“What can replace war?”–Daily Metta

October 20:

gandhi-21“The warring nations are destroying themselves with such fury and ferocity that the end will be mutual exhaustion.”

–Gandhi (Harijan, February 24, 1946)

War is costly, on an economic, human and even spiritual scale. Contrary to any myths we might still cherish about the institution, when we inflict violence to make ourselves more “secure” (although, let’s be honest, security is only rhetoric when it comes to waging wars, there are usually other, less noble motives at stake…), security only removes itself from the equation. We only amplify tensions, escalate hatreds, deepen sorrows, and re-create the conditions that seem to justify using violence in the minds of many.

“The warring nations,” Gandhi says, “are destroying themselves.” Let’s pause here briefly: he does not say that they are successfully destroying their foes, or each other even, in the words of God Save the Queen, scattering “her enemies, making them fall; confounding their politics; frustrating their knavish tricks.” What Gandhi says is happening is that such nations are doing that to themselves. Imagine the irony. And the end? Mutual exhaustion. Only to pick up the sword again when strength returns.

Many nonviolence scholars, including Gene Sharp, have wondered what war would look like if it were waged with nonviolence. The closest examples we have so far are limited: when one party uses nonviolence toward a violent regime; and of course there’s Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping (UCP), that some, like us, think could lead to a nonviolent way of resolving large-scale conflicts, in other words, replace war. But let’s go further: what would it look like if whenever there was a conflict of interests, nonviolence was used to settle it? A highly creative, empowering force — we might hear that U.S. military commander in Iraq who said, “we are making terrorists faster than we can kill them,” change his tune to something closer to, “We’re making friends faster than we can feed them.” No one would destroy themselves, but rather, find themselves. The end would be not mutual exhaustion but mutual understanding.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

What kind of institutions would we need to replace violence with nonviolence internationally?