes for the inevitable future conflicts.

This, then, is why it is imperative to teach peace, to begin to introduce into our children and our adult students that nonviolence is no longer nearly as counter-intuitive as it was even a decade ago. Choosing whether to be nice or whether to prevail is no longer necessary. We can nicely force aggressors back into their pens. We can. And we can take away the causes that produce organized aggression in the first place, which is key.

Let's say, for instance, that the US would have come up with different incentives to Anwar El-Sadat and Menachem Begin at Camp David in 1978, hosted by Jimmy Carter, and the subsequent treaty between Egypt and Israel.

While the Accords were more general and refurbished Begin and Sadat as peace guys (even garnering them a shared Nobel Peace Prize that year), the treaty included many sketchy provisions, such as the massive military aid that has never quit and has enriched US war profiteers (some say that is the major factor in Congressional approval of those huge expenses annually) while serving as a bribe to keep out of direct war, even as they prepare for it. It might or might not be a prelude to a regional war, but, like World War I, the "peace" is "kept" by incessant and increasing preparation for war, skirting the lip of the cliff from time to time. While Carter bought off the two enemies to create a negative peace, the price was unacceptable to a sustainable peace. Better ideas could have been found rather than setting up a perpetual profit machine for war profiteering elite owners.

It's all planned out very carefully in advance. And unless we begin to invest, instead, in peace that comes from nonviolent justice and fairness and respect for the rights of all, we are just investing in more war.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

"What we prepare for, we get. What we invest in, we realize. What we train for, we respond with." Powerful words, thank you.