Frustration in the Peace Movement: Some Solutions

--- Justice & Peace

Matthew Smucker’s article, “What Is to Be Done? Assessing the Antiwar Movement” in the June 26, 2008 edition of www.commondreams.org got my attention. I read the readers’ responses and shares the same frustrations. For all the work in getting Democrats elected to Congress in 2006, we have achieved little. Spineless Democrats, headed by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, engage in a foot race to see which one will cave into President Bush faster. After the Congress approved a bill on war spending with deadlines, Bush vetoed it. Then, instead of demanding that Bush approve a bill that they would approve, the spineless Democrats approved Bush’s war budget to “support the troops.”

Every social political movement has its share of frustrations. Our feelings are the same as the American Abolitionists, the American Civil Rights Movement, the Solidarity Movement in Eastern Europe and countless others. Since there is no fair media coverage and almost no help from the institutions, we are in for the long haul in curbing the military industrial complex. We can only rely on building a grassroots movement like the others that I just mentioned.

I will describe what I am doing and then will propose actions for everyone else.

1) Make your own web site. See mine at www.edorourke.com.
2) Compose articles for anyone who may print or post them. Some web sites and neighborhood newspapers in Houston run them. Occasionally, I send the articles to the Houston Chronicle (the biggest newspaper in Houston) although they have not run one yet.
3) Offer to speak at the Rotary Clubs and other places.
4) Make hard copies of your articles and pass them around wherever you go.
5) Put a “War Is Not The Answer” yard sign in front of your house. Get them from the Quakers’ lobbing group, www.fcnl.org.

I hope others will do things differently than what they are doing now. The peace web sites offer nothing to those who are not already in the movement. There is no research material for students or reporters. There is no presentation to show that wars are futile, especially in a nuclear age. Peace web sites should show what they stand for to the casual user. Use the terse statement from the Braeswood Democrats, an activist Houston group, to state your goals: On February 11, 2007, they, passed a resolution (the Braeswood Declaration) calling for the abolition of war saying that the road to peace can begin by:

1) starting a world wide anti-poverty program,
2) taxing international arms sales,
3) beginning a moratorium on weapons research,
4) reducing the bloated US military budget by 50%,
5) training our armed forces for disaster relief,
6) establishing a cabinet level Department of Peace,
7) reducing nuclear weapons to zero or nearly zero, and,
8) negotiating for all the world’s nuclear weapons to go off hair trigger alert.

The peace web sites offer no statements from distinguished warriors such as General Douglas MacArthur who have called for war abolition. See excerpts from the general’s April 19, 1951 address to the US Congress:

“I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.” …

"Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

The peace web sites offer no answers to non-peaceniks’ legitimate questions. See this response to one of my war abolition articles from a person identified as Vander: “These are laudable, but ultimately unrealistic goals. It takes more than one side to make peace. Unilateral commitments to peace always end up in disaster. Witness the European landscape during the 1930s. England and France wanted peace at any price. However, to Hitler, they were seen as ‘little worms’ (his words). It's like dealing with the schoolyard bully. You may want to be friends with him. However, he is only interested in using his superior strength to get his way. I make this comparison because a similar situation plays out on the world stage. China is hellbent on expanding her sphere of influence. A nation-state doesn't build up aircraft carriers and ballistic submarines merely to protect her coastline. These vessels are for the projection of force! China wants to reclaim Taiwan. I've worked with a number of Taiwanese, and they do not want any ‘reunion’ with China (peaceful or otherwise). Iran is also interested in expanding her power base, with dreams of becoming the leading power of the Persian Gulf. I point this out, not to vilify these nations, but only to demonstrate the futility of applying idealistic/pacifistic foreign policy ideas to nation-states that view the world through a realpolitk lens. Yes, more can be done to secure peaceful cooperation between nations. But, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that if we only behave like Gandhi we can pacify the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots, and Osama Bin Ladens of the world.”

Since I felt this way until February, 1969, I took Vander’s concerns seriously and wrote an article that gave my answers. The peace web sites, on the other hand, refuse to engage with anyone outside the movement.

Enlist poets, playwrights, songwriters and novelists to generate the peace message. I like Tommy James and the Shondells 1969 song, “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” We need more.

Engage the environmentalists. Humankind cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% and maintain a bloated military.

We may get lucky. This can happen sooner rather than later. Anyone who can remember the Berlin Wall’s demise in 1989 knows euphoria.

Ed O’Rourke is an environmental accountant in Houston.