Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nonviolent evolution

Interesting piece in the Boston Globe, Call to arms, by a scholarly journalist, Thanassis Cambanis. He seems convinced, and tries to convince the reader, that only violence can produce a revolution.

His point is that revolutions are meant to sweep away entire governments and start completely afresh. He cites the Iranian Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the French Revolution as exemplars and then disses the Egyptian Revolution and all the colored revolutions and the Philippines liberation as not really replacing much.

Really? We want to emulate the Russian Revolution? They replaced one dictatorship with another and he calls that a revolution? We want what the French had, replacing one terrorist regime with another? I'm not even going to get rhetorical about the Iranian Revolution, especially since Cambanis doesn't seem to realize it was essentially nonviolent. He manages to confuse a nonviolent revolution with a bloodless change. No nonviolent activist nor scholar would make that basic error. If virtually all the violence is on one side, that is a nonviolent struggle, which is usually too obvious to mention.

Cambanis is clearly swept up in the romance of revolution. He goes afield until he finds Egyptians who will say what he wants them to say, which cannot be extremely hard. It wasn't hard to find African American rank and file who, if asked by enterprising reporters in 1965, would say that only violence could produce the real change they wanted and that nonviolence was a dud. With enough Facebooking, I could find you Filipinos who would call for violence, Serbs, Poles, Indians, Ghanaians, members of the UFW, etc.

If we want an entirely new government and that is the only time we accept a change as revolutionary, I suppose Cambanis would have smiled upon the great sweeping changes brought about by the Khmer Rouge, who renamed their country, took great pains to kill as many perceived opponents as possible (some 7.1 million of them, proportionally making their regime the most violent in the 20th century) and even reset the calendar. Now that's a revolution, eh, Mr Cambanis?

But perhaps he's correct. Perhaps we should purge ourselves of the term revolution, which, after all, connotes coming back around to the same point, since violence seems to bring us right back to oppression after we use it to throw off the ancien régime. Nonviolent evolution is better. That implies adaptation, creativity, preparing for a whole new environment (especially with consideration of punctuated equilibrium, an interesting improvement upon Darwinian theories), and simply becoming better suited to our world. A nonviolent evolution would not require a complete systemic change but would rather help us all tweak the system toward more justice, better living, and far less structural or direct violence.

I mean, the American Revolution retained the basic system of white male property owner power and privilege, so even the use of violence doesn't change the real conditions much for those at the bottom, right Mr Cambanis? Nonviolent improvements on American democracy--women's suffrage, legalization of unions, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act--all these were essentially won with nonviolent struggle often even more widespread than the proportions actually involved in the Russian Revolution, and all extended more rights to more groups of people. That is evolution and none of those struggles hurt people, but rather helped.

Nothing wrong with sweeping changes when they are done nonviolently. I still think evicting the entire British government from India and restarting indigenous governance was pretty revolutionary, but I take Mr Cambanis's point. I just wish he'd apply it to his own pet cases.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Codependent consumers and dictators

Burma is the land of Daw Suu, the nonviolent leader of a partially completed nonviolent revolution. She is currently free (at least not on house arrest since 13 November 2010), though she and all who love her know that this has been the case before and that the military government could decide to put her back on house arrest or worse at any moment. She remains one of my all time sheroes.

Her Reith Lecture one month ago brings me to tears.  Her discussion of various forms of freedom and the universality of the human longing for freedom is so poignant from a person who chose to risk her life and who has sacrificed so much for her people's desire for liberation. She says:
The freedom to make contact with other human beings with whom you may wish to share your thoughts, your hopes, your laughter, and at times even your anger and indignation is a right that should never be violated.

Every time a government violates these basic freedoms or allows elements of a society to violate them that government fails its people. Every time a government engages in this oppression, or allows others to do so to members of its society, it moves further from the right to call itself a democracy. Burma is, of course, an example of complete nondemocracy. Aung San Suu Kyi--Daw Suu is her honorific to her people--is the 66-year-old leader of her nation's long struggle for freedom, a struggle that has been armed and unarmed.

Indeed, her father, Aung San, was the military leader who freed Burma using both violence and negotiation, and his memory was revered, setting the stage for her leadership, though she has proven herself far more egalitarian and inclusive than her father, whose record is highly suspect amongst the Karen peoples. Daw Suu is loved by virtually all Burmese who aren't a part of the ruling military clique. Spend time with any Burmese and you'll realize her spirit infuses all of them, a spirit that is both gentle and immensely strong.

The long mixed history of violence and nonviolence in Burma has given the selfish, brutal military the excuse to do the inexcusable, to deny people that basic freedom toward which Aung San Suu Kyi leads them. The generals are trying to spruce up their image with "elections" that Daw Suu's National League for Democracy called a sham (even their foreign officers are agreeing as they defect and apply for asylum).

Moving long nonviolent struggles forward to victory often requires one of two things, and sometimes both.

One, the people of that country need to shut it down until they achieve victory, which is actually muddled with the ersatz elections in Burma.

Two, externals need to be unified and strong in their support for nonviolent freedom fighters, and that is increasingly confounded by the growing strength of the Chinese influence economically and politically, since China's authoritarian brand of state-run brutally enforced capitalism defies the general world trend toward freedom and human rights and their trade with the Myanmar (Burma) rulers undercuts all other sanctions.

Thus, external sanctions on Burma have limited effect as long as China defies them and sanctions on China do not exist because we are too wed to cheap Chinese consumer goods, just as seemingly indispensable to our lives as oil, and thus we guarantee lack of freedom from Riyadh to Rangoon. Our struggle for freedom from hyperconsumerism is directly linked to humankind's struggle for all freedoms.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Glenn Beck needs the SHU

How do Glenn Beck's people sleep at night? This guy would be fine if he were living in a group home for the Very Very Disturbed,
where his hurtful and surreal loose cannon talk would be filtered through a pitiable lens instead of broadcast to millions of credulous listeners. At least others have reflected on this idiocy with care.

There are camps and schools grooming violent extremists in many parts of the world. We see the fruit of some of the madrases
and the Christian camps. Hate hate hate. Beck himself was affiliated with a Tea Party camp for children. The Norwegian mass murderer and the nutty Pakistani Muslims who call for war on Norway are cut from the same morally threadbare cloth--which is Beck's material at best.

