We Can Imagine And Create A World Without Military Enemies And Wars

By Robert C. Koehler, Common Wonders, June 3, 2018

America does what it wants.

This is obvious, except it’s also monstrously unnerving. Let’s at least add some quote marks: “America” does what it wants — this secretly defined, self-obsessed, unelected entity that purports to be the United States of America, all 325 million of us, but is, in fact, a narrowly focused amalgam of generals, politicians and corporate elites who value only one thing: global dominance, from now to eternity.

Indeed, they’re capable of imagining nothing else, which is the truly scary part. Until this changes, “peace” is a feel-good delusion and “disarmament” (nuclear and otherwise) is the butt of a joke. The American empire may be collapsing, but the war games continue.

So I realized with a sudden start as I read Nick Turse’s analysis of a collection of U.S. military documents, which the TomDispatch website got hold of via the Freedom of Information Act. The documents contained a detailed description of the 33rd annual Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Program, “an elaborate war game,” Turse explains, “carried out in 2016 by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, the training grounds for its future generals and admirals.”

The war game was wrapped around a fantasy future of “dystopian dangers,” set in 2020, in which, “as the script for the war game put it, ‘lingering jealousy and distrust of American power and national interests have made it politically and culturally difficult for the United States to act unilaterally.’”

In other words, as Turse explains, quoting the war game’s summary, the threat to America’s near-future security is completely a matter of maintaining its global hegemony in the face of scientific and military advances “by both state and non-state actors” that “have increasingly constricted U.S. freedom of action.”

There’s nothing particularly surprising here, yet something jolted me into a new level of shock and awe, you might say, about the deep state apparatus that controls the national direction. There’s nothing in this controlling consciousness devoted to creating — or imagining — a world without nuclear weapons or a world free of war and poverty. That’s just not part of the future “America” has any interest in envisioning. The next war is utterly unquestioned. “Us vs. them” is utterly unquestioned. There will always be enemies. What would we do without them?

While the invisible state may fear losing its global dominance, it seems to be completely in control of its domestic dominance.

And peace is out of the picture, at least the evolving concept of that word: peace that transcends militarism and is not based on armed enforcement. As long as the generals and war profiteers have it their way, peace is merely the lull between wars or, even more cynically, that brief pause while the combatants reload.

In other words, we are moving into the future committed — financially, politically, ideologically — to continuing to do what has failed in the past: wage war, dominate, win.

And in countless ways, we are losing. The empire is collapsing. The consequences of armed dominance are eating us alive and destroying Planet Earth. But no matter. As long as we’re not aware that we’re causing our own destruction, we (I mean “we”) can continue to do so, in the process reaping not merely profit but a sense of purpose.

“Two years after the war game was conducted,” Turse writes, “in a time of almost metronomic domestic mass killings, President Trump continues to spotlight the supposedly singular danger posed by ‘inadequately vetted people’ in the U.S., although stovetops and ovens, hot air balloons, and burning pajamas are far more deadly to Americans.”

Apparently our national sense of identity would collapse without an enemy, and the enemy du jour is the terrorist (no longer the communist, no longer the “savage”). So we’re not only fighting endless wars across Africa and the Middle East, we’re intensifying our deportation of “illegals” and amping up “border security,” all in order to keep America safe.

One reason the nation’s leaders are able to keep waging wars that do not, in fact, keep America safe is because the harm they cause is almost totally borne by the other. And as long as the messy details are seldom in the news, Americans need not let their awareness of government policy stray beyond the clichés of patriotism.

Regarding Mexican border security, for instance, the Trump administration has implemented a policy of separating children from parents seeking asylum in order to send a Keep Out message to other would-be immigrants. The cruelty of such a policy has been magnified by a recent ACLU report, based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showing widespread abuse of children in U.S. custody.

And in point of fact, the abuses are pre-Trump. The documents cover 2009-2014, during the Obama years. Dominance and racism may be more blatant under the current president than they’ve been for a while, but they have always been part of national policy.

According to the report: “The documents show numerous cases involving federal officials’ verbal, physical and sexual abuse of migrant children; the denial of clean drinking water and adequate food; failure to provide necessary medical care; detention in freezing, unsanitary facilities; and other violations of federal law and policy and international law. The documents provide evidence that U.S. officials were aware of these abuses as they occurred, but failed to properly investigate, much less to remedy, these abuses.”

Abuses listed in the report include children kicked in the ribs, punched in the head, shot with a stun gun (causing a boy “to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head”) and run over with a patrol vehicle. A pregnant minor “was denied medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth.” A 16-year-old girl was subjected to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed.”

My God, it was like they placed these children in Gitmo!

These are the war games we play that aren’t games, but real-world actions. From cruelty at the border to nuclear testing, a philosophy of dominance over the enemy creates nothing but a poisoned planet and endless war. Paradoxically, a primary qualification for being a national leader is not knowing this.

https://popularresistance.org/we-can-imagine-and-create-a-world-without-military-enemies-and-wars/

Pope Slams Capitalism, Inequality Between Rich And Poor In New Years Message

Reuters  |  By Philip Pullella Posted: 01/01/2013

The 85-year-old pope rang in the new year with a mass for about 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks its World Day of Peace with initiatives around the world.

He also spoke of peace after the mass, addressing tens of thousands of people who had followed the service from outside in St Peter’s Square.

“A new year is like a trip. With the light and the grace of God, may it be the start of a path to peace for every person, every family, every country and for the entire world,” he said from his window overlooking the square.

He thanked the world’s peacemakers, saying they deserve praise for working, often behind the scenes, tirelessly, thanklessly and armed only “with the weapons of prayer and forgiveness”.

