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How Do We End War? An Action Plan

June 23, 2013

Judith Hand, Ph.D.

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For over ten years I’ve studied war. And I’ve concluded from my perspective as an evolutionary biologist that if we want it bad enough and make the choice to act, we can end war.

Pollaiuolo - Men in Battle

Pollaiuolo – Men in Battle

I’m not referring to ending conflict, which is clearly not possible. Nor am I talking about other ills that grow from the use of violence, such as murder, rape, and domestic abuse. These behaviors can be found even in cultures that do not make war, or societies that are nonviolent or relatively so (think of the Amish, Quakers, and even Norwegians). I’m talking about ending war, where groups of men take up weapons and bond together to go kill, indiscriminately, men who belong to another group.

Red HOW word around questions.

And a fascinating pattern emerges when I speak with long-time, dedicated peace activists, people who have spent years struggling to end war. In one way or another they ask me the same question. Not, can we end war? They believe we can and have been trying mightily to do it. The question they ask is, how?

They are stymied. How do we do it? How can we do something to defeat this behemoth that no activists from generations before us were able to defeat? A monster that they themselves have been striving to defeat. How do we dismantle an entity having tentacles that reach into virtually every aspect of our lives? That provides employment for many millions of global citizens. That reaches even into our homes, to take from us our sons to serve, and if necessary to die, in its wars.

Why-do-we-walk-the-camino-de-santiago

A second question is a partner of the first: why, they ask me, do I think we can achieve something men and women of good will from previous generations could not? What has convinced me that we might actually do such an amazing thing?

My conclusions are based on my research:

  • into war,
  • into our biology as it relates to using physical aggression,
  • into the power of nonviolent direct action to bring about social transformation,
  • and on my expertise as a behaviorist.

I have written extensively about my results and conclusions at the website http://www.AFutureWithoutWar.org.

PaulMasson - NoWineBeforeItsTimePerhaps my most succinct essay on why we can do this now is a blog. It explains why our time differs from preceding epochs in ways that give us, if we grasp the chance, a window of opportunity to make this hugely historic shift from war. It is entitled “To date nonviolence movements were ‘before their time.’ Now they are poised to change history.

The blog provides an introduction to the nature of using nonviolence for social transformation, beginning with a review of the work of three powerful users of nonviolence: Alice Paul, Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

And then it explains the two reasons why the people of our time are finally ready to seriously explore the possibility that we need a transformation. This is firstly because a critical mass of global citizens know “in their bones” that what we are doing is not working. They grasp with deep unease that we desperately need a new way to live with each other.

Earth “Global Village”Our time is hugely different because our global home is now “full.” From our isolated beginnings in Africa we now occupy all niches on the planet that are readily habitable by humans. It is no longer possible to escape from each other by emigrating to a frontier, moving to a place with fresh resources and unoccupied land. Our backs are to the wall, and we are floundering as we spend huge resources on war that are desperately needed for along list of critical needs.

YinYangAnd a second reason our time is radically different is that we have finally figured out that excluding women as leaders and decision-makers has upset a balance between approaches to conflict resolution. We have significantly eliminated the part of us that favors compromise over fighting in ways that have plunged us into roughly 10,000 years of war after war after war. The rise of powerful women around the globe has begun to restore balance in our approaches to resolving conflicts. The addition to the public space of women as decision-makers and trendsetters is establishing real and consistent power behind forces that seek compromise, negotiation, and peace with justice rather than expending resources on war. The forces of ying and yang are being balanced so that they equally share in decision-making. This change in the status of women is in its infancy, but it is accelerating at an astonishingly rapid rate.

These two enormous changes in our reality make us willing to open minds to the idea of change. We are more willing to consider the way of nonviolence.

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But the question of “how” still remains. How do we move the global community from the cultures of violence in which we now live to a future in which physical violence, particularly in the form of war, is no longer standard practice? Two essays on my website explore “how to end war” in detail (“To Abolish War” and “Shaping the Future.”)

Moreover, I’ve distilled the essence of all of this research into an Action Plan for initiating a focused campaign to end war. The Action Plan provides 1) specifics for how to assemble the necessary leadership, 2) a shared unifying vision, and 3) a strategy and tactics to shape a paradigm shift that would rival in magnitude the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. I’ve called it The Nonviolence Revolution.

The Action Plan is built around “Constructive Programs” (such as peace education, work to shift our economies, reaching young men so that they become part of the solution) that are grouped into nine cornerstones, and “Obstructive Programs” using nonviolent direct action to directly tackle the war machine, the goal being to dismantle it piece-by-piece.

An companion essay, “Dismantling the War Machine,” offers more detail of how to take on the war machine using the lever of people power.

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The mechanism for the “how” is based on a successful approach pioneered by the International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) (see the book “Banning Landmines”). This approach works to unite individuals and organizations with a great many diverse interests into common cause and has been called “massively distributed collaboration.” It is a way to coordinate and direct people power so that we end war and in the process create safe, secure communities for our children and the children of humanity’s future.

There is a “how.” There is hope. The choice is ours. It’s time to accept the challenge to act and begin the work. Check out the Action Plan and make your own decision as to whether you think it might actually work, and if you’d like to get on board.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for the tremendous amount of thought, energy, and effort you’ve obviously put into this. I’ve written sporadically against war over the past few years — dabbling in the subject might be the most generous way to describe it. I’d like to now crank that up so that I’m actually doing something. The number of people whose lives are in the hands of a few lunatics is growing more alarming every day. There are more than seven billion of us, and I would have to guess that well over ninety-nine percent of us have no interest in war. And yet, based on history, it does seem inevitable. As you’ve said so well, that attitude is one of the first things we need to change.


    • I, too, am hoping to move from study and research to actual action. And I am taking initial steps in that direction. I hope within a year I can report that the Action Plan is in operation.



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