Now that war is obsolete, can peace prevail?
Will The Last Superpower Recognize In Time What We Must Do To Survive?
We trim and append this 2008 article from YES! Magazine, posted June 27. The author, a former World Bank economist, is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network, which publishes YES! Magazine.
By David KortenThe greatest threats to US security come from weather chaos, oil dependence, disruption of food supplies, water scarcity, domestic gun violence, profligate borrowing, and a collapsing dollar -- threats increased by our current military security policies.
This is the moment for a pragmatic turn from counting on military might to relying on smarts.
According to the scientific consensus, to avoid driving Earth's system of climate regulation into irrevocable collapse we humans must achieve at least an 80% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and possibly sooner.
There is no place in this equation for war, rendering the global projection of military power useless. The central activity of warfare is to destroy. The collateral damage includes massive scale toxic and radioactive environmental contamination that renders growing portions of our crowded planet uninhabitable.
The only war-like threat to our domestic security is from a handful of terrorists armed with box cutters and a willingness to die for their cause. We face a greater danger from our own children brandishing guns in our schools than from any opposing army. If a band of terrorists were to attack us with an atomic weapon, it would likely be delivered in a suitcase or packing crate. Such threats share in common the simple fact that even the mightiest military force in the world offers no protection. The solutions depend more on strengthening our families and communities, than on increasing military budgets.
Military science has long recognized that the use of conventional military force against an unconventional enemy that blends in with the civilian population is futile. It’s even counterproductive, because the inevitable collateral damage fuels resentment and increases the numbers and commitment of the enemy. In the case of the United States, it drains our resources, divides us as a nation, weakens our moral standing in the world, and creates more unconventional enemies -- as our fruitless occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan currently demonstrates.
The United States is well positioned to take the lead among nations in renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and dismantling the means of conducting war. We account for roughly half of world military expenditures and our military expenditures account for more than half of the US federal discretionary budget.
Among the potential starting points, two stand out as particularly promising. The first is a call by establishment insiders like George Shultz, who was US Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, to dismantle all the world's nuclear weapons. The second is an emergent social movement calling all the world's parliaments to adopt the principles of Article 9 added to the Japanese Constitution following World War II.
In the official translation it reads:
ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Italy and Germany adopted similar, but less stringent, provisions following World War II. Each renounced war as a sovereign right.
In May 1999, 6000 global citizens gathered in The Hague for what at that time was the largest peace conference in history and issued The Hague Appeal for Peace. Among other measures, they recommended, "every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going to war, like the Japanese article number nine." On Japanese Constitution day, May 3, 2008, over 8,000 Japanese gathered in Tokyo for the Global Article Nine Conference to Abolish War where numerous international speakers endorsed a call to the parliaments of the world to adopt national equivalents of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.
The experience of the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates the folly of responding to terrorism with conventional military force and affirms the validity of Article 9. Public awareness of the costly failure of these misadventures has created a moment of opportunity for the US peace movement to build popular political support for a Smart Security policy that renounces war as an instrument of foreign policy and sets forth a plan to:
* Dismantle the obsolete machinery of war that is depleting our national treasure,
* Mobilize our human and materials resources to address the real threats to our security,
* Convert our war economy of the past to a green economy of the future, and
* Work with the other nations of the world to do the same.
It is an opportunity to at once increase our security, improve the quality of our lives, and regain a position of principled global leadership.
JJS: The way to do the four above is to redirect the flow of public revenue. Let people spend it, not politicians; that is, fund a Citizens Dividend rather than leave budgetary decisions, such as waging war, in the hands of government officials. And collect the public revenue by charging people for the values they take, not for the values they create; that is, don’t tax income, sales, and buildings but recover the costs of pollution, depletion, and exclusive use of location. The last one -- charging for claims to land then using the “rent” to pay ourselves a dividend -- is the one that will foster a larger identity of mutual belonging and reinforce the appeal of peace.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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