Some years ago I was Educational Director at a summer camp not unlike Utoya in Norway, where the deranged Hitler-Youth-type murdered so many children. We had the sweetest, most concerned and gentle children. When I suggested that they organize and conduct an Environmental Impact Hearing on our camp, not only did the camp administration (who would be on the hot seat) approve, the kids did an amazing job. I taught them the principles of it and they ran the hearing with all campers and all staff in the dining room, just as professionally as the government does. I imagine these youth, now in their 30s, are leaders in many communities in the US. That is the opposite of Hitler Youth, and to say that, Glenn Beck, to a people who take pride in bringing down Nazism with nonviolence--exactly what Norwegian teachers, ministers, youth leaders and sports coaches did during WWII--is Goebellian in its painful Big Lie.

Meanwhile, my friend Stephen Kelly, SJ, is in the Security Housing Unit in a Washington prison for his nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons. Steve doesn't get to see the green of the trees nor the blue of the sky because he is unable to agree with some of the terms of his confinement. He and I write frequently. He has never complained once. Never. He is only concerned with the welfare of others. Meanwhile, in California, prisoners are so sick of the SHU they are on hunger strike.

I think Beck needs the SHU. Give him some meditation time. Let him think about how he hurts others. He seems to claim to be deeply Christian. Give him a place to pray, to reflect profoundly on the sum of his life, the meaning of what he does and says, and how he can reconcile that with Christianity. I would hope that he realizes it can only be done with a series of authentic apologies and a total turnaround.

I won't hold my breath.

Meanwhile, write Steve:
Stephen Kelly, S.J.
00816 111 SHU
POB 13900
Seattle WA 98198-1090

Thursday, July 28, 2011

War Econ 101

What we find now is an interesting misconception of how war and war preparation has affected our economy. We are told over and over that we aren't asked to sacrifice for this global war on terror, so we aren't really involved. This is grossly misleading.

Our economy is on the rocks--sacrificed--because we spend far more each day than we take in. We have massive unemployment because we insist that any employment must be privately created and then we see the public subsidies to the wealthy being used to decrease, rather than increase, the number of jobs. We have sacrificed millions of jobs by spending on capital intensive military instead of labor intensive infrastructure and social service sectors. Creating a peace economy means creating an infrastructure that produces more jobs and weans us off the oil that is fueling and driving so much conflict.

No, there aren't ration cards. It's not like WWII. Instead, we've postponed that day. Much of it began to manifest in 2008 when the weakness of the economy produced a tidal wave of foreclosures--a major sacrifice indeed--and now, three years on, we've continued to ignore Pentagon spending and we see we are still making it worse. This economic slide into catastrophe continues because the Pentagon consumes and does not produce. Historian William McNeill called the military the first macro parasite and that is why war is not good for "the" economy; it is great for the economy of war profiteers only. Jobs created by war are jobs created by misspending our taxes and taking out unnecessary loans. Americans get that concept; most of us manage to control our credit card spending so that we can handle that debt down to zero every month, or at least every few months. We understand what happens when we only make a minimal payment and continue the same pattern of deficit spending; our debt balloons. We are about to experience the sacrifice of the basic credit rating of our entire country on the altar of militarism, adding yet more sacrifice to our deep sacrifices already made.

There will be no end to these sacrifices until we stop electing politicians who are afraid to defund the Pentagon. No other country on Earth has a military remotely as huge as ours in terms of weaponry and foreign bases. It's as though these are invisible, demanding endless sacrifice without much evaluation. It is an interesting coincidence that we hear the politicians shrieking that they must cut $4 trillion over the next period in order to help balance the budget, which is almost exactly what the global war on terror is costing, according to a Brown University study. No war, no debt. Problem solved. Oops--too late.

Make no mistake, we are sacrificing heavily. To say that members of the military are the only ones sacrificing in this global war on terror is a lie. Everyone is sacrificing and the unemployed and homeless have already sacrificed much more than most civilians did during World War II, which is always held up as the war that helped all Americans to share in the sacrifice. Time for some honest accounting as our "leaders" press the pedal to the metal and drive us toward fiscal ruin.

Well, the credit card companies are cutting us off, thanks to an unbelievably malfunctioning Congress and an atmosphere of uncivil attack rather than meaningful dialog. Our Congress could postpone the day of reckoning even more or even try to fix it in meaningful annual increments, but they choose to take us flying off the cliff, apparently. We'll see if they are correct in their assumption that they are the ones with parachutes--that question needs to wait for the next election. Politics used to be the art of compromise but in the US politics is really war by other means and we see the mudwrestling results.

McNeill, William H. (1984). The pursuit of power. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Earth to Congress: Wake up and smell the savings

Congress. Geez. I hope they don't actually wonder why Americans respect them so little. And we are Equal Opportunity Disdainers. Each party sucks badly. Obama, for all his goof-ups and sliding numbers, is way ahead of Congress in the opinion of Americans, though you would never think that listening to the Republicans who are constantly telling us what "the American people want." Most of all, Republicans, when it comes to job creation and general job approval, we don't want all y'all. But then, Republicans have never let the truth stand in the way of a good sound bite.

Democrats can't manage to control their libidos (Weiner and Wu, coming to group therapy session near you), but the Republicans cannot seem to control their penchant for declaring identity groups and starting fights--they attack Muslims, immigrants of all sorts, anyone getting any government help--and they seem determined to devolve to the ultimate Milton Friedman-David Koch ethos of "zero regulation on corporations" plus the notion that the military is the only legitimate government expense.

Well, to both of you--Dysfunctional Democrats and Rabid Republicans alike--the peace movement has been shouting from any available rooftops for decades that the military budgets are ruining America. This is what has happened and we see you are still unable to get that.

You cannot seem to engage in Negotiation 101 for the good of the American people, so let's just refresh our memories. What was it that the peace movement has been saying?
  1. Close the 800+ US foreign military bases.
  2. Stop all foreign military aid.
  3. Reduce nuclear arsenal budgets to whatever it would take to dismantle them.
  4. Bring 100 percent of American military home. Declare victory first if you like.
  5. Halt all major weapons programs.
  6. Stop all weapons research and testing.
  7. Cut all weaponized drones.
  8. Stop recruitment bonuses.
  9. Stop recruitment.
  10. Give the Pentagon a Jubilee year off. If the military wants to operate, let them all truly volunteer. We've been doing that in the peace movement forever.

