Monday, June 9, 2014

From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years

Suppose you went to a conference and found that scientists had discovered breakthrough cures for cancer, and were confident that in a hundred years or less, cancer would be a thing of the past. Wouldn't you want to share this good news with everyone? That's how I felt last week when I went to an  historic meeting of peace activists and scholars at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. Peace scholars like Kent Shifferd have shown us that there are evidence-based ways to resolve conflict without violence, and that war could be abolished in much the same way as slavery, if only we had the political will to do so.
It won't be easy, of course. There are huge profits to be made from war, and it will take a world-wide mass movement to take back governments from the war makers and plutocrats. But the same was true of slavery. We need to remember that people power has brought about social changes once thought impossible, such as giving women and blacks the right to vote, and ending the Cold War.
To learn more about how we could reduce and eventually eliminate the threat of war and create a peace system to replace our war system, I recommend going to the World Beyond War website at There you'll find a wealth of information and resources that can help you to become active in this effort to create a culture of peace and a peace system.

Ending war has been the goal and dream of God's people going back to the time of the prophets. "Everyone 'neath vine and fig tree will live in peace and unafraid," said the prophet Micah. "And into ploughshares beat their swords/ Nations shall learn war no more." Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the prophesy of Zachariah that declared the Messiah would come to abolish war. Jesus made it clear that those who seek peace and justice are blessed, and those who live by the sword will perish.

Religious people need to take up the cause of ending war, just as a hundred and fifty years ago, many people of faith joined the abolitionist movement. We have grounds for hope, rooted in the bible, and also in research done by social scientists, that the culture of war can be changed into a culture of peace. As Kent Shifferd concludes in his important new book:

"The abolition of  slavery, an institution as old as war and as deeply entrenched, took about a hundred years to succeed.  This new story, the abolition of war, has a good chance to succeed in the next hundred years. At the very least, we can start to teach our children that war is not the only and inevitable story on the planet.  We have good reasons to believe that we may well be trending toward peace."

