Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Peace activists and peaceful warriors working together to end war

The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet and Our Future by Captain Paul K. Chappell, U.S. Army. Eaton Studio Press, 2010.

In yesterday's blog I talked about the reasons why many experts feel that war is not inevitable. One reason to be hopeful about the transition to a peace system is that increasing numbers of soldiers and military leaders have come to see the futility of war and are organizing to oppose it. Organizations like Veterans for Peace challenge the war system from an insider’s perspective. Since the Vietnam War, anti-war vets and peace activists have increasingly worked together to enhance their effectiveness. Captain Paul Chappell is a prime example of this trend. Part African American, and part Korean, Chappel came from a military family—his father served in the army for thirty years, retired as a command sergeant major,  and suffered from PTSD (like many vets).  Chappell followed in his father’s footsteps, went to West Point, and served in Iraq. It was there that he began to question the military culture in which he had been raised. A thoughtful young man who reads widely, quoting philosophers from Plato to Spinoza, he paints a portrait of the military mind very different from the popular image in the media. Much of the book takes a philosophic look at the causes of violence, and how to nurture peace. I prefer his book’s final section, “Tactics and Strategies for Waging Peace,” especially the interviews with Deanie Mills, in which he draws from his military experience to make compelling arguments for ending war.
Chappell knows from his military training that men and women are not born with an instinct to kill; the army must rigorously train people to go against their normal humane tendencies. Based on this indisputable fact, Chappell concludes that war is not innate or inevitable. If people must be trained to wage war, they can be trained to wage peace. And waging peace is the best way to preserve what most of the world’s people yearn for: stability and justice and well-being for all.
Chappell also makes it clear that most young men and women enter the military because they believe that the only way to achieve peace is through fighting “evil doers” and “bad guys”—a view of life they acquire through comic books, popular media, and our pervasive war culture. A great deal of this book is devoted to exploring and changing this mind set.
Learning to understand the military mind is extremely important if peace activists want to be successful in changing it. Chappell reminds us that some peace activists during the Vietnam War treated returning vets with contempt, and this occasionally occurs today. Chappel’s attitudes changed when he met peace activists who treated him with respect and were “beacons of compassion and understanding.” He has come to believe that soldiers and peace activists share the same goal—peace—and many of the same values: cooperation, loyalty, commitment, and courage. They can and should work together.
I recommend not only reading this book, but sharing it, especially with those who are in the military or who have family members in the military. Chappell can also help peace activists learn how to dialogue with those who sincerely believe that war is a necessary evil, and the only way to achieve peace. Chappel gives workshops and gives talks both nationally and internationally, and you can see him in action at

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