Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Protection from War

At this point I'm moving from creating security by having things, to creating security by protecting us from things. This is territory often claimed by conservatives who mine fear for votes: 'We need a strong defense or we'll be invaded', 'We need a strong police force or we'll all be crime victims', 'The only thing that keeps you from being taxed into poverty is...', etc. But we can't leave these issues to the conservatives. Protection is a legitmate concern and we need to deal with it.

I'm going to start with protection from war, familiar territory to those on the left (and the right). But it's not enough to declare that war is wrong; we need alternatives.

The first and most basic way is to look at the causes of war. One of these is often economic inequities (and sometimes just plain greed). If we reduce what we need and there is more to go around, this reduces the inequalities that can lead to war. Also, if we have less, there is less for others to want and less incentive for others to attack to get what we have.

A second step is to listen and negotiate. Posturing and threatening is more likely to lead to war than careful diplomacy. 'I'm right, you're wrong' positions are often preludes to conflict. I'm not suggesting total appeasement, just that some wars, ironically, are fought to save face when bluster fails. At least, we need to figure out if there is a way that both sides can get what they want.

When all else fails, there is Civilian Based Defense (also known as Transarmament or Nonviolent Warfare). While it sounds idealistic and unrealistic, CBD theorist Gene Sharp has documented 198 methods of nonviolent action, each of which has been actually used--and Sharp gives examples.

It may hard to believe that any government would take this seriously but authoritarian regimes around the world fear it and military instructors in Taiwan teach it. And opposition activists in many countries have used the information to topple dictatorships.

Like many other things, it takes two to fight a war and a major way to protect against one is not to oblige.

Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, A Force More Powerful--Companion book to the PBS documentary, it documents the use of nonviolence as a weapon in the 20th century. Besides the book and film, there is also a computer game
The Albert Einstein Institution--Gene Sharp's homebase, filled with useful information and a source for his books, including Civilian-Based Defense, his classic The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Three volumes and volume 2 is devoted to detailing the use of those 198 methods of resistance), and his latest, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential. You can also download lots of his work from this site
Robert A. Irwin, Building a Peace System--The requirements of what it would take to create an international peace system
NoAdversary--an independent alternative media experiment trying to create a 'Culture of Peace'; affiliated with Canada's 'Peace Caf├ęs'

Quote of the Day: "Peace is a resistance to the terrible satisfactions of war." - Judith Butler

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