Summary of
From War to Peace: A Guide To the Next Hundred Years (Mcfarland Pubs, 2011)
By Kent Shifferd
(All material in this document may be used freely with attribution.)  This book is currently in use in college and university classes around the country.
While this book looks at war in an utterly realistic fashion, nonetheless the conclusion is a positive outlook for the probability that humanity will end the practice of war.
Introduction: “The Tragedy of War and the Expectation of Peace” introduces the great paradox, good people hate war but still support it.  Section I explains why.
Section I: War
            War is not human nature but it is a cultural system deeply embedded in all the institutions of our society including government, but also religion, education, sports and the economy.  All give positive feedback to the belief that war is inevitable and to the mechanisms for prosecuting it.  It is a self-perpetuating and self-feeding system.  Positive rewards accrue to this behavior.  The cause of war is war itself, the mirror imaging of fear that drives each nation to arm and behave in bellicose fashion which confirms other nations of the need to do the same for self-defense in an ever upward spiraling of the technologies of violence.  Chapters in this section are:
1.    Describing and Analyzing War
2.    The Psychology of Killing
3.    The War System: Part I
4.    The War System: Part II           
Section II: Peace
            The war system is not the only system.  Since 1815 there is a revolutionary and growing trend toward crafting a peace system which I predict will result in the outlawing of war sometime in the next hundred years.  Chapters are:
5.     Defining Peace
6.    The History of Peace in Ancient and Medieval Times
7.    The History of Peace: 1800 To the Present
8.    The Successes of Nonviolent Struggle
9.    Abolishing War and Building a Comprehensive Peace System
10. The Wellsprings of Peace. 
Below is a succinct summary of these trends from a separate document.
The Peace Revolution
 by Kent D. Shifferd
The twentieth century was the most promising century for the eventual development of peace in the last eight thousand years.
            We are living in the midst of a great revolution. True, the twentieth century was one of the most violent in human history and the twenty-first opened up with its share of wars.  It’s an old story but it’s no longer the only story.  Another is in the making although most educators, the media, and even presidents don’t know about it. Twenty-seven undeniably demonstrable trends have been are leading us toward the evolution of a system of global peace.  Below I have briefly summarized these inter-related trends.
  1. The development of organized peace action by citizens
Before the nineteenth century, great individuals espoused peace.  Jesus taught love of enemies, St. Francis reconciled quarrels in Tuscany, Erasmus wrote his “Complainte of Peace,” Kant his” Perpetual Peace”, but there was little if any organized activity.  Then, between 1815 and 1816, at least four peace societies were formed, three in the U.S. and one in England.   On 16 August, 1815, David Low Dodge founded the New York Peace Society to discourage war and promote peace. Over the next hundred years, organized peace movements came into being.
Beginning as a religious impulse peace thinking became a secular ideology arguing for a lawful international order and respect for the rights of peoples.  Citizens organized.  By the early twentieth century there were perhaps three hundred thousand European and North American peace activists from over a hundred peace societies that together formed a transnational movement and shared a common ideology then called “pacifism.”
2.    The progressive development of international institutions for adjudicating international conflict
This citizen based peace movement led to the 1899 conference at The Hague which resulted in the creation of the first form of the “world court,” now called the International Court of Justice. Regional courts developed in Europe and Latin America, and ad hoc tribunals arose to deal with war criminals, and most recently the International Criminal Court became a reality.  International courts are a crucial part of an interlocked peace system.
3.    The emergence of supra-national parliamentary institutions to keep the peace   World War I led the great powers to create the League of Nations and then to improve upon it with the United Nations in 1945.  While the UN remains imperfect, the goal of these organizations—to prevent war by negotiation, sanctions, and collective security is revolutionary in the long history of warfare.  The peace-building work of UN agencies is crucial to the evolution of a culture of peace.  Additionally, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the African Union monitor regional disputes and engage in peace building activities. 
4.    The rise of neutral, international peace-keeping  Neutral forces (the UN Blue Helmets) composed of several nations intervene to quell a conflict or keep it from re-igniting have been deployed in dozens of conflicts and are currently serving around the world.  And now another new development--non-violent, citizen-based peace keeping and peace building such as the Nonviolent Peaceforce and Peace Brigades International are a reality.
5.    The development of nonviolent struggle as a substitute for war, beginning with Gandhi, carried on by King, perfected in the successful struggles to overthrow the dictatorial regimes of Marcos in the Philippines, the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe and the Communist coup in Russia and emergence of the Arab Spring.  We no longer need to resort to arms to defend ourselves.  It has been conclusively demonstrated that all power comes from below even in dictatorial regimes.  Nonviolence was even used successfully against the Nazis.
  1. The development and spread of sophisticated new techniques of conflict resolution known as win-win negotiation, mutual gains bargaining, non-adversarial negotiation, peer mediation are being taught all over the world from grade school to state departments.
  1. The rise and rapid spread of peace research and peace education. Hundreds of colleges, universities and schools now provide peace education courses, minors, majors and degrees at the graduate level.  An international umbrella organization, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, brings educators and practitioners together and facilitates the spread of ideas.  Peace research institutions such as the Swedish Peace Research Institute and the United States Institute of Peace are learning more and more about how to deal with conflict in nonviolent ways. A huge body of peace literature is available to the world via books and the web.