If you did even half these Ten Recommendations (we'll leave Ten Commandments to someone else) you could have a pizza together and wrap up a deal. If you did all Ten Recommendations this year, I would pledge to sign over 100 percent of my future Social Security checks to a nonviolent substitute Civilian-Based-Defense government agency. Happily. How is that for a win-win? Oh, that's right. Republicans won't stand for a win-win. They will take unconditional surrender, though they would prefer something more like extirpation of all members of Congress who might not want to cut off Social Security and Medicare rather than cut the Pentagon.

Sigh. I guess I can look forward to opening that first Social Security check in a few years. I'm sure it will be a scrap of paper with a hand-scrawled note, "IOU. Love, the Pentagon."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We lost before we won

Social movements virtually never win on the first try. Even rousing successes with short runs to big victories are usually preceded by fall-flat failures if we look close enough.
  • Hungarians rose up in 1956 and were crushed.
  • Dubcek led the Prague Spring of 1968 and made a good try at creating "socialism with a human face" before being defeated.
  • Solidarity in Poland was busted back underground for seven years.
  • How many runs up the hill did the NAACP make before Brown v Board of Education in Topeka and then Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott turned it around?
  • Serbs tried to rise up nonviolently in 1996 and were closed off as much by Clinton's bombing as anything.
  • Ninoy Aquino spent seven hopeless years in Marcos's prisons and was assassinated when he returned to the Philippines from the US after living for a few years in exile.
  • Several of us served prison time and many more served jail time resisting the US Navy's thermonuclear command base in Michigan and Wisconsin.

All of these movements and many more eventually won.

It is very problematic to refer to a movement as a failure in most cases. Unless the movement basically renounces itself, it is probably somewhere gathering its strength for another charge.

One of the weaknesses in building social movements on the practice of a history of victories is that success has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan; e.g., rightwing militarists ("Reagan spent them into bankruptcy") and nonviolent activists (obviously, the crowds were in the streets and none of them used violence and we won) alike claim credit for the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the dissolution of the USSR.

The evidence is often indirect (Shawki, 2009, p. 99). There are rarely smoking memos ("Please note that I am leaving office because of the massive nonviolent demonstrations and the boycotts that have weakened my will to continue in my bloodthirsty and brutal grasp on power."). Social movements are usually in the midst of a great big very nonclinical, nonlaboratory messy situation full of almost infinite variables and force vectors. Rhetoric usually is a tissue of fabrications (I'm leaving for health reasons. We no longer want this weapon factory. We've done all the good we can for these people and we are going home proudly.)

It's also tough to admit lack of measurable progress. No one likes to acknowledge that their favorite strategy has failed to dislodge the generals in Burma (there have been both nonviolent and violent attempts), the brutal Chinese occupiers of Tibet (same thing, with both sorts of resistance), nor the central dictatorship with few human rights or metrics of democracy in China. Analyzing success or failure is usually a matter of finding the correlatives except in obvious cases like the Serb overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic without a shot or Cesar Chavez gaining migrant worker rights by activating much of the country in effective boycotts that greatly strengthened the power of the nonviolent United Farmworkers.

And so, time after time, we start from a collective societal assumption that we are only doing our nonviolent action out of desperation, not out of a sense we will win. This assumption is false. If we carry on, if we are creative, if we think strategically and show discipline, we will very likely prevail. It is in fact those who decide to use violence who assume they will likely win and in truth will likely fail. Nonviolence is still perceived as the weapon of the weak when, after all, it's the other way around. The day that society assumes that nonviolence is the best bet even when it has the resources to use violence is the day our chances of victory grow even greater.

So, yes, assume you will lose. But assume that you will rise to show persistence and resilience and that, like so many before you, your victory will come.


Shawki, Noha (2009). Conceptualizing transnational campaign outcomes. Peace research: The Canadian journal of peace and conflict studies, 41(1)81-110.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The debtonators are wimps

Inside every positional political debate is the dilemma: Do I want to (a) pick up points with my base or do I want (b) success in moving our society forward? When the answer is (a) we see what is happening now. Digging in and digging down, hitting bottom--and then looking for a way to blast through and keep digging down. It is a failure for society but those in the deep hole together are incapable of climbing out so they blame the other ones digging too.

'Profiles in pusillanimity' is the title of their political biography. They stay with their base, refusing to evolve even when it might mean success for everyone. They would actually choose lose-lose in order to avoid a win-win, because when there is a win of any kind for the other side it means they are cast as collaborators, compromisers, sellouts and afraid to stand on principle. There is nothing wrong and everything right with standing on principle, but that requires a maturation that can separate principles from particularist positional irrelevancies. It also takes the courage to work with those with whom you often and stridently disagree when it comes to the good of your people. Chaining it all to positional stubbornness is a suicide pact. A profile in courage is of someone who dares to act from a win-win place even when that means giving something to the opponent, because that is normally necessary in order to move forward.

The ethical art in all this is to negotiate a win-win that doesn't violate real principles. "No new taxes" is not a principle. It is a position. What is at principled stake is the welfare of long-suffering working people whose tax burdens are contributing to their inability to function for the well being of their families. Negotiating improvement for them is a wide-ranging discussion, not limited to the Boehner bumpersticker mentality that cuts off dialog just when it's needed most.

So Obama has lost patience. Who knows? Perhaps he'll regain his footing. But in the end at least the American people should know that there are smarter, more creative ways to run a government, an economy, and a society.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heartsick, hatesick, and gun weary

Bannon and Collier (2003, p. 1) set the stage for discussing the public health threat of civil war in general:
Civil wars bestow most of the suffering on noncombatants, who tend to have little say in whether the conflict is initiated or if and when it is settled.

But humankind almost seems to be waging a transnational civil war at all levels and driven by many ideologies, mostly fueled by handguns and hatred. The tragedy in Norway is the latest utterly senseless example.

Oh, say the gun lovers, I suppose you'd outlaw fertilizer, since that was the main component of the bombs planted. No, of course not. Fertilizer has a peaceful use. It is made and sold globally with the intention of making plants grow, of producing more food from our good Earth (even though, yes, I personally prefer organic produce for the good of the Earth and our health). Outlawing fertilizer is a different conversation.

But it is time for humans to give up the gun. All humans, all guns. Would Gandhi have shot a gun? Dr. King had a gun until his home was bombed, which is when he sat down, thought it through, and threw it away. The notion that we have some right to these abominable tools comes in a distant second to the rights of all humans to life. Guns are made to kill. Killing is wrong. The vast majority of those killed with guns are innocent, are civilians, and do not deserve to lose their precious lives.

We can teach gun safety, it is claimed. True. That is irrelevant. I'm sure most mass murderers know gun safety practices.