Peace marchers carrying rainbow banners released blue balloons in a sunny but cold St Peter’s Square as the pope spoke.

Earlier in his homily, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics decried “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor”.

He also denounced “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality”.

Benedict said he was convinced of “humanity’s innate vocation to peace” despite many problems and setbacks. A personal relationship with God can help all believers deal with what he called the “darkness and anguish” that sometimes defines human existence.

“This is the inner peace that we want in the midst of events in history that are sometimes tumultuous and confused, events that sometimes leave us shaken,” he said.

In his full message for the peace day, the pope called for a new economic model and ethical regulations for markets, saying the global financial crisis was proof that capitalism does not protect society’s weakest members.

He also warned that food insecurity was a threat to peace in some parts of the world and strongly reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to gay marriage. Heterosexual marriage had an indispensable role in society, he said.

Thousands of people took part in a peace march to the Vatican led by the Catholic peace and charity group, the Sant’ Egidio Community, which negotiated the end of the civil war in Mozambique in 1992.

Other peace marches took place in Italian cities, and Catholic dioceses around the world held their own events.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/01/pope-slams-capitalism-ine_n_2392653.html?utm_hp_ref=business&ir=Business

5 Ways to Achieve World Peace and Prosperity — Yes, It’s Possible

Berrett-Koehler Publishers [1] / By J. Kirk Boyd [2] posted on Alternet.org, May 11, 2010 
Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from 2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together [3], by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, copyright 2010.

Excerpt

…One of the most pernicious myths is that peace and prosperity are hopelessly complicated and unattainable…This is untrue. Peace and prosperity can be attained through the realization of five basic fundamental freedoms, for all people, everywhere in the world. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment, and freedom from fear…If our international community remembers these Five Freedoms, and if they become a regular part of our daily lives, then collectively we will carry the core of 2048 in our minds and they will become our way of life…

…The truth is that there is enough funding for the realization of fundamental human rights, including economic and social rights. The problem is those who are presently profiting…have an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is time for the human rights community to have the strength and daring to band together so that we have the clout to stand up to this narrow-minded view…

Awareness can be created with a small percentage of people…it will take only 1% of humanity to share the news…This 1% of humanity already exists within the arts and media, our nonprofit and for-profit businesses, our places of worship, our universities, and even our governments — now the Internet and 2048 are bringing all these communities together…

Full text

One of the most pernicious myths is that peace and prosperity are hopelessly complicated and unattainable. 2048 dispels myths. This is untrue. Peace and prosperity can be attained through the realization of five basic fundamental freedoms, for all people, everywhere in the world. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment, and freedom from fear. Of course, other rights are needed too, but these five fundamental freedoms establish a framework within which other rights can flourish. If our international community remembers these Five Freedoms, and if they become a regular part of our daily lives, then collectively we will carry the core of 2048 in our minds and they will become our way of life.

Please look at your hand for a moment. Hold it up, palm facing you. We all have five fingers, but the first we call a thumb. In appearance it looks different. It stands out. And it is strong. It represents freedom of speech, the idea that stands out, that stands up to dishonesty and corruption.

Next, look at your index finger. We point with this one. It gives us direction. It represents freedom of religion. Each of us is free to choose our own direction, with or without God, and for those who decide that God is their guide, then they are free to have their own relationship with God without the state telling them what that relationship must be. Interference by the state pollutes the relationship with God.

Third is the middle finger, the longest of all. It represents freedom from want, the long road of existence, and the certainty that there will be food, water, shelter, education, and health care for every one of us no matter where we may be on that road.

Next, for many of us, is the marriage ring finger, either the right or the left hand, and for all of us, a finger with a direct link to our nervous system. It represents freedom for the environment. Life. We all have a direct link to the Earth and the ecosystem of which we are a part. When the life of the Earth is spoiled, our lives are spoiled.

Finally, there is our “little finger,” shorter and smaller than the rest. It represents freedom from fear. It’s the “finale” of our hand, our reward. All the others lead to this one.

As you take a look at your hand and recount the Five Freedoms, remember that you didn’t ask for that hand, you were born with it. So too, you do not have to ask for the Five Freedoms, you were born with them. They are five freedoms for all!

Four of these Five Freedoms originated with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. He stated the following in his State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress in January 1941:

We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms:

The first is freedom of speech and expression?—??everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way?—?everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want?—?everywhere in ?the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear?—?everywhere in ?the world.

The beauty of these Four Freedoms is that they are an outline of an agreement for humanity. The Four Freedoms are a social formula. When we, the people of our international community, have created a social order whereby all people enjoy the first three freedoms?—?freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from want?—?then we will have created a society where we can all share in the fourth freedom, freedom from fear. This formula was born out of a desire not just to end World War II, but as President Roosevelt said “to end the beginning of all wars.” This quote and the Four Freedoms are engraved in granite at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. They are a guiding light for 2048.

I recall being at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., at dusk one evening. It is an outdoor memorial with a mix of monuments, trees, and waterfalls. The many cherry trees were in blossom and a light drizzle gilded the petals with water. My friend and I stood before a large stone wall, perhaps 30 feet high, with the Four Freedoms engraved in large letters on it. At that moment a group of twenty-five or thirty middle-school students, 12 to 14 years old, of all different races?—?black, white, Latino, Asian?—?came to the wall.

They were from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States, but the rights on that wall applied to any visitor from anywhere in the world. The students laughed and formed small groups to have their pictures taken in front of these freedoms. After the flashes stopped, several turned to touch the wall and run their fingers through the carved grooves of the letters on it. The connection for my friend Bart, who is black, and me, white, was clear: It didn’t matter what color they were, what sex, what religion or what nation they were from?—?the rights on that wall must become as real in the lives of all people as they are to the fingertips of those children.

