World Beyond War intends to accelerate the movement toward ending war and establishing a peace system in two ways: massive education, and nonviolent action to dismantle the war machine.
If we want war to end, we are going to have to work to end it. It requires activism, structural change and a shift in consciousness. Even when recognizing the long-term historical trends of declining warfare – by no means an uncontroversial claim – it won’t continue doing so without work. In fact, the 2016 Global Peace Index has shown that the world has become less peaceful. And as long as there is any war, there is a significant danger of widespread war. Wars are notoriously hard to control once begun. With nuclear weapons in the world (and with nuclear plants as potential targets), any war-making carries a risk of apocalypse. War-making and war preparations are destroying our natural environment and diverting resources from a possible rescue effort that would preserve a habitable climate. As a matter of survival, war and preparations for war must be completely abolished, and abolished quickly, by replacing the war system with a peace system.
To accomplish this, we will need a peace movement that differs from past movements that have been against each successive war or against each offensive weapon. We cannot fail to oppose wars, but we must also oppose the entire institution and work toward replacing it.
World Beyond War intends to work globally. While begun in the United States, World Beyond War has worked to include individuals and organizations from around the globe in its decision making. Thousands of people in 134 countries have thus far signed the pledge on the WorldBeyondWar.org website to work for the elimination of all war.
War does not have a single source, but it does have a largest one. Ending war-making by the United States and its allies would go a very long way toward ending war globally. For those living in the United States, at least, one key place to start ending war is within the U.S. government. This can be worked on together with people affected by U.S. wars and those living near U.S. military bases around the world, which is a fairly large percentage of the people on earth.
Ending U.S. militarism wouldn’t eliminate war globally, but it would eliminate the pressure that is driving several other nations to increase their military spending. It would deprive NATO of its leading advocate for and greatest participant in wars. It would cut off the largest supply of weapons to Western Asia (a.k.a. the Middle East) and other regions. It would remove the major barrier to reconciliation and reunification of Korea. It would create U.S. willingness to support arms treaties, join the International Criminal Court, and allow the United Nations to move in the direction of its stated purpose of eliminating war. It would create a world free of nations threatening first-use of nukes, and a world in which nuclear disarmament might proceed more rapidly. Gone would be the last major nation using cluster bombs or refusing to ban landmines. If the United States kicked the war habit, war itself would suffer a major and possibly fatal set-back.
A focus on U.S. war preparations cannot work as well without similar efforts everywhere. Numerous nations are investing, and even increasing their investments, in war. All militarism must be opposed. And victories for a peace system tend to spread by example. When the British Parliament opposed attacking Syria in 2013 it helped block that U.S. proposal. When 31 nations committed in Havana, Cuba, in January 2014 to never making use of war, those voices were heard in other nations of the world.1
Global solidarity in educational efforts constitutes an important part of the education itself. Student and cultural exchanges between the West and nations on the Pentagon’s likely target list (Syria, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, etc.) will go a long way toward building resistance toward those potential future wars. Similar exchanges between nations investing in war and nations that have ceased to do so, or which do so at a greatly reduced scale, can be of great value as well.2
Building a global movement for stronger and more democratic global structures of peace will also require educational efforts that do not stop at national borders.
Partial steps toward replacing the war system will be pursued, but they will be understood as and discussed as just that: partial steps on the way toward creating a peace system. Such steps may include banning weaponized drones or closing particular bases or eliminating nuclear weapons or closing the School of the Americas, defunding military advertising campaigns, restoring war powers to the legislative branch, cutting off weapons sales to dictatorships, etc.
Finding the strength in numbers to do these things is part of the purpose of the collection of signatures on the simple Pledge Statement.3 World Beyond War hopes to facilitate the forming of a broader coalition suited to the task. This will mean bringing together all those sectors that rightfully ought to be opposing the military industrial complex: moralists, ethicists, preachers of morality and ethics, religious community, doctors, psychologists, and protectors of human health, economists, labor unions, workers, civil libertarians, advocates for democratic reforms, journalists, historians, promoters of transparency in public decision-making, internationalists, those hoping to travel and be liked abroad, environmentalists, and proponents of everything worthwhile on which war dollars could be spent instead: education, housing, arts, science, etc. That’s a pretty big group.
Many activist organizations want to stay focused in their niches. Many are reluctant to risk being called unpatriotic. Some are tied up in profits from military contracts. World Beyond War will work around these barriers. This will involve asking civil libertarians to view war as the root cause of the symptoms they treat, and asking environmentalists to view war as at least one of the major root problems — and its elimination as a possible solution.
Green energy has far greater potential to handle our energy needs (and wants) than is commonly supposed, because the massive transfer of money that would be possible with the abolition of war isn’t usually considered. Human needs across the board can be better met than we usually imagine, because we don’t usually consider withdrawing $2 trillion a year globally from the world’s deadliest criminal enterprise.