We won our freedom with the gun, many say. No, we won our freedom because we collectively decided to be free no matter how steep the cost. Freedom is no more won with the gun than with Facebook or a phone tree. The tools are not the home and there are many ways to build the home. A home built with nonviolence will be one in which civil rights, human rights and democracy do better. The history is clear. Gandhi used nonviolence to evict an occupier. Dr. King used nonviolence to gain civil rights. Filipinas used nonviolence to stop a civil war and regain their democracy. Many labor unions have used nonviolence to win gains. We all use nonviolence daily to negotiate with everyone in our lives. The three times I had a gun pulled on me and pointed at me I would almost certainly have died if I had myself had a gun and pulled it out. I negotiated my way out of it every time and lost nothing of real value.

Stopping military aid, gun sales, and shutting down our weapons industries would not stop all violence, but it would save millions of lives every year. Understanding these godawful things in the context of a cost-benefit analysis, acting with a good human conscience, and making a bold decision as a species is both possible and vastly superior to what we do now.

Am I conflating many issues and subtopics? Yes and no. It always seems that way when we hear a radical proposal and that is what I make. But can we not make some radical changes toward the good? War and mass murder of all sorts are radical changes toward the bad, from Oslo to Kandahar. Meeting radical evil with pusillanimity is not adequate; it is time to apply what Gandhi called soulforce. That is radical and humankind could benefit from that sort of radical change.

Bannon, Ian and Collier, Paul (Eds.) (2003). Natural resources and violent conflict: Options and actions. Washington DC: The World Bank.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One man's terrorist is another man's wanton killer

First, on behalf of Whitefeather Peace House, we wish to express our profound condolences to the people of Norway, to the families of the victims of the 22 July 2011 bombings and shootings there, and to all friends of all who were murdered and injured. Nothing will ever stop the hurt those evil acts have caused.

It is time to declare the long millennia of violence done and to understand that all violence is counterproductive, whether done to avenge or even supposedly to prevent greater harm. The accused Norwegian bomber is Anders Behring Breivik, 32, and "claims to be a fan of Winston Churchill, classical music, and gory movies like, '300,' and 'Gladiator,' on his Facebook page," according to the New York Daily News.
He is apparently far more akin to Timothy McVeigh than to Osama bin Laden and has some association with anti-Islam groups. Indeed, the targets were youth engaged in progressive politics and the government and perhaps incidentally his bombs were similar--tons of fertilizer.

What they all share is their own rationalization for their murderous acts. Osama bin Laden had reasons for his attacks. Timothy McVeigh had justifications. The Taliban rationalize their violence and the American military does too. In the end it is all about lies, just as Gandhi said. At the end of the day, committing acts of violence is simply a manifestly major moral failure.

One only has to look at all those suffering as a result, from Norway to Congo to Iraq to Colombia to Afghanistan to Libya and so on and so on. The cycle of violence is a death spiral that sucks in far more innocents than "evil-doers" and the acts of violence are evil done.

To strike at the heart of the Nobel Peace Prize, the land of Johan Galtung and Birgit Brock-Utne, the home of sincere peace processes--it is a mark of the insanity of violence. Some 'progressives' say don't mention Norway because we should be focused on mentioning violence done in poor countries. Excuse me? That is what we mention daily. We need to take a moment to think about Norway, about the violence of left, right, nationalism and religion, and think about how to intervene with all our hearts and minds.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Required for war

In 2003, as the US was contemplating invading Iraq I was asked to be on a panel of talking heads, the other three being very accomplished academics and much better debaters than I. At one point I mentioned that historically the military has been used to enforce a racist imperialism again and again. I was mocked by a rightwing historian who noted the racial makeup of today's military.

"It's the most diverse social institution we have," he said. "It is a model for a racially balanced structure."

The model of inclusivity (for anyone worth including) that the military represents is indeed interesting. It has always served imperialism, whether we consider the ancient Romans, who excluded Christians until Christians straightened out their philosophy to a pro-imperialist violence, or the British empire, who outlawed Scottish and Irish language and culture until their young men fought for the empire, or the US, who maintained strict racial segregation until blacks died in high numbers in World War II and Harry Truman finally ordered a desegregation of the military.

And now we see the dynamic in religious terms, the military v Muslims. In the aftermath of the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood by a Muslim suspect, Nidal Hassan, there was some soul-searching in the military. "3,557 military personnel identify themselves as Muslim among 1.4 million people in the active-duty population, according to official figures," wrote Andrea Elliott in the New York Times. Since identifying one's religion is currently optional in the military, many Muslims expect that there are many more of them actually in the military but who prefer not to self-identify officially.

As in any war, it is crucial to objectify the enemy in order to kill them. It is a matter of course that one cannot easily get around, irrespective of sensitivity training and official rhetoric. It is reminiscent of the lines from Three Kings, the 1999 film about Gulf War I:

DOC (black soldier played by Ice Cube) I don't give a shit if he's from Johannesburg. I don't want to hear dune coon or sand nigger from him or anybody.

VIG (white soldier) Captain uses those terms.

TROY (white captain) The point is, Conrad, 'towel head' and 'camel jockey' are perfectly good substitutes.

DOC Exactly.

The black soldier is just fine with racism directed against the enemy, since he too will have to kill that enemy and cannot easily afford to categorize Muslims as fully human. It's comedy because it's a painful truth delivered without discernible irony.

If we ever have a military truly free of racism, bias and objectification we will have a military far less capable of killing. Then, perhaps, they will have to think of other ways to defend our country. At that point, perhaps, our people will be ready to turn to nonviolence, to civilian based defense, which is what we have been promoting all along.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Know it all arrogance and violence

A philosopher friend who teaches includes among his course goals that students should know less and learn more as his course proceeds. Know less? What might he mean by this outrageous "goal"?

What he means is at the very heart of nonviolence. It is Gandhian, Socratic, and humble. It is the idea that epistemology precludes a finality that justifies killing. The very nature of knowledge is that the model is not the reality, that the map is not the territory, and that an existential conclusion is, by definition, missing at least part of the truth.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) was a public intellectual who described that role as "a person who likes to turn easy answers into harder questions" (Diggins, 2003, p. 91). What? Even more outrage! What did he mean?

I think he meant something like the Dalai Lama meant when he said that the only people qualified to use any violence might be Bodhisattvas--but that he certainly was no Bodhisattva. The Christian version might be that the only one who ever qualified to use violence was Christ and we have no one who measures up to that perfect wisdom. Similarly, Gandhi stressed that violence was untruth and that only nonviolence could be used to search for truth.