Fortunately, we need not wait for the children to grow old for the realization of the Four Freedoms. Roosevelt saw the Four Freedoms as achievable within a generation. Commenting on his speech, he said, “It is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.” Perhaps he was overly optimistic about the speed at which the Four Freedoms could be achieved everywhere in the world, but steady, immediate action is the message?—?not to put these rights off forever.

The Four Freedoms are the essence of a good life for all. They ensure the following: We can think freely, say and write what we want, and peacefully organize to protest; we can have a relationship with a god of our choosing, without interference by the state; we can live with security knowing that education and health care will always be available, regardless of circumstance; and finally we can live in peace, without fear of rampant crime and continuing war. In short, the Four Freedoms are the core of our social contract?—?our agreement about how we will live together.

President Roosevelt’s recitation of the phrase “everywhere in the world” at the end of each freedom is key. He was so adamant about these words that he handwrote them onto the pages of the speech he gave. He made it perfectly clear that the Four Freedoms were not just for Americans. His own speechwriters questioned him about this, saying that Americans wouldn’t be much concerned about the people in Java. Roosevelt’s response was that Americans had better care because we are all interconnected now. So as we strive for the Four Freedoms, we do so for all members of our international community. Security rests not in the well-being of one nation, but in the well-being of all nations.

In effect, the Four Freedoms were a New Deal for the world. Roosevelt had long been a champion of the common man in America. Through the New Deal in America, Roosevelt took the hard edges off of capitalism. He made sure that working people were not left destitute while wealth and power were consolidated into the hands of a few. With the Four Freedoms, he was expanding his gaze to all men and women, in all nations, to ensure that destitution did not befall anyone, for in destitution he saw the seeds of war. His wife, Eleanor, saw these seeds as well. In 1942 she wrote, “If we really do not mean that after this war we intend to see that people the world over have an opportunity to obtain a satisfactory life, then all we are doing is to prepare for a new war.” Recently we have seen the correctness of this insight in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have grown from the soil of crushing poverty.

Soon after Roosevelt unveiled the Four Freedoms they were incorporated into a multinational wartime strategy. A superpower summit between Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt was held aboard American and British ships in the Atlantic Ocean, on August 10, 1941, eight months after Roosevelt stated the Four Freedoms in his State of the Union address. Roosevelt summoned great courage and strength to rise up out of his wheelchair and walk across a ship while it was at sea. Each footstep, with crutches, and braces on his legs, was a stride toward a new deal, a new contract, a new agreement for humanity.

The famous Atlantic Charter came out of Roosevelt’s meetings with Winston Churchill at sea, and the Four Freedoms were included in that Charter. Like the Four Freedoms speech, the Atlantic Charter was written for everyone. It envisioned a postwar social order “which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.” The embodiment of the Four Freedoms in the Atlantic Charter was a defining moment for the social contract between government and the common person.

While the Four Freedoms ensure dignity and cover most of our social contract among ourselves and our government, we also need a fifth freedom to preserve our planet, including the ecosystem that provides joy and beauty, and also sustains us: freedom for the environment. Just as our human DNA is 98.5 percent the same for all people in all countries, so too our well-being is intertwined with our physical environment.

Equally important, as we have learned from global warming, the health of our environment affects us all, everywhere, and therefore, as with the first Four Freedoms, freedom for the environment must also apply “everywhere in the world.” The demise of our planet’s ecosystem teaches us the folly of only working on local environmental issues while dramatic degradation takes place worldwide. I recall a lawsuit in which I represented an environmental group seeking to protect old growth forests. We won that lawsuit, but now, because of global warming, the temperatures are not dropping enough to kill the bugs that are today killing the trees. We can’t just protect the environment at the local level and expect to have a clean and healthy environment.

Furthermore, it’s time to discard the myth that we must be willing to sacrifice the environment for the sake of economic competition. What is needed is uniform, international regulation of the type that an International Convention would provide. Without an international approach there will always be pressures for some countries to sacrifice the environment to gain market advantage. Capitalism works well, but it also tends to create a race to the bottom when it comes to environmental protection.

Creating a fifth freedom for the environment is also harmonious with the other four freedoms. Often destruction of the environment results from the actions of impoverished people who are struggling to survive, whether by cutting down their local forest to an extent that it does not grow back, for example, or overfishing to where fish stocks do not come back. The lack of the first three freedoms, particularly freedom from want, can thus lead to the destruction of the environment. As we reach an agreement regarding the first Four Freedoms, well-being for all, the result is that the need to sacrifice the environment to survive is reduced. In this way, the Five Freedoms are intertwined and the success of each bolsters the others.

Given the strength and well-being that each of us will gain from five universal freedoms, it is also time to dispel another myth?—?that there is not enough to go around. We pay dearly for the myth that we can’t afford to have health care and education for all, and the myth that environmental protection is too costly. These myths are untrue. For example, studies have conclusively shown that not only will global warming cause serious suffering and diminishment of our daily lives, but it will cost us more to pick up the pieces after hurricanes, droughts, and flooding than it will cost to avoid these calamities. Similarly, while education may cost more initially, it creates good jobs to construct schools and results in highly productive workers. The net result of the implementation of 2048 is a financial savings in addition to fulfilling lives.

