Readings in Nonviolence features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (2018-19 Edition)
ISBN: 978-0-9980859-6-8 Produced and published by: World BEYOND War. Available at https://worldbeyondwar.org/alternative/
Editor: Tony Jenkins. Original authors: Kent Shifferd, Patrick Hiller, David Swanson.
This document is a blueprint for ending war.
Reviewed by Stefania Gualberti
World BEYOND War is working to build a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. In this book World BEYOND War creates a vision and an action plan for a world without war defining strategies for the transition to change.
I think the book is a good resource for peacebuilding. I love the vision and shift in thinking, not for us peace activists, but it is very counter-main stream culture. I believe the first necessary step to move beyond war is to shift the idea that war is inevitable. Only if we start thinking that ending war is possible we can begin to create an alternative.
World BEYOND War believes the majority of people are ready for an alternative to war which, on the name of security, brings destruction to humans, resources and the planet.
Their vision is for “A sustainable future world in which children live free from fear and violence, are nurtured by a culture of peace, and are able to achieve their full human potential. No one is safe until all are safe.”
American anthropologist Margaret Mead famously observed that warfare is not in our genes, that it is in fact a human invention.
“In On Violence, Hannah Arendt wrote that the reason warfare is still with us is not a death wish of our species nor some instinct of aggression, “…but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.”
Something which is not commonly perceived is that “We humans have lived without war for most of our existence and most people live without war most of the time. Warfare arose about 10,000 years ago (only 5% of our existence as Homo Sapiens) and spawned a vicious cycle as peoples, fearing attack by militarized states, found it necessary to imitate them; and so began the cycle of violence that has culminated in the last 100 years in a condition of permawar. War now threatens to destroy civilization as weapons have become ever more destructive. However, in the last 150 years, revolutionary new knowledge and methods of nonviolent conflict management have been developing that lead us to assert that it is time to end warfare and that we can do so by mobilizing millions around a global effort.”
They are right to point that “While it is true that humans have a capacity for aggression as well as cooperation, modern war does not arise out of individual aggression—it is a highly organized, and structured form of learned behaviour that requires governments to plan for it ahead of time and to mobilize the whole society in order to carry it out. The bottom line is that cooperation and compassion are as much a part of the human condition as is violence. We have the capacity for both and the ability to choose either, but while making this choice on an individual, psychological basis is important, it must lead to a change in social structures.”
Militarization does not avoid war but create an escalating spiral to more militarization. Conflicts within nations and amongst different nations are inevitable but a nonviolent system must be created to manage them.
“The path to ending war and establishing the Alternative Global Security System can be achieved through three broad strategies:
- demilitarizing security;
- managing conflicts without violence, and
- creating a culture of peace.”
This three components are not to be achieved in order or separately, but at the same time, as they are interconnected. Progress in each area would influence ad impact the others.
1. Demilitarizing security
Our current security system is so deeply connected to the military- industrial- corporate- academic complex that we need to think of the transition to demilitarization and a peace economy. We need to stop our dependence on the military for security. World BEYOND War advocates all countries to shift to a non-provocative defence: that would imply an immediate cessation of foreign military bases; a dismantling of military alliances; and an ending of all invasions and occupations. They encourage full compliance, from all countries, to existing disarmament treaties. They encourage individual, group, and institutional participation in divestment campaigns. Conventional, chemical and biological weapons, weapons of mass destruction, weapons in space, drones, and the arms trade are addressed. They identify strategies for economic conversion; creating a stable, just and environmentally sustainable economy; and democratizing international monetary institutions.
The new system also addresses the issue of terrorism and supports a demilitarized more effective nonviolent response to it.
Finally, they stress the importance of increasing the role of women in peace and security decision making, planning and peacebuilding efforts in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820.
2. Managing conflict without violence.
We already have institution that address international conflict. World BEYOND War acknowledges them and propose some reform to more effective functions as well as new institutions. First example is the United Nations. Its function as global governance has to transcend the national interest but keep at its core the collective security. Second example is international law as a nonviolent tool for managing disputes and conflicts. They propose reforms to improve the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ); explore possibilities for enforcing existing treaties and creating new ones; and recommend the establishment of truth and reconciliation commissions and other alternative justice / peacebuilding approaches.
“They also firmly acknowledge the limited functioning of a system comprised of nation states and identify strategies for greater participation of civil society in the functioning of our security system. Several civilian peacekeeping forces are already serving vital roles in managing conflict in zones of violence around the world.”
They consider the potential of Gene Sharp’s vision of establishing Civilian-Based Defense Forces (CBD). CBD is a bold, nonviolent alternative that can make invading a country very unappealing. It supports a cultural shift in thinking about security and would require training all citizens in strategic nonviolent methods of resistance.
Mahatma Gandhi and then Martin Luther King Jr., and others, developed a powerful means of resisting violence, the method of nonviolence, now tested and found successful in many conflicts in different cultures around the world. Nonviolent struggle changes the power relationship between oppressed and oppressor. It reverses seemingly unequal relationships.
Gene Sharp, nonviolent scholar, wrote: “A vast history exists of people who, refusing to be convinced that the apparent ‘powers that be’ were omnipotent, defied and resisted powerful rulers, foreign conquerors, domestic tyrants, oppressive systems, internal usurpers and economic masters. Contrary to usual perceptions, these means of struggle by protest, noncooperation and disruptive intervention have played major historical roles in all parts of the world.”
One example is the case of the “mere” shipyard workers and the Red Army in Poland in the 1980s, the Solidarity Movement led by Lech Walesa ended the repressive regime—Walesa ended up as president of a free and democratic Poland.
Nonviolence campaigns have been successfully used against the German Nazi regime as well. For example, in 1943, Rosenstrasse Protest, when Christian German wives launched a nonviolent protest until almost 1,800 imprisoned Jewish husbands were released. On a larger scale, the Danes launched a 5-year campaign of nonviolent resistance to refuse to assist the Nazi war machine that saved Danish Jews from being sent to concentration camps.
“Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have demonstrated statistically that, from 1900 to 2006, nonviolent resistance was twice as successful as armed resistance and resulted in more stable democracies with less chance of reverting to civil and international violence.”
3. Creating a culture of peace
The focus here is to promote peace, creating an alternative vision of a world we desire and prefer instead of spending energies on protesting and rejecting what we are against. In Article 2 of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace observes that “progress in the fuller development of a culture of peace comes about through values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life conducive to the promotion of peace among individuals, groups and nations.”
World BEYOND War tells the “new story”. Peaceful change and peaceful evolution is possible.
“Educational efforts supporting planetary citizenship establish a foundation of interconnection and interdependence on our shared planet. Formal and non-formal peace education and peace research are primary tools for writing the “software” of our peace system.”
They advocate for responsible peace journalism: report of peace initiatives usually ignored by the mainstream press and a thorough analysis of the complexity and underlying issues of conflicts.
They conclude with the role and potential of religion as a tool for peacebuilding.
I realize the book has a Western/US American perspective. It needs more research as well of course, but they say on it that it is a work in progress.
“This book is based on the work of many experts in peace research, political science, and international relations, as well as on the experience of many activists, it is an evolving plan that will change as we gain more and more experience.”
World BEYOND War encourages people to join “Study War No More,” the online learning community: www.globalsecurity.worldbeyondwar.org to access material to bring this book alive and in discussion at different levels within education and between researchers and activists. This is the fourth edition of the book and they welcome comments and co-creation for any missing connections and useful research.