It's not the heat, it's the humility. The arrogant assume the right to kill. The rest of us will seek deeper truths, more context, and other methods. Nonviolence allows us to struggle for something with our whole selves (and not merely a scrap of paper, as Thoreau advocated in his essay on civil disobedience) and not make mistakes that cannot be rectified--because we all will make mistakes and killing is one that cannot be undone.

The more we learn, the less we absolutely unequivocally know. Only nonviolence can free us the dilemma of making drastic and irremediable mistakes or from what Dr. King called the "paralysis of analysis." Violence liberates us from reason and responsibility and is thus attractive to many. Nonviolence liberates us from the arrogance of knowing the unknowable and from the chains of indecision.

Diggins, John Patrick (2003). The changing role of the public intellectual in American history. In Melzer, A. M., Weinberger, J., & Zinman, M. R. (Eds.). The public intellectual: Between philosophy and politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 91-108.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When conflict gets impersonally personal

In the field of conflict resolution we define a consensual conflict as one that is conducted about some division of the pie (conflict of interests) and is amenable to problem-solving and a possible win-win outcome (Kriesberg, 2007). A dissensual conflict (over values, worldviews, the perceived nature of the parties) tends to regard the other party as the basic problem and so problem-solving becomes "how do we annihilate them?" Dissensual conflicts get dehumanizing in a hurry, are often along religious, party, ethnic, national or ideological lines, and are poorly handled in courts of law and other adversarial fields of contest. The most dissensual and destructive of all transmogrify into murder at the personal level and genocide at the social level.

Unlearning the dysfunctional conflict management methods that feed dissensual conflict is necessary to the transformation of them into consensual conflict, which can be then transformed into constructive conflict. Often it starts with that basic principle from our classic primer, Getting to Yes, which is, Separate the People from the Problem (Fisher and Ury, 2011).

This is tough for many of us, especially those steeped from an early age in dissensual and adversarial conflict. I struggle not to regard people like Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Rupert "The Buck Stops Here and Then Moves Back Down" Murdoch, and Sarah Palin as the problem. I tend to mentally construct objectifying imagery of them as cardboard characters representing greed and churlishness. This is amusing to me but unhelpful in my thinking about how to move forward, especially if my thinking about these leaders is not carefully bounded so that I don't transfer my estimation of their negative traits unto their followers, since our civil society discourse is affected by these mental processes.

It seems to me, indeed, that we have almost reached the incivility of public discourse and the level of dissensual domestic conflict that we saw in the US in the 1850s that led to the Civil War. While many finger the John Brown attack on Harpers Ferry as the spark, I'd also suggest the direct and devastating physical attack on an abolitionist politician, Charles Sumner, in 1856, right on the floor of the Senate, by a Southern politician outraged at Sumner's attack on slavery and all who support it in a speech just days before. His attacker, a Southern politician, was not even arrested, even though Sumner was beaten without warning by a heavy cane almost to death. We may be closer to that point than we believe. An interesting side note is that Sumner is the first source I've read who referred to our system as a "war system" that tends to produce war due to corruption, profiteering and what we now call the conflict industry (Lynd & Lynd, 1995).

The American people were ill served 155 years ago by their politicians, who could have negotiated an end to slavery using nonviolent sanctions and inducements instead of war. We should never assume that the politicians will use wise methods in the end, that they are only posing and will strike some sensible deal. Posturing and polarity ultimately produce war or the functional equivalent. The very incivility and bipolar dissensual nature of the conflict are the true enemies of creativity and intelligent problem solving. The field of conflict resolution could save our process, but right now what we see instead are the strutting positions of crowing roosters (oops, there I go, objectifying our poor political leaders who are, after all, created by us as much as we are affected by them). This is no time for a game of chicken or we will all end up in the Frying Pan of Dissensual Conflict.

Fisher, Roger, & Ury, William (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. (3rd ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Kriesberg, Louis. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. (3rd ed.) Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Lynd, Staughton & Lynd, Alice (1995). Nonviolence in America: A documentary history (2nd ed.). Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books (original 1966).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What is conflict resolution? A Gandhian perspective

The main aim of conflict resolution is to transform violent conflict into nonviolent forms of political and other kinds of change.
--Oliver Ramsbotham, Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall (2011, p. 170).

The core of the field of conflict resolution is the core of Gandhian nonviolence. Gandhi constantly sought conflict, at times seeming to relish a lone stance of defying all who would usurp his sovereignty over his own conscience and reason. His conflicts were not relegated to struggles against foreign occupiers; he was increasingly and most fundamentally in conflict with those he felt were creating a misshapen view of sacred Hindu text and Indian life.

Gandhi proclaimed himself an orthodox Hindu and, like so many Jewish scholars who "argue with God," he interpreted the Gita and all sacred texts in his own way. Joan V. Bondurant (1965) noted that, "Gandhi repeatedly challenged scriptural authority" (p. 121). He did so to bolster his nonviolence and his crusade against Untouchability, proclaiming that, in regard to the latter, he would stand in opposition to all learned Hindu interpretation of the shastras and Smritis if they were read as supporting Untouchability.

Gandhi criticized fellow Indians for cooperation with the British more than he criticized the British for ruling India, famously declaring that the British had not taken India so much as Indians had given it to them. Almost all Gandhi's fasts were not in opposition to the British but in opposition to behavior of his fellow Indians. While it is true that most of his campaigns were waged in struggle against British usurpation of Indian sovereignty, his conflicts with fellow Indians consumed him as he sought to wage those conflicts with the British from a place of impeccable and hypocrisy-free purity. Indeed, that struggle ultimately cost him his life, a price he was prepared to pay, and did. He was not shot by the British oppressor, nor by a Muslim fanatic, but by a fellow Hindu who reminds me of so many of today's ultraleft critics of nonviolence, someone so arrogant that he and his cohort believed they could end a dispute with an act of violence. Gandhi died for the principles of conflict resolution, for what he called satyagraha, or truthforce. His assassin achieved nothing but ignominy and disgrace, earning the loathing of much of the world. There were millions at Gandhi's funeral or in active open mourning around the world. Scant few attended the funeral of his murderer. These final measures of respect and admiration continue as we strive today to learn much from the life and thinking of Mohandas Gandhi and the thinking of those who killed him lie buried in the dust of historical contextual footnotes.