No Increase In Taxes

Furthermore, securing Five Freedoms for all will not require more taxes! All it will take is the reallocation of existing tax revenues. The real myth is that we must continue the way we are going. Our international community is spending $1.4 trillion a year on military expenditures. One percent of GNP for all countries is roughly $500 billion. Therefore, all it would take to bring about the full realization of the Five Freedoms and to usher in a new form of human security would be to reallocate $500 billion of military costs toward the realization of the Five Freedoms. That would leave $900 billion for military, more than enough!

The truth is that there is enough funding for the realization of fundamental human rights, including economic and social rights. The problem is those who are presently profiting do not want the public to believe there are sufficient funds for military and human rights because they have an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is time for the human rights community to have the strength and daring to band together so that we have the clout to stand up to this narrow-minded view.

One way that myths are perpetuated is by keeping people unaware of the truth. Today, for example, the United States gives only 0.17 percent, less than one-fifth of 1% of its GNP, to foreign aid, and much of this goes for military purposes, not education and health care. One percent of GNP is not too much to ask, particularly when greater security for ourselves and our children is the result. Just think of the cost if the bird flu or some other pandemic were to arise out of abject poverty in a poor country and then sweep the world, killing tens of millions in all countries and causing utter chaos and financial collapse because goods could no longer be produced and shipped in our global economy. A penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

People in the United States, on the whole, like people in all other countries, are fundamentally good and generous souls with whom you can sit and talk at their kitchen tables. Many do not know that their government gives less than one-fifth of 1% to foreign aid and is at the bottom for giving among developed countries. They probably also don’t know that the United States spends more on military than all other countries combined. Part of the role of 2048 is to help spread awareness. When people know the truth, they typically support reallocation of resources as part of our agreement to live together, in keeping with their self-interest and morals.

Awareness can be created with a small percentage of people. Just as it will only take 1% of GNP for the realization of education and health care for all, so too it will take only 1% of humanity to share the news of 2048. Word of mouth, spurred by our innate desire to live in peace and security instead of war and want, will spread the word. This 1% of humanity already exists within the arts and media, our nonprofit and for-profit businesses, our places of worship, our universities, and even our governments?—?now the Internet and 2048 are bringing all these communities together.

Knowledge of the Five Freedoms is essential to achieve this 1% “tipping point” for the success of 2048. Students and the public generally need to be able to recall the Five Freedoms just as easily as they can count the five fingers on their hand. As they learn their rights, they also come to expect them, both from one another and from their governments. What they expect today, they will demand tomorrow. The Five Freedoms are deeply held cultural values that lead to lasting results. Now, with the Five Freedoms for all etched firmly in mind, let us consider each of these freedoms individually.

.See more stories tagged with:
2048 [4],
five freedoms [5],
five freedoms movement [6],
2048 movement [7]
.
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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/146724/5_ways_to_achieve_world_peace_and_prosperity_–_yes%2C_it%27s_possible
Links:
[1] http://www.bkconnection.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/j-kirk-boyd
[3] http://www.bkconnection.com/ProdDetails.asp?ID=9781605095394
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/2048
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/five-freedoms
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/five-freedoms-movement
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/2048-movement
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together – 5 Ways to Achieve World Peace and Prosperity

…One of the most pernicious myths is that peace and prosperity are hopelessly complicated and unattainable…This is untrue. Peace and prosperity can be attained through the realization of five basic fundamental freedoms, for all people, everywhere in the world. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment, and freedom from fear…If our international community remembers these Five Freedoms, and if they become a regular part of our daily lives, then collectively we will carry the core of 2048 in our minds and they will become our way of life…

The Four Freedoms are the essence of a good life for all.

…Given the strength and well-being that each of us will gain from five universal freedoms, it is also time to dispel another myth…securing Five Freedoms for all will not require more taxes! All it will take is the reallocation of existing tax revenues. The real myth is that we must continue the way we are going…The truth is that there is enough funding for the realization of fundamental human rights, including economic and social rights. The problem is those who are presently profiting do not want the public to believe there are sufficient funds for military and human rights because they have an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is time for the human rights community to have the strength and daring to band together so that we have the clout to stand up to this narrow-minded view…

Awareness can be created with a small percentage of people. Just as it will only take 1% of GNP for the realization of education and health care for all, so too it will take only 1% of humanity to share the news of 2048. Word of mouth, spurred by our innate desire to live in peace and security instead of war and want, will spread the word. This 1% of humanity already exists within the arts and media, our nonprofit and for-profit businesses, our places of worship, our universities, and even our governments — now the Internet and 2048 are bringing all these communities together.

Knowledge of the Five Freedoms is essential to achieve this 1% “tipping point” for the success of 2048. …The Five Freedoms are deeply held cultural values that lead to lasting results…

War or Peace?

Biggest Threat to World Peace: The United States, Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, December 31, 2013

Why War Isn’t Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies by Brad Jacobson, AlterNet, March 18, 2012…bio­log­i­cally speak­ing, we are just as likely to be peace­ful as we are to be vio­lent…dis­pelled mul­ti­ple myths about the impe­tus for war [that] sus­tains the insti­tu­tion of war despite ratio­nal thought and an over­whelm­ing human aver­sion to killing…charts a new course for reject­ing the old par­a­digm of war’s inevitabil­ity and finally releas­ing mankind from its destruc­tive grip….this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dom­i­nant in sci­ence…you’ve got this really dra­matic, con­se­quen­tial claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of human­ityWar really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behav­ior that becomes very per­sis­tent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region… 

We’re Number 88! US Ranked Low on Global Peace Index — Common Dreams staff, Com­mon Dreams, June 13, 2012 -The just released 2012 Global Peace Index (GPI) from the Insti­tute for Eco­nom­ics and Peace shows that the world has become slightly more peace­ful over the last two years, with Ice­land rank­ing as the most peace­ful coun­try and Soma­lia rank­ing as the least peace­ful place. The U.S. ranks 88 of 158.