  1. The rapid spread of democratic regimes in the second half of the twentieth century.  Since it is historically demonstrable that democracies do not attack one another.
  1. The emergence of regions of long-term peace:  Western Europe for almost 60 years, North America for nearly 200 years, Scandinavia for over 300 years.  Peace, like war, is self-perpetuating if a critical mass can be established.  Today, no one expects Canadian tanks to roll over the border into Minnesota.
  1. The decline of institutionalized racism: e.g., Jim Crow in the U.S., and the end of Apartheid in South Africa. 
11. The end of political colonialism. Beginning in the 1960s, the old European colonial empires disappeared and dozens of peoples became self-governing.
  1. The end of neo-empire. Empire is becoming impossible due to cost and the rise of asymmetric warfare which further increases the cost.  Nations that try to police the world go bankrupt.
  1. The end of de facto sovereignty.  In the modern world, a nation state can’t keep out missiles, immigrants, ideas, economic trends, disease organisms, etc.  Borders are permeable. Old style national sovereignty is no longer a description of states in the real world.
  1. The rise of women’s rights and the emergence of women in positions of leadership and authority and the consequent diminishment of patriarchy in large areas of the world.  Patriarchy has been associated with war from ancient times. 
  1. The rise of the environmental sustainability movement aimed at slowing or ending the consumptive excesses that create shortages, poverty, pollution and environmental injustice in the developing world and oil dependent economies in the global north. 
  1.  The spread of peace-oriented forms of religion: the Christianity of Thomas Merton, Jim Wallace of Sojourners and Pax Christi; the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama, and similar movements in Judaism (The Jewish Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace) and Islam (Muslim Peace Fellowship, Muslim Voice for Peace). 
  1. The successful extension of a regime of international law and especially war-limiting treaties such as the bans on atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, on child soldiers and the on anti-personnel land mines, etc.  Most nation states respect international law most of the time.
  1. The legalization of conscientious objector status in many nations.  (In World War I some COs were condemned to death.)
19.  The rise of the human rights movement. Human rights are now an international norm and when they are not respected it is considered an outrage in most countries. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are often able to bring effective global pressure on dictatorial regimes to free political prisoners and respect human rights.
  1. The evolution of the global conference movement.  In the past twenty years there have been seminal gatherings at the global level aimed at creating a peaceful and just world. The Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, laid the foundations for the modern global conference movement; convened by the UN, attended by one hundred heads of state, 30,000 citizens from around the world and 10,000 journalists who disseminated its message with unprecedented coverage.  Focused on environment and development, it produced a dramatic shift in direction toward the elimination of toxics in production, the development of alternative energy and public transportation, deforestation, and a new realization of the scarcity of water.  Major conferences have since been held on a variety of issues.
  1. The emergence of an international development regime including large-scale international development banks (IMF, World Bank), but more importantly, micro-financing as begun by the Grameen Bank movement in India, and thousands of smaller, international development nongovernment organizations.  
  1. The creation of the world wide web and cell phones has dramatically increased transparency of government actions (no atrocity escapes notice) and the ability of citizen peace organizations to coordinate with each other and to respond to crises as well as making easily available crucial information about war, peace, human rights; a force multiplier for the peace, justice and environmental work.
  1. The sharp decline in old-fashioned attitudes that war is a glorious and noble enterprise.  No troops now march off to war singing as they did in 1914. War is no longer considered glorious, or the “health of nations” as it was for centuries.
  1. The emergence of thousands of international non-government organizations providing a wide variety of peace-making, peace-keeping, and peace building services.  The Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision and uncountable others supporting schools in poor countries, providing medical services, bringing clean water to remote communities, etc., all underscore the development of an emerging, de facto global citizenship.  One people, one planet, one peace.
  1. The gradual decline of capital punishment in most places of the world.  In 18th century England there were 220 capital crimes and children as young as seven could be hanged for theft.  England outlawed capital punishment for murder in 1965    Illinois just became the 17th state in the U.S. to outlaw it.  Worldwide 58 countries maintain it, 95 have outlawed it, and 35 maintain it but have not carried out an execution for at least ten years.
  1. The reaction against violence as entertainment, both against violent entertainment media and against war toys. While this movement is embryonic, it is nonetheless underway.
  1. The gradual rise of planetary loyalty as people begin to see themselves as citizens of the globe in common humanity with all people and with a common need to protect global ecosystems.  The emergence of a globally linked world society is well underway.
All this is new, unprecedented! How it will play out, no one knows.  The abolition of   slavery, an institution as old as war and as deeply entrenched, took about a hundred years to succeed.  This new story, the abolition of war, has a good chance to succeed in the next hundred years. At the very least, we can start to teach our children that war is not the only and inevitable story on the planet.  We have good reasons to believe that we may well be trending toward peace.

Kent Shifferd is emeritus professor at Northland College and author of From War To Peace: A Guide To The Next Hundred Years (McFarland, 2011).  Contact


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