For humankind, Gandhi achieved in life and in death the next great step for our evolutionary journey, the transformation of conflict from violent to nonviolent. He did not shirk nor shrink from conflict--that is for those who acquiesce to oppression of themselves and others. He simply showed and lived a vastly superior way to wage it. That is our mission in the field of conflict resolution and our endless challenge.

Bondurant, Joan V. (1965). Conquest of violence: The Gandhian philosophy of conflict. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, and Miall, Hugh (2011). Contemporary conflict resolution (3rd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One might hope that after a decade of war war war in Afghanistan, we'd be growing weary, looking for some resolution. Indeed, according to "the polls" (more than one) between 55-60 percent of Americans believe "we should not be involved."

I'm on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association and rest assured there is a growing body of research on what it takes to help those poor benighted countries like Angola, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, Nepal, Bosnia, etc, to end a war and construct the peace. The UN studies this, several EU projects focus on it, numerous foundations fund researchers from universities and institutes to worry about what happens when a country tries to transition from war to peace. There are volumes and volumes written about it, and the peace is increased when these findings inform those on the ground.

But how do we bring the US to peace? I think it might be time to look at what the literature says about war torn countries in the various phases of moving toward a stability that can support peace. The biggest worry are the spoilers--those who are fast to move to upset and wreck the fragile peace so that war resumes.

Spoilers range from ideologically implacable enemies, through disappointed political interests, to unscrupulous exploiters who profited from the previous dispensation and are reluctant to accept its demise (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2011, p. 216).

We see all those symptoms and players both in Afghanistan and in the US. The Taliban hates the US and our military hates them. The US cannot install a friendly enough leader--Hamid Karzai is half defected to the Taliban. When we leave, Karzai is not long for power, and his US gravy train dries up, so he desperately wants us to stay even though he'll spout the opposite. War profiteers in the US are forever seeking to cook up ways to carry on with hot conflict. They own the Republicans and have a major stake in the Democrats.

So these are the spoilers. They all act opposite to the interests of the people of the US and of the people of Afghanistan and they all claim to be operating for the good of their respective people. This is part of why war is a lie. Lies are the only way to keep Americans remotely tolerant of occupying someone else's land when the threat to the US is only made worse by doing so.

Time to end this. Time to say to the politicians: No more excuses. Read our lips: NO MORE WAR. Afghans want to see the backsides of the US leaving. The people of the US want the same thing. Are our leaders the spoilers?

Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, and Miall, Hugh (2011). Contemporary conflict resolution (3rd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unholy Trinity

The U.S. still maintains three active nuclear weapons missile launch sites on alert status: one at Minot, North Dakota; one at Great Falls, Montana; and on the Wyoming/Colorado/Nebraska border. The U.S. still has 1,374 ICBM warheads, any one of which can destroy a large city, 2,410 submarine launched ballistic missile warheads, 176 bombs on jet bombers, and 1,100 nuclear armed cruise missiles. And, too, there is the threat of a nuclear war breaking out between India and Pakistan, Iran and Israel, or elsewhere. The nuclear monster has not been slain. It is alive and well and still stalking humankind (Shifferd, 2011, p. 29).

My friends are in prison for desperately trying to reawaken opposition to nuclear weaponry. Susan Crane writes from the women's prison, Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, in the middle of the Camp Parks military base in California that, "few seem urgent about nuclear disarmament." That is an understatement.

66 years ago the first nuke--Trinity--was blown off in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on 16 July 1945. Scientists were not sure if it would work, if it would fizzle, or if it would ignite the entire atmosphere of our planet, killing everything. But they were the masters of the universe, so they got to roll the dice for all of us. And the military continues to do that to this day, with the most unsoldierly weapons imaginable. There is no way to conduct a nuclear war without massive, known (and thus intentional) civilian annihilation--indeed, the military brass will be the safest ones in the event of a nuclear attack, leaving the rest of us bare backsides to the hurricanes of hell.

These obscenities are the national shame of any country possessing them; of course, only one nation has actually dropped them on cities full of civilians, so arguably one nation's nukes should be feared more than the rest, none of whom have shot or dropped these godawful things at other people. That nation, of course, is the US. It continues to boggle the mind that any sane human could order or participate in dropping these satanic devices on cities, but we did. That raised the national death ceiling, far more existential than the debt ceiling.

Humanity deserves a future. Dismantle these hellish things.

Shifferd, Kent D. (2011). From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Speech free of intimidation is actual free speech

A US soldier in Mogadishu in 1993, in Falujah in 2005, or in Kandahar in 2011 is walking around in someone else's country full of people who never did a single thing against the US until the US troops invaded. Even in Afghanistan, a nation that harbored Osama bin Laden until he escaped to be harbored in a country we supported with $billions (Pakistan), few people were involved in that crime against the US. But once a military invades, the relationships between the peoples of the invaded country and the US change profoundly. Of course, the US soldier usually has no idea about that (if they did, they would quit the military and certainly not defend its actions later) because the US military members generally have zero experience living in a country invaded by any military.

How would we feel seeing Russian soldiers with big guns goosestepping in our streets? Seeing anyone with a big gun in your neighborhood is upsetting to most people. If that person is wearing the uniform of another nation's military, that is the ultimate humiliation, and it's astonishingly obdurate that we do not understand that. Are those who practice and believe in nonviolence the only ones who can grasp that concept? Some days I wonder.

Any conversation with someone with a gun is a different conversation than a normal, unarmed discourse. Uncertainty, fear, insecurity and hatred are normal concomitants to the discussion with armed people. Intellect is possibly present but is not the ultimate word. The gun pollutes everything. Aung San Suu Kyi explains this well.

There is no true free speech with guns.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Forceful nonviolence

The Arab Spring is one of those phase changes for humankind, taking its place alongside the colored revolutions, the Velvet Revolution, nonviolent asymmetric struggle for minority rights, women's suffrage, and the discovery of nonviolence itself by Gandhi. All these nonviolent liberatory struggles emancipated more people than did all the violent revolutions combined in the last 100 years.

Knowing this, our work is nothing less than a fundamental global phase change from investment in violence to an investment in the securitization of society using nonviolent conflict management methods. This is a matter of working with many constituencies toward a new grasp of what good social norms are. No longer is violence tolerable; there are always alternatives. Always.

Force, on the other hand, is often needed to confound ruthless exploiting organizations and individuals. I loved the passage in Annie Dillard's An American childhood when she recalls watching her mother fill out job applications during the McCarthy Era, when applications featured loyalty questions. She watched as her mother scribbled and scribbled and then came to the question, "Do you advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States of America by force or violence?" and her mother paused, thought, and wrote, "Force."