5 Ways to Achieve World Peace and Prosperity — 2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together  …One of the most pernicious myths is that peace and prosperity are hopelessly complicated and unattainable…This is untrue. Peace and prosperity can be attained through the realization of five basic fundamental freedoms, for all people, everywhere in the world. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment, and freedom from fear…The problem is those who are presently profiting…have an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is time for the human rights community to have the strength and daring to band together so that we have the clout to stand up to this narrow-minded view…Awareness can be created with … only 1% of humanity to share the news…This 1% of humanity already exists…now the Internet and 2048 are bringing all these communities together…

Iraq War excerpts updated 3–30–13

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu


Why War Isn’t Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies by Brad Jacobson

AlterNet, March 18, 2012

Excerpt

…biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent…dispelled multiple myths about the impetus for war [that] sustains the institution of war despite rational thought and an overwhelming human aversion to killing…charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war’s inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip….this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dominant in science…you’ve got this really dramatic, consequential claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of humanity

War really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behavior that becomes very persistent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region…

Full text

In The End of War, veteran science journalist John Horgan applies the scientific method to reach a unique conclusion: biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent. So what keeps humans bound by a seemingly never-ending cycle of war?

In a phone interview with AlterNet from his home in New York’s HudsonValley– situated within earshot of the mortars and howitzers at West PointMilitaryAcademy’s artillery range — Horgan dispelled multiple myths about the impetus for war, the combination of which, he believes, sustains the institution of war despite rational thought and an overwhelming human aversion to killing. A longtime Scientific American writer and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, Horgan also charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war’s inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip.

Brad Jacobson: Was there an overriding factor that drove you to write this book?

John Horgan: Yeah, it was my discovery that started right after the U.S.invasion of Iraq: the vast majority of people, both American and people around the world, believe that war is a permanent part of the human condition. That we’ve always fought wars and we always will. I have surveyed thousands of people on this issue now, young and old. I ask people this question: Do you think war will ever end? And usually between 80 and 90 percent of the time people say, “No, war will never end. We’re always going to have wars of some kind or other.” And when I would ask people why they were so pessimistic, they would give me a range of reasons. Often it would be, “War is part of human nature.” “War is in our genes.” Or it would be an environmental explanation: war comes from the tendency of humans to overpopulate different regions, leading to a competition for resources.

There have been other surveys of people’s attitudes toward war going back to the 1980s. I cited those in my book, too. And those found quite a bit of pessimism, but not nearly as much as I found over the last seven to eight years.

So I wrote the book basically to rebut this extremely pessimistic point of view, which is also held by people at the highest levels of power. I quote Barack Obama right at the beginning of my book. At the fucking Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, he’s giving this incredibly pessimistic and wrong view of warfare as dating all the way back to the origin of humanity. And that leads him to say, “Let’s face it, we’re not going to eradicate war in our lifetimes.” Even if you believe that, I think it’s awful for our leader, especially someone like Barack Obama, whom I voted for in part because I thought he would not be a hawkish president and get us out of these terrible wars we’ve been in recently. Even if he is personally pessimistic, I want vision from him, especially when he’s accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. How about a vision of a world without war instead of saying this is just the way it is and you have to accept it?

BJ: Didn’t he also receive the Nobel just days after calling for a troop buildup inAfghanistan?

JH: That’s right. When he was inOslo,Norway, where he accepted the Peace Prize, this was about nine days after he had announced that he was sending 30,000 more troops toAfghanistan.

BJ: You also cite another line from Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech, which you dispel in your book: “War in one form or another appeared with the first man.” Why do you think this belief has become such entrenched conventional wisdom?

JH: That’s a good question. I have been tracking the anthropology of war literature since the late 1980s. And since then, this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dominant in science. There’s a group of scientists at Harvard, in particular, starting with Edward Wilson, also Richard Wrangham, Steven Pinker, Steven LeBlanc. Very influential, very smart, respected scientists who’ve been repeatedly putting out this idea that war, as Obama said, is at least as old as humans, and might even be older and go back millions of years to the common ancestor with chimpanzees. That theory is now accepted and has seeped down to the level of the general population. I hear it all the time. I see it cited in all sorts of popular books about human nature, human psychology, as well as about aggression and warfare.

And I think that really, as a scientific hypothesis, has a lot to do with people’s pessimism these days. In addition to a more obvious reason, which would be that over the last decade we’ve had 9/11, followed by two very serious wars inIraqandAfghanistan, plus the war on terror. So I think this bad scientific theory has a lot to do with people’s pessimism, which is why I devote a chunk of my book to rebutting that.

BJ: I found it fascinating that you not only show in the book that humans are as equally genetically related to chimpanzees as they are to peace-loving bonobos, but also you debunk the idea that chimpanzees are necessarily innately violent to begin with.

JH: And not just violent to begin with, which they can be. The claim is more specific than that: that chimps in one group band together and raid chimps from another group. Usually it’s just ambushing one or two. In most cases, it’s just finding a little baby and ripping it apart.

What I found when I looked at the literature carefully is we’re talking about a very small number of these incidents over the past few decades. Depending on how you count them, just a couple of dozen. And you have literally hundreds of years of human observations, if you count individual scientists watching individual troupes [of chimpanzees], but which has accumulated just a handful of these troupe raids that lead to deaths. Even anthropologist Richard Wrangham — who’s sort of the chief proponent of this idea that human warfare and chimpanzee warfare are very similar — says that this is very rare behavior. And Jane Goodall has suggested that this behavior might be a response to changes in the way that chimps behave as a result of the encroachment of humans on their habitat, even as a result, for example, of Goodall herself putting out bananas and so forth.