Toward these ends, WBW will be working to organize a bigger coalition ready and trained to engage in nonviolent direct action, creatively, generously, and fearlessly.
Educating the Many and the Decision and Opinion Makers
Using a bi-level approach and working with other citizen based organizations, World Beyond War will launch a world-wide campaign to educate the masses of people that war is a failed social institution that can be abolished to the great benefit of all. Books, print media articles, speaker’s bureaus, radio and television appearances, electronic media, conferences, etc., will be employed to spread the word about the myths and institutions that perpetuate war. The aim is to create a planetary consciousness and a demand for a just peace without undermining in any way the benefits of unique cultures and political systems.
World Beyond War has begun and will continue to support and promote good work in this direction by other organizations, including many organizations that have signed the pledge at WorldBeyondWar.org. Already distant connections have been made among organizations in various parts of the world that have proved mutually beneficial. World Beyond War will combine its own initiatives with this sort of assistance for others’ in an effort to create greater cooperation and greater coherence around the idea of a movement to end all war. The result of educational efforts favored by World Beyond War will be a world in which talk of a “good war” will sound no more possible than a “benevolent rape” or “philanthropic slavery” or “virtuous child abuse.”
World Beyond War seeks to create a moral movement against an institution that should be viewed as tantamount to mass-murder, even when that mass-murder is accompanied by flags or music or assertions of authority and promotion of irrational fear. World Beyond War advocates against the practice of opposing a particular war on the grounds that it isn’t being run well or isn’t as proper as some other war. World Beyond War seeks to strengthen its moral argument by taking the focus of peace activism partially away from the harm wars do to the aggressors, in order to fully acknowledge and appreciate the suffering of all.
In the film The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age we see a survivor of Nagasaki meeting a survivor of Auschwitz. It is hard in watching them meeting and speaking together to remember or care which nation committed which horror. A peace culture will see all war with that same clarity. War is an abomination not because of who commits it but because of what it is.
World Beyond War intends to make war abolition the sort of cause that slavery abolition was and to hold up resisters, conscientious objectors, peace advocates, diplomats, whistleblowers, journalists, and activists as our heroes — in fact, to develop alternative avenues for heroism and glory, including nonviolent activism, and including serving as peace workers and human shields in places of conflict.
World Beyond War will not promote the idea that “peace is patriotic,” but rather that thinking in terms of world citizenship is helpful in the cause of peace. WBW will work to remove nationalism, xenophobia, racism, religious bigotry, and exceptionalism from popular thinking.
Central projects in World Beyond War’s early efforts will be the provision of useful information through the WorldBeyondWar.org website, and the collection of a large number of individual and organizational signatures on the pledge posted there. The website is constantly being updated with maps, charts, graphics, arguments, talking points, and videos to help people make the case, to themselves and others, that wars can/should/must be abolished. Each section of the website includes lists of relevant books, and one such list is in the Appendix to this document.
The WBW Pledge Statement reads as follows:
I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.
World Beyond War is collecting signatures on this statement on paper at events and adding them to the website, as well as inviting people to add their names online. If a large number of those who would be willing to sign this statement can be reached and asked to do so, that fact will potentially be persuasive news to others. The same goes for the inclusion of signatures by well-known figures. The collection of signatures is a tool for advocacy in another way as well; those signers who choose to join a World Beyond War email list can later be contacted to help advance a project initiated in their part of the world.
Expanding the reach of the Pledge Statement, signers are asked to make use of WBW tools to contact others, share information online, write letters to editors, lobby governments and other bodies, and organize small gatherings. Resources to facilitate all kinds of outreach are provided at WorldBeyondWar.org.
Beyond its central projects, WBW will be participating in and promoting useful projects begun by other groups and testing out new specific initiatives of its own.
One area that WBW hopes to work on is the creation of truth and reconciliation commissions, and greater appreciation of their work. Lobbying for the establishment of an International Truth and Reconciliation Commission or Court is a possible area of focus as well.
Other areas in which World Beyond War may put some effort, beyond its central project of advancing the idea of ending all war, include: disarmament; conversion to peaceful industries; asking new nations to join and current Parties to abide by the Kellogg-Briand Pact; lobbying for reforms of the United Nations; lobbying governments and other bodies for various initiatives, including a Global Marshall Plan or parts thereof; and countering recruitment efforts while strengthening the rights of conscientious objectors.
Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigns
World Beyond War believes that little is more important than advancing common understanding of nonviolence as an alternative form of conflict to violence, and ending the habit of thinking that one can ever be faced with only the choices of engaging in violence or doing nothing.
In addition to its education campaign, World Beyond War will work with other organizations to launch nonviolent, Gandhian-style protests and nonviolent direct action campaigns against the war machine in order to disrupt it and to demonstrate the strength of the popular desire to end war. The goal of this campaign will be to compel the political decision makers and those who make money from the killing machine to come to the table for talks on ending war and replacing it with a more effective alternative security system. World Beyond War has endorsed and worked with Campaign Nonviolence, a long-term movement for a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, environmental destruction and the epidemic of violence.4 The campaign aims to mainstream nonviolent direct action and connect the dots war, poverty and climate change.