Force is sometimes noncooperation, refusing to do what we are ordered to do. My most recent favorite illustration of this is in a 2007 film I just saw, Where God Left His Shoes. Young actor David Castro plays a boy who must try to keep up as his stepdad looks for work and, after many ordeals, simply sits down and refuses to walk any further. This succeeds. Later, he defies his father and that also works. He is small but forceful, meeting orders and intimidation with stubbornness and a wisdom beyond his years. Why did he stand up for himself rather than follow orders? He just did it, and this holds immeasurable lessons we usually ignore at the social conflict level.

We need a phase change now if we are to redefine ourselves in a way that becomes sustainable, which is at the heart of the current debate about the debt ceiling. The actual issues are really that we cannot think of a sustainable way forward, when, in fact, it is right before our eyes, with the incredibly strong method of serious nonviolence. Changing our conflict management methods will change our entire world. It will give humanity a serious chance to thrive.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

US blowback bombs India

The repeated terror attacks on the commercial capital of India--Mumbai--have produced Indian suffering, dampened transnational enthusiasm for relying upon Mumbai, and growing fear of being there for residents, visiting businesspeople, and tourists. The assumption in India, fed by several streams of evidence and reason, is that Pakistan is the attacker.

It is almost credibly undeniable that Pakistan's state terror apparatus is essentially its Inter-Services Intelligence, the sort of CIA/FBI/al Qa'ida monster that the US has so generously fed and funded for decades. The ISI fingerprints were all over the horrific 2008 attacks on tourists and others in Mumbai and the widespread and logical assumption in India is that ISI either commits or outsources the attacks that are clearly intended to terrorize and thus cripple India's growing prosperity.

War lovers have lionized the massive aid from the US to the Afghan mujahedeen (e.g. the 2007 Tom Hanks Hollywood propaganda film, Charlie Wilson's War), all of which went via Pakistan's ISI. What have the results been of this military aid supposedly given in the name of freedom and democracy?

It gave us the Taliban, al Qa'ida, the Flying (and crashing) Karzai Brothers (a.k.a. the Northern Alliance). It gave us the September 11, 2001 attacks. It gave us the GWOT, the global war on terror that has sucked the US economy dry. It gave us the blowback that keeps on blowing, most recently once again in Mumbai. It gave us the training camps from which attacks are launched on Afghanistan and India, on civilians and police and soldiers (including US) from both Afghan and Indian borderland regions in Pakistan. And now the US is mouthing warnings that Pakistan should really spiff up a bit if it wants more US military aid.

When on Earth will US taxpayers and peace-loving citizens insist that all military aid is blowback and we are tired of providing it? Did you think that Dick Cheney and Exxon are paying the taxes that are misused like this? No, that would be you, my fellow Americans, and only you can stop this by rising up and insisting on it.

No more military to Pakistan or anyone. That is Baby Step Number One toward peace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vocabulary lessons

Listening to military and former military talk about their exploits, one often hears some variant of "We were a highly disciplined unit." Listening to current demonstrators we far too seldom here that adjectival modifier. Too often we hear much more about anarchistic, spontaneous decisions and behaviors. This is in no small measure exactly why social movements in the US are weak. They are unpredictable in a negative way and frequently either flee or fight when the going gets tough, something successful social movements do not generally feature.

Looking at successful movements for lessons, we can learn much from the movements of half a century ago, and here is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discussing discipline, training, and even the involvement of children in Birmingham in 1963 in particular. It is an astounding contrast to today. The movement there, according to MLK, featured children as young as seven participating in both the trainings and the demonstrations.

Contrast that with today, when parents are fearful of bringing children to demonstrations and when, instead, they permit the military to take these children to military bases for the Starbase "science education" (a.k.a. brainwashing and military enculturation). We so clearly live in a war culture. We so clearly need to listen to Dr. King and ask ourselves how we, as adults, can work on developing our own vocabulary amongst ourselves and including the children?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interests, positions and compromise

We are taught in Conflict Resolution that a good negotiator or mediator strives to get past the positions and really understand the interests of people (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011).

We are taught that in most cases there is self-interest mixed in with altruism, and that, indeed, strategic altruism can prevail.

So, we wonder, how is it that so many powerful people seem to advance financially and politically when they are so aggressive and hurt so many others? Only rarely does even one of them get a bit hoist on his own petard--we see a little of this with Rupert Murdoch's recent bit of bad luck, and a bit more with the assassination of corrupt Afghan druglord Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.

Our primary problem is our failure to realize our latent power as civil society. We could fix corruption and in Britain the Murdoch empire got away with its tabloid excesses as long as it targeted for titillation and only the celebrities whose peccadilloes are regarded as fair game. When the British people found that Murdoch's minions were hacking into the cell phones and emails of crime victims from amongst them, even including murdered children, they rose up.

Rose up. What does that mean? Why does it have such a negative connotation in the US?

We have a cultural image of rising up as a violent overthrow that wrecks lives, plunges the economy into chaos and hurts much more than it helps.

Actually, that is much more like the Republican approach to promoting democracy, and those economies that are ruined are done to enrich their elites at the direct expense of the citizenry of the target country and of the US. The Rupert Murdochs and Dick Cheneys of the world are perfectly fine with thousands of lives lost, millions of jobs lost and rampant home foreclosures, as long as the grotesquely high rate of profits continue to expand their personal wealth. And they bank on a flock of grazing sheep for citizens.

Their formula is simple:
  • Blame others.
  • Attack others.
  • Profit from the attacks.
  • Keep everyone fearful.
  • Assume the role of champion.
  • Define and profit from security.

Citizens need to achieve these things in order to win:
  • Unity.
  • Discipline.
  • Resilience.

Using nonviolence, we can rise up and stay up. We can learn to tax the rich until the poor feel a part of a society that cares about them. We can learn to regard security as a clean environment and great education instead of massive and obscenely expensive arsenals.

Fisher, Roger, Ury, William & Patton, Bruce (2011).Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. (3rd ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Histrionic holocausts

While the Ds and Rs squabble over raising the debt ceiling (something that has happened almost 100 times since 1917 and almost always without much controversy) one wonders how much of this is posturing for the home crowd--electioneering kabuki--and how much of the obdurate mulishness is partisan hardwired.

In the best case, they stonewall in public and cave right along, limiting damage to the average person, like stage fighters who snap their heads back in response to punches that never landed and who leap to their feet snarling after tumbling from nonexistent haymakers.