So, you know, you’ve got this really dramatic, consequential claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of humanity, based on really flimsy evidence. I mean I have great respect for Steve Pinker and Ed Wilson and even Richard Wrangham. But they should know better than to be putting out this theory as fact when the facts do not support it.

BJ: If humans are as genetically related to bonobos as we are to chimpanzees, why isn’t that cited more often in discussions on the human impetus for war?

JH: Well, you know, bonobos are getting a lot of press lately. Peaceniks love to cite them, especially peaceniks who think that humans are innately pacifistic and gentle. Actually, I cite the bonobos research to counter all the chimp stuff. But really I think all of that is pretty much irrelevant. We really should be forgetting about the chimpanzee and bonobos stuff — that might’ve evolved very recently. The way that chimps or bonobos act now might have nothing to do with what was happening millions of years ago with the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans.

The literature that I think is really significant from this question about the origins of war concerns the first appearance of war in the archeological record. The point I make in my book is that, in spite of what is often said about war being very ancient going back to the beginning of humanity, as Obama said, war is quite recent. The oldest evidence for war is 12,000 years ago and even that is kind of an outlier. Really all the evidence for war starts about 10,000 years ago. And war seems to have emerged independently in various parts of the world and then rapidly spread.

So this is a cultural innovation that happened actually quite late. It happened after — well after — the invention of complex tools, the invention of cooking, after we see evidence for religion, after the emergence of art and music. War came after all those things, so in no way is it something that’s an instinct or really deeply embedded in us. It’s a very recent cultural innovation and it’s not something that then became permanent in all human societies.

The fascinating thing about war, too, is that it emerges in some places and then it disappears. And some societies that were once extremely warlike can become peaceful, at least when it comes to group violence, for very long periods after that. Which again, undercuts the whole notion of war being this deeply engrained biological behavior.

BJ: So why does war happen?

JH: After biology, the next most common explanation is that war happens because humans tend to overbreed. We make too many copies of ourselves and then we start fighting over stuff — water, game, land, women have been a source of conflict for fighting among men. Now we fight over oil and other strategic resources. After biology, this resource competition theory is by far the most common explanation of war. And often the two are combined, biology plus resource competition.

The problem is it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I look at the evidence for the resource scarcity argument and there are some wars where there are clearly some fights over resources, over oil or land or whatever. But there are many wars that aren’t. And the fascinating thing about war that a lot of people fail to understand is that war can arise for almost an infinite variety of reasons. Wars happen because maybe you just got some charismatic sociopath who convinces people in his tribe to go and kick the asses of the tribe next door. And when that happens, you have this new behavior that emerges that rapidly spreads. What does that neighboring tribe do if it’s attacked by the one led by this sociopath? It either has to run away or it has to fight in self-defense. That’s what makes war so insidious.

War really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behavior that becomes very persistent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region. And I think you can see the evidence of that over the last decade. What have been the motives behind the wars that have happened starting with 9/11? We invadedAfghanistan because we were attacked on 9/11. That was a war of vengeance. We were trying to get the guys who did it to us. The same with the invasion ofIraq. And if you didn’t thinkIraq was revenge for 9/11, well, it was because Saddam Hussein was threatening us. We thought he had weapons. So fear of war, in that case, caused us to launch a preemptive attack.

Now you’ve got the case ofIran, the drums of war are beating again. Why is that? Is it over resource competition? No, not at all. It’s because we thinkIranis going to attack us because they’re building nuclear weapons. And of courseIran, if it is interested in nuclear weapons, is interested in them because they think we’re going to attack them orIsraelis going to attack them. So I think you see clear evidence even right now, if you look around the world, as war as something that perpetuates itself apart from any other causes or factors.

BJ: If the acceptance of war’s inevitability is largely a meme, an idea that self-perpetuates in a culture, how do societies counter that?

JH: Yeah, Jesus, it’s a good question. I think we have already seen over the last century a sea-change in popular attitudes toward war. If you go back before World War I, you can find a lot of people, prominent intellectuals and political leaders, who talked about war as something that was intrinsically good. As something that was worth doing for its own sake because it was good for the character of a nation. Teddy Roosevelt talked that way. And so did a lot of prominent intellectuals. Even [the psychologist] William James, who was a pacifist, granted that war can be very stimulating for character and marshal virtues that are admirable. All that kind of bullshit.

But the idea that war is just something that’s good to do apart from any other higher goal of national purpose or so forth has really diminished. In part because the gigantic industrial scale of wars that we had with World War I and World War II, which really took a lot of the glamour out of war.

We still glorify the macho virtues of war in some ways. I think the number-one movie last week was the one about the Navy Seals who got Osama bin Laden. But it’s not as deep-rooted as it once was. I feel as though there is so much exposure now to the real horrors of war, from the inevitable civilian casualties and so forth. I think morally overall people are more prepared to denounce war once and for all than they were at pretty much at any other time in recent human history.

BJ: Can you describe the implications of the fierce Amazonian tribe, the Waorani, on the ability of mankind to turn away from war?

JH: It was this tribe in Ecuadorian Amazon that was first studied more than 50 years ago by anthropologists and had extraordinary high rates of violence. They were higher than anything that had ever been measured. More than 50 percent of the population died violently, for the most part, in raids of one village on another. It had just always been that way. And of course, as I said, it becomes self-perpetuating. People in each village would be so fearful of everybody else that if you met somebody in the forest, you would immediately need to run away or you’d try to kill them. And they were constantly carrying out preemptive attacks on each other.