This nonviolent effort will benefit from the education campaign, but will also in its turn serve an educational purpose. Huge public campaigns/movements have a way of bringing people’s attention to questions they have not been focused on.
The Alternative Global Security System Concept – a Movement Building Tool5
What we outlined here as the Alternative Global Security System is not only a concept, but it contains many elements of a peace and security infrastructure creating an unprecedented social space and opportunities for a re-energized movement to abolish war.
Communicating on war and peace issues is accompanied by multiple symbols and symbolism. Peace, especially in western peace movements, has several recurring symbolic elements: the peace sign, doves, olive branches, people holding hands, and variations of the globe. While generally non-contentious, they fail to communicate tangible meanings of peace. Especially when juxtaposing war and peace, the images and symbolism depicting the destructive consequences of war are often accompanied by the traditional peace symbolism.
1. AGSS offers an opportunity to provide humans with a new vocabulary and a vision of realistic alternatives to war and paths toward common security.
2. AGSS as a concept in itself is a powerful alternative narrative consisting of multiple narratives across nations and cultures.
3. AGSS offers a broad framework for communicating on nonviolent constructive conflict transformation approaches
4. AGSS is broad and can reach more bystanders by tapping into ongoing hot-topics (e.g. climate change) or the recurring events like gun violence or death penalty.
Palatable to mainstream audiences
Using common language and more importantly appealing to common values makes it more palatable to mainstream and is something that effective elites have been practicing for their purposes.
1. AGSS offers many opportunities to get involvement within the acceptable societal narrative.
2. Through the AGSS perspective anti-war activists can situate their work within trends that address hunger, poverty, racism, the economy, climate change, and several other factors.
3. A specific mention should be given to the role of peace research and peace education. We now can talk about “peace science”. 450 undergraduate and graduate peace and conflict studies programs and K-12 peace education demonstrate that the discipline no longer is at the margins.
When framing, rhetoric and goals are more acceptable in the mainstream, some movement organizers might perceive a cooptation of the movement, yet we hope that the entry of the movement ideas into the mainstream – or even the shifting of mainstream values – are signs of movement success. It will be up to us to determine the path.
It is obvious that no movement can act in isolation of its social context and in isolation of other movements should it be successful.
AGSS offers a mental and practical framework to connect the disconnected. While the recognition of the interrelatedness of the different elements is not really new, the practical implementation is still lacking. Anti-war activism is the primary focus, but cross movement support and collaboration is now possible on a broad range of issues outlined in the AGSS framework.
Continued organizational identity
AGSS offers a unifying language where different social movement organizations can pertain to alliances without losing their organizational or movement identity. It is possible to identify an aspect of the work and specifically connect it to being part of an alternative global security system.
Synergy can be achieved with the recognition of AGSS. As peace researcher Houston Wood points out, “peace and justice individuals and organizations across the world now form an emergent global peace consciousness that is different and more powerful than the sum of its dispersed parts”. He adds that linked elements of the network will increase its range and density, opening even more space for growth. His projection is that the global peace network will grew even more powerful in the decades ahead.
When people realize that AGSS exists, they will be inspired to act for a goal as large a world without war. Let us make this assumption a reality. The focus of WBW is clear – abolish the failed institution of war. Nevertheless, in building a re-energized anti-war movement we have a unique opportunity to enter into coalitions and alliances where partners recognize the potential of the AGSS, identify themselves and their work as part of the trends and create synergistic effects to strengthen the system. We have new opportunities for education, networking and action. Coalitions at this level can potentially create a counterbalance to the dominating war narrative through the active creation of an alternative story and reality. In thinking about a world beyond war and an alternative global security system we should refrain from imagining a nonviolent utopia. The institution and practice of war can be abolished. It is a socially constructed phenomenon which is overwhelming, yet on the decline. Peace then is an ongoing process of human evolution where constructive, nonviolent ways of conflict transformation are predominant.
1. See more on the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states at: http://www.nti.org/treaties-and-regimes/community-latin-american-and-caribbean-states-celac/
2. Peace Scientist Patrick Hiller found in his research that experiences abroad of U.S. citizens led them to better recognize U.S. privilege and perception around the world, to understand how perceived enemies are dehumanized in the U.S. main narrative, to see ‘the other’ in a positive way, to reduce prejudices and stereotypes, and to create empathy.
3. The Pledge can be found and signed at: https://worldbeyondwar.org/
5. This section is based on Patrick Hiller’s paper and presentation The Global Peace System – an unprecedented infrastructure of peace for re-energized movements to abolish war. It was presented at the 2014 conference of the International Peace Research Association Conference in Istanbul, Turkey.