In the worst case they are Brandon Lee, shot to death by their own (mala)prop gun, in which case the US plunges economically even worse than the Bush-Obama mismanagement has produced to date. If they are playing chicken, they may need to be told when and which way to swerve or the fiscal crash will shock the world.

As Obama caves on Social Security and Medicare, Boehner stays firm against closing tax loopholes that allow corporate officials tax-free personal jets and thousands of other unearned sloshy benefits--though he stays just as firm in making sure that military contractors continue their plunder of all incoming taxes. As usual, the Ds are Little Miss Compromise and the Rs are the testosterone-saturated aggressors, pretending to have principles but driven by flat-out greed.

Stay tuned. Sometimes even the lunks on All-Star Wrestling get injured badly. Posing for campaign propaganda may be the fatal flaw that finally does to the US what popular antipathy did to the USSR. Let me be the first to wave goodbye to all the red states~~~

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Repubican't touch rich nor military

Anyone with the ability to do simple math could have predicted the inevitability of John Boehner's announcement that he was about to fail his Tea Party compatriots and instead just try to save the US from going belly up in the near term. He did so on the basis of two big lies--one by omission and one by commission.

“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes.”
--Boehner blames Obama

The lie of omission is that neither Obama nor Boehner's Republicans will agree to any remotely significant cut in the massive military profits that have bled the red out of so many Afghans, Iraqis, and US military personnel and bled the green out of the US dollar. It's hard to waste $1.26 trillion without precipitating job loss, foreclosures, and personal/state government/US bankruptcies.

The lie of commission is that Obama has basically been proposing closing loopholes, not hiking taxes. Who takes advantage of loopholes? That would be the elites and corporations, neither of whom pay even remotely close to what might be called a fair share of taxes. The tax codes are radically influenced by highly paid lobbyists who manage to get exemptions for their clients from Richistan that working Americans know nothing about. The grossly overpaid tax lawyers then make sure their clients pay very little, stiffing the diminishing middle class again and again. But Boehner believes--and is sadly correct--that telling this lie enough times with all his Speaker of the House authority will make Americans believe him.

Well, don't. Learn about this and draw the line. When you work hard all year and pay more taxes than many corporations whose profits run to the $billions and whose executives take home increasingly bloated salaries, you know this lie is all that is supporting the unsupportable failure to finally make the obscenely wealthy pay their share. Boehner protects them in the name of the American people and it is the American people who suffer from his lies.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Pacifism leads to democracy: War leads away

Being a pacifist between wars is as easy as being a vegetarian between meals.
--Ammon Hennacy

Pacifists are sick of how they are characterized by the reigning pundits and politicos: choosing to do nothing about a threat or a problem, but hoping for protection from those with "the stomach" for violence. We pacifists are always acting, educating, speaking out, getting arrested, having property seized by the IRS, getting fired from positions by employers not so happy about employees engaging in free speech, voting with our dollars, creating structural nonviolence, and getting the finger from rednecks in their trucks as we stand publicly holding signs for peace by the roadside.

As it was and ever shall be...

Nobel Peace Laureate Jane Addams opposed the entry of the US into World War I before the 1917 US entry and after. She wrote in numerous places that war cannot possibly be a good way to spread democracy (Fischer, 2010). She was busy daily in her life working for both peace in the crisis sense and in the structural sense, domestically (founded the Women's Peace Party in 1915, which quickly rose to 40,000 members) and transnationally (presiding over the 3,000 participants from many warring countries in the 1915 International Congress of Women at the Hague).

Addams was a quintessential public peace intellectual, writing for many outlets both academic and popular, and posing challenges that politicians are even less able to answer today than they were in hers. Prescient and prolific, she kept the peace ball in play when others were intimidated, holding to her analysis which has only grown more robust in the intervening 90+ years.

Sometimes we need to look back to see forward. Jane Addams is one whose light shines so powerfully it is still out ahead of us.


FISCHER, M. (2010). Cracks in the Inexorable: Bourne and Addams on Pacifists during Wartime. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 46(2), 282-299. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

An illiberal lack of peace

The philosophers who formulated the classical theories about the so-called 'liberal peace' approached the questions from a fundamental state of nature assumption, according to political scientist Roland Paris (2006). The political theorists of that 17th and 18th century classical period, such as Kant, Hobbes, and Locke, were pondering state creation, and Paris points out that our current research and theorizing mostly assumes functional state structures, even though we find increasingly that failed states and collapsed economies are leading back to a need for more nation-building, not merely analyzing the effects of nominal democracy on conflict management.

The early liberals recognized that peace and freedom presupposed a working system of controls and rules to structure societal competition and contain it within peaceful bounds; they acknowledged that these rules needed to be upheld, in extremis, by the coercive powers of the state (Paris, 2006, p. 438).

Paris is a political scientist and so, as is normal for that discipline, starts with the assumption that state violence is legitimate, especially in defense of--what? Civil liberties? This assumption is pervasive, of course, and is viewed by most as some sort of eternal verity. On the other hand, the challenge to nonviolent researchers and practitioners is to show how to move beyond the endless evocation of Hobbes, whose analysis of life as "nasty, brutish and short" might have been his thought upon looking in the mirror on a bad hair day, but perhaps we can open some vistas beyond such lugubrious commencements.

It is true, certainly, that democracies play well with each other more often than do other sorts of regimes.

Democratic dyads are much less likely than nondemocratic dyads to engage in any kind of militarized dispute (Kriesberg, 2007, p. 140).

But--and Paris does point out this piece well--there are more instances of failed states and attempts to (Oxymoron Alert!) "install democracy" than ever, so the piece of the liberal peace that Kriesberg notes (largely from research of Russett and others) is important, but the real questions go deeply into globalizing justice, don't they? After all, as LaDuke (2002) points out, invasion of extractive and exploitative economies kills indigenous lifeways, so the starting point in the era of Kant is not the starting point we see today. It is tougher now; only nonviolence can rise to this challenge.


Kriesberg, L. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

LaDuke, Winona (2002). The Winona LaDuke reader: A collection of essential writings. Stillwater MN: Voyageur Press.

PARIS, R. (2006). Bringing the Leviathan Back In: Classical Versus Contemporary Studies of the Liberal Peace. International Studies Review, 8(3), 425-440. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2486.2006.00601.x

Russett, Bruce (1993). Grasping the democratic peace: Principles for a post-cold war world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.