But they were smart enough to realize that this was crazy. It was unsustainable. But how do you get out? And these missionaries came up with an ingenious idea. They couldn’t even have peace parleys because any people meeting together from different villages would be worried that the other guy would pull out a spear and stab them. And so the missionaries came up with this ingenious idea of arranging negotiations by flying a plane over each other’s camps to first deliver conciliatory messages. By having people from one village vowing to the other, “Hey listen, we’ve got to stop fighting. What do you say?” And this gradually led to a truce. And this extremely violent society became, not completely non-violent, to be honest, but much less violent. And especially, these rates of group attacks started diminishing in frequency.

It again shows the self-perpetuating nature of war and also the ability of people collectively to come together and say — apart from any other conditions of the society like political, demographic, or economic factors — “We don’t want to do this anymore so let’s stop. It’s stupid. ”

And of course we’ve seen examples of this among very sophisticated modern states.SwitzerlandandSwedenboth about 200 years ago decided that war was stupid and they stopped fighting. They are prepared vigorously to defend themselves. They have an army. But they haven’t been involved in any war in combat.

One of my favorite examples isCosta Rica, which in the 1940s went through a terrible civil war in which the army turned against the people. After the war was over, the victors, who were very progressive, especially in retrospect, said, “We never want this to happen again. Armies in this country seem only to cause trouble. So let’s get rid of the standing army and invest those resources in education and infrastructure and tourism and so forth.” And as you probably know,Costa Ricais in the middle of what has been over the last half century one of the most violent places in the world. It’s right next toNicaragua, nearGuatemala,Honduras,El Salvador. And while war is raging all around it and terrible poverty,Costa Ricahas thrived. And according to lots of so-called social happiness indexes, it’s the happiest place on earth. And again, it was just something they decided to do.

Some people think that for war to end we have to first create a utopia. We have to first have complete social justice and economic equality and get rid of all poverty, have complete freedom and democracy and so forth. But actually I think things work the other way. First, you get rid of war and militarism, and then a lot of these other wonderful things can happen in part as a result of that. And I think that’s what Costa Rica has shown.

BJ: You also debunk the notion of man as a natural warrior, exploring the overwhelming reluctance of soldiers in major wars, including the Civil War, World War I and World War II, to fire their guns directly at the enemy, even with a clear shot and when ordered by their superiors. It was definitely eye-opening to me.

JH: It was eye-opening to me, too. And I love the fact that the person who compiled these data is a guy named Dave Grossman, who is a Special Forces colonel and an instructor at West Point. He’s a soldier and a real hard-ass. And he wrote this book called On Killing, which basically makes the case and presents massive data to show that far from being innate warriors who are just dying to kill people, the vast majority of men are extremely reluctant to kill other people. And this has been a real problem for soldiers in wars going very far back, including the Civil War, as you mentioned. There’s some evidence from the Napoleonic War. There was a big survey done ofU.S. combat veterans in World War II and it found that lots of guys who were infantrymen — these are kind of the grunts in Word War II — they were not firing at all or were firing away from the enemy. They did not want to kill someone.

As a result of that the Army was horrified and they completely revamped their training to boost the firing rates of combat soldiers. They did boost the rates in the Korean War and especially in the Vietnam War. But what Grossman said is that as a result there are higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, inVietnam, because the soldiers were reacting in horror often to all the death they were meting out.

BJ: Weren’t these types of tactics to ensure higher firing rates still employed by theU.S.military inIraqandAfghanistan? And aren’t they, then, continuing to lead to higher rates of PTSD?

Yeah. And so one of the things that’s happened in modern warfare of course is that you’re not shooting somebody 30 passes away as often anymore. Firing or killing has become even more automated. You have bombing. You have very long-range artillery and so forth. I mean that was true by WWII as well. But it’s become even more true today. And of course now you have the ultimate remote killing machine, which is the drone. You got a guy sitting in an office in Nevada and he’s pulling a trigger and blowing away a supposed terrorist in Yemen or Pakistan or Iraq. And what’s interesting is that there have been all these reports that drone operators — who are so far removed from actual bloodshed, and are completely removed from any danger to themselves — are also experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Which, again, I think shows that most people are not natural warriors. It’s not something that most people want to do.

It’s true also of the origins of war if you go back many thousands of years to right up to the present. There’s this wonderful anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who has presented evidence about how war, once it emerged in some of these very early tribal societies, became such an important part of culture that it had a profound impact on male and female roles and identities. And it was the emergence of war that led to male macho-ness, the male embrace of the kind of warrior identity and how being really tough and aggressive was the essence of being a man. It wasn’t that males are intrinsically tough and aggressive and that’s why war happens. It was more that the causality, according to Hrdy, was the other way around. War emerges and then the culture tries to elevate the martial virtues because war then becomes such an important part of the culture.

BJ: You cite Abu Ghraib and the actions of, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to them, a “few bad apples,” the guards who were involved in torture and abuse of prisoners and portrayed in the media as natural born monsters. But you show how many people, including Rumsfeld, failed to either acknowledge or understand that most causal factors of cruelty in wartime settings most often stem not from individuals themselves but from the fact of being immersed in a wartime setting, surrounded by war’s inherent brutality, bloodshed, fear and madness.

JH: So again we’ve been talking about the degree to which humans are biologically predisposed to hurt each other. So one of the questions is: Are there some people who are just bad apples or sociopathic or sadistic?

