Choosing a Better Way
“Alternatives to particular wars are almost never seriously sought and the idea that there might be an alternative to war itself almost never occurs to people”
“…in the 21st century it has become patently clear that making war does not create peace, as the case of the two Gulf Wars, the Afghan War, and the Syrian/ISIS war clearly demonstrate.”
“War is always a choice and it is always a bad choice.”
These quotes are from the World Beyond War (WBW) publication “A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.” This article continues our examination of the WBW’s belief that peace is possible if we choose to build an alternative system for national security.
It is widely believed that national security is achieved through military strength. Security for one nation requires that one’s adversaries be less secure (or at least equally insecure – the concepts of a “balance of power” and “mutually assured destruction”). This requires a nation to be constantly increasing their military power to stay ahead of potential adversaries. The result is arms races, fear, mistrust, and opportunities for mistakes that lead to future wars. As World Beyond says,
“…the war system is self-fueling, self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. Believing the world is a dangerous place, nations arm themselves and act belligerently in a conflict, thus proving to other nations that the world is a dangerous place…”
The war system causes war to happen. Nations prepare for war because they expect war to happen. Rather than providing national security this flawed thinking only leads to “mutual insecurity.”
“While particular wars are triggered by local events, they do not ‘break out’ spontaneously. They are the inevitable result of a social system for managing international conflict. The War System. The causes of wars in general is the War System which prepares the world in advance for particular wars.”
World Beyond War asserts that for any nation to be truly secure, all countries must be secure. This “common security” requires building an alternative security system of demilitarized, non-provocative defense and international cooperation. Societies consciously prepare far in advance for war. For peace to prevail, and an alternative system to work, we must prepare in advance for the better choice of peace.
“But the choice of non-violence must not wait until conflict erupts. It must be built into society: built into the institutions for conflict forecasting, mediation, adjudication, and peacekeeping. It must be built into education in the form of knowledge, perceptions, beliefs and values –in short a culture of peace”
But we do not prepare for peace with the systematic commitment and resources devoted to war. This is starkly shown by the huge disparity between U.S. military and diplomatic spending. War and preparation for war consumes 60% of the discretionary budget while diplomacy and working for peace receives only 3%. You get what you pay for. When all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.
In a highly-connected, technological world the old national security thinking does not work. In the 21st century, nations cannot seal their borders behind 19th century ideas of national sovereignty. New ideas, technologies, and economic forces do not respect national borders. Diseases, climate change, water shortages, over population, and many other environmental changes are international. Cyber-attacks and hacking not only cross borders but can be done by non-state perpetrators. In short no nation can go it alone and military responses don’t work for the current challenges.
But governments have succeeded in convincing themselves and most people that there are only two responses to problems between nations: submit or fight. Too many people buy into this false message. Despite the failure of war to solve problems, people are still easily mobilized to support the next war. As the opening quote says, almost no one thinks about alternatives to war.
As a society, we are dominated by a culture of war that promotes and glorifies the warrior. Our patriotic holidays, entertainment industry, news media, and schools present war, and the warrior, as patriotic, and heroic. Violence of all kinds is normalized. Veterans groups repeat the platitudes. Churches pray for the troops and for victory. Businesses profit from the government spending.
The armaments industries get rich and the politicians get campaign contributions while 1% of the population are actually required to sacrifice for “god and country.” The war system is supported all across society by interconnected systems, beliefs, values, technologies, and institutions that promote the false message that war keeps us safe and defends our freedom. But World Beyond War asserts, “…the culture of war, the armies, industries, policies, plans, propaganda, prejudices, rationalizations make lethal group conflict not only possible but also likely.”
To end war and create an alternative security system, we have to change our thinking. We have to change the culture of war. War is a choice. It is a bad choice. It is a costly, destructive choice. We must choose a better way.
You can participate in building a new culture of peace. A place to start is becoming better informed. Read the entire “A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.” Sign their “Declaration of Peace,”
“I UNDERSTAND THAT WARS AND MILITARISM MAKE US LESS SAFE RATHER THAN PROTECT US, THAT THEY KILL, INJURE AND TRAUMATIZE ADULTS, CHILDREN AND INFANTS, SEVERELY DAMAGE THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, ERODE CIVIL LIBERTIES, AND DRAIN OUR ECONOMIES, SIPHONING RESOURCES FROM LIFE-AFFIRMING ACTIVITIES. I COMMIT TO ENGAGE IN AND SUPPORT NONVIOLENT EFFORTS TO END ALL WAR AND PREPARATIONS FOR WAR AND TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE AND JUST PEACE.” (https://worldbeyondwar.org/individual)
Then join with others to work for peace. People in the Northland are organizing a local WBW chapter. You can get connected by signing the WBW Declaration of Peace and selecting a volunteer action at the bottom of that page.