Thursday, July 10, 2014

Transition to Peace: a Defense Engineer's Search for an Alternative to War

Transition to Peace: A Defense Engineer’s Search for an Alternative to War by Russell Faure-Brac. Open Book Editions, 2012.

Russell Faure-Brac has unique knowledge and expertise about how to end the war system. He was a systems analyst. During the Vietnam War, he worked for the Stanford Research Institute, “calculating the most cost effective way to blow up the world” (p. xix). What turned him from believing that “war is a necessary evil” to “war is simply insane” was an assignment from the Department of Defense (DOD) in which he was supposed to do a cost-benefit analysis of weapons based on the probability of kill and the dollar value of an American soldier’s life (about $50,000 then). The premise of this project seemed so insane he began taking classes at the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and became a convert to Gandhian peacemaking. He quit his job in the "defense" industry and began a more fulfilling career as an environmental planner—a profession he practiced till his retirement. After 9/11, horrified by the direction our country was taking, he turned once again to the questions he struggled with during the Vietnam era and decided to devote himself to ending the insanity of war.
Faure-Brac uses charts, diagrams and data to explain the military industrial complex, and writes with persuasive reasonableness about alternatives to war. He also includes engaging stories (such as Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military after World War II) to help readers understand how ending war is possible.
He offers practical steps on how to transiton from a war system to a peace system. For instance, he recommends that armies be used to provide humanitarian aid—why let the equipment and vast infrastructure of the world’s military go to waste, when it could be used to provide relief in crises, and to foster economic development? He calls for a “global Marshall Plan,” using funds now wasted on the military to rebuild our broken world.
He discusses the need for “selling peace”—based on the ideas of cognitive linguist George Lakoff: appeal to values, be positive, etc. He confesses that the first draft of this book was full of anger, but he felt it was important “go beyond anger and forgive those who perpetuate and participate in violence and destruction” (p. 90). He writes for those in “Middle America” who still believe that war is a “necessary evil.” He shows why war is evil, but not necessary, using language and examples that the average educated American can appreciate.
Faure-Brac is a realist who recognizes that ending the war system won’t be easy, though it could happen more quickly than anyone might predict. He foresees the possibility of a catastrophic “bubble bursting”—an economic or environmental collapse—that would wake people up to the need for a dramatic transformation of values, what Joanna Macy calls “a Great Turning.” According to Faure-Brac , a major economic or environmental collapse could happen in the next decade or so, unless we drastically change our behavior and attitudes. He is probably right.  Many experts foresaw the economic collapse of 2008 and were discounted; the Wall Street elite and their political minion in DC were self-deceived and oblivious about the true state of the economy. It is not unreasonable to predict that at some point, the war economy will cause the United States to decline and fall, as it did  the Soviet Union and other empires. What happens after this collapse will depend in some measure on how well organized and well prepared the peace movement is, and whether it can move hearts and minds in the right direction.
This is a short and concise book, bristling with practical ideas, and eminently readable. I recommend sharing it with your logically minded friends who have doubts about ending war. Faure-Brac’s common sense approach may help overcome their skepticism. You can find out more about his work at

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