In the case of Abu Ghraib, this was a real question. Were the people who committed the abuse at Abu Ghraib just bad people, bad apples? There’s this wonderful book written by a very prominent psychologist named Philip Zimbardo called The Lucifer Effect. He made a very good case that it’s not bad apples who generally are responsible. There are bad apples out there, but almost all war crimes, abuse and atrocities and so forth, are a product of the environment of what he called the “bad barrel,” of a situation that almost forces people to act violently and cruelly toward others.

Zimbardo did this really dramatic experiment in the 1970s, one of the most famous experiments in the history of social psychology, called the Stanford Prison Experiment, where he got a bunch of good, clean-cut Stanford students to pretend to be guards and prisoners in a fake prison in the basement of a Stanford building. And within a couple of days the guards were acting like absolute sadistic beasts to the prisoners, who were just other Stanford students. These weren’t sociopaths. These were kids who were just playacting in the beginning but then quickly got into their roles so much that things really got of hand.

I think it’s a very persuasive piece of evidence. You know, war is like the ultimate bad barrel. Once a war breaks out, then good, humane, decent people, in spite of themselves, often end up acting like absolute monsters. And it’s not something innate. It’s not something that’s always there in their genes. It’s something that’s brought out by war itself.

BJ: What is the case for the very small percentage of people who enjoy killing or feel no compunction to kill as being the driving force of war throughout history?

JH: Well, this emerged from a study by a couple of psychiatrists after World War II of combat veterans. They found that the vast majority of people after continuous combat for 60 days basically go crazy. But a very small percent, about 2 percent, are having a great time.

There are some people who would say these natural-born killers or sociopaths are responsible for all war. And some of them end up being leaders, like Stalin and Hitler. Except that the evidence for that is not really good. You can’t underestimate the degree to which these people actually do contribute to certain wars. Another case, for example, is theRwandagenocide [where a small percentage of people actually carried out the majority of the killing].

But I think that when you look at the totality of war through history, including wars that are happening right now around the world, that explanation doesn’t work very well. It’s not like all the American soldiers who are volunteers now in Iraqand Afghanistanare sociopaths. War is more about conformity, or at least as much about conformity as it is about innate aggression and hostility. 

Modern warfare is so disconnected from the kind of basic male aggression that leads to bar fights or hockey fights and that sort of thing. It really needs to be explained more by political, social and cultural factors. It’s much more often that war turns people into sociopaths than sociopaths causing war.

BJ: What about the idea that if there were more women running countries then that would lead to the end of war?

JH: It has a lot of appeal and I kind of was favoring that for a while in the way that I thought if all nations were democratic, then there would be no war. The only problem is that there’s so much counter-evidence. TheUnited Stateshas remained extraordinarily belligerent and militaristic even as women’s rights have advanced. We haven’t had a female president yet, but we’ve had some very powerful female figures in politics, including Hillary Clinton, who, as far as I can tell, is probably more hawkish than Barack Obama himself. And you also have somebody like Condoleezza Rice. And there are very militaristic female war leaders throughout history.

BJ: One main criticism of your book is that you give short shrift to the power and influence of the military-industrial complex, of weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists and friends in government. How do you respond to that?

JH: Yeah, I think that’s a valid objection to my book. The military-industrial complex is extremely important. Some people broaden that and say, “You’re not going to get rid of war as long as you have capitalism because we’ll always have war profiteering, where people are going to benefit too much from war for it to go away.” My response to that would be that the great titans of capitalism right now are companies like Amazon and Google and Apple. Haliburton is like loose change in the pocket in one of these companies. It’s tiny. Even big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin are tiny compared to these other companies that just see the rest of the world not as places to be conquered through war but as potential markets. They don’t want war. They want free trade and commerce. This is the impetus behind globalization.

Globalization can lead to problems. It can lead to economic exploitation and so forth. But capitalism, in general, and I hate to say this — I’m like a liberal socialist myself — can be a very progressive force, a profoundly antiwar force that I think, with courageous political leadership, will make the problem of the military-industrial complex go away very rapidly. It’s happened in the past. It happened after the Civil War. It happened after World World I. The problem is that since World War II the military-industrial complex has become very powerful and entrenched. But I think with enough collective will of the people and some decent political leadership, that’s not going to be a problem.

BJ: Who is Gene Sharp and how has he influenced your thoughts on war?

JH: He’s one of the great minds and great moral leaders of our time. He’s a political scientist who started in the 1970s. He’s churned out an enormous number of papers and books on the power of nonviolent activism to bring about extraordinary political change — toppling dictators, overcoming injustice within a society. He’s looked not only at the obvious examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but at many other examples through history and compiled all these techniques that people can use to accomplish pretty much any political-social goal in their society. Very quietly he has had an enormous influence on world affairs. Just recently he’s gotten a lot of attention because it turns out that activists inTunisia andEgypt, people who were part of the Arab Spring, had adopted some of Sharp’s techniques.

I wish his writings were better known because I think the world would be a better place. Obviously there is still a lot of tyranny and injustice in the world. But Sharp holds out the hope that that can be overcome nonviolently and that the consequences of nonviolent revolution are almost always much better than violent revolution.

BJ: What type of action do you hope your book inspires?

JH: I mention somewhere in the book and would like this to be discussed among progressive activists: What should your priorities be? You know, do you work on environmental issues, against global warming? Against poverty and world hunger? Do you work on the advancement of women’s rights? I mean all those are worthy causes. But I actually think that in terms of leverage, of focusing on one thing that can then have a cascade of other positive effects, focusing on militarism and war should be the priority. Because if we can really reduce the militarism of this country, really cut back on our military budget, get rid of nuclear weapons and create a more rational international policy, then I think that a lot of these other things will be much easier to address. Environmental issues, economic injustice issues, female inequality, all those sorts of things.

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