Fix the Peace Movement: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Doesn’t Work

By Ed O’Rourke

The leaders and most members of the peace movement believe in talking to each other and make little or no effort to reach out to potential sympathizers. I have seen this at every peace web site. They address no one who is not already in the movement.

Environmentalists make up the largest potential sympathizer pool. They realize that humankind will not achieve a 90% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions just by using corkscrew lightbulbs. Green peace or peace by any other color requires major reforms in the defense budget, the US prison system, US health care system, and the so-called war on drugs, not to mention the No Child Left Behind test prep education that our children are undergoing.

A colleague said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Ask for the moon. A local group of Houston Democrats issued the Braeswood Declaration, calling for:

    1. starting a world wide anti-poverty program,
    2. taxing international arms sales,
    3. beginning a moratorium on weapons research,
    4. reducing the bloated US military budget by 50%,
    5. training our armed forces for disaster relief,
    6. establishing a cabinet level Department of Peace,
    7. reducing nuclear weapons to zero or nearly zero, and,
    8. negotiating all the world’s nuclear weapons to go off hair trigger alert.

These are my specific recommendation for the peace movement:

      1. Write articles with specific steps (like the Braeswood Declaration) to achieve world peace. I offer my article, “Braeswood Declaration: the Abolition of War,” with minor changes can be addressed to specific groups. I put in a quotation from Douglas MacArthur because of his impeccable military record and his war abolitionist statements. I wanted to show that distinguished warriors and not just hippies, Quakers and left wing college professors have advocated war abolition.Recommend specific steps in your article. There have been many well-meaning statements like the Kellogg Briand Pact of 1928 that did not mention a single concrete proposal on eliminating war.
      2. Send commentaries to environmental newsletters, national magazines and local newspapers.
      3. Ask for endorsements from environmental groups, departments within universities, churches, political candidates, political groups and Rotary Clubs.
      4. On the peace web sites, provide questions (objections) from people who think that the idea is unworkable. Provide answers. For example, someone might say we would have lost the Second World War had we pursued a peace strategy. Or Jesus said that there would always be wars. War is part of man’s nature. See this: Ed, Thank you for sharing your “Braeswood Declaration: the Abolition of War”. It is a good thing you are passionate about your political beliefs. Unfortunately, the reality of real people like Hitler, Stalin, Pot, Bin Ladin, Saddam, the E.L.F.s etc would make your theory the end of mankind. The U.S.’s massive military spending has saved humanity. Dave These are fair objections require answers. I felt this way until about 1969.
      5. 5)

      6. Provide something on each peace web site reasons why the visitor can realistically reject war and put on some personal stories of people like me who were gung-ho warriors who gradually saw the uselessness of war. Every commercial web site tells the visitor of how their products or services can beat the competitors in price, quality, and/or delivery. But non-commercial sites shy away from reasons. For example, the Vatican web site lacks reasons for becoming or remaining a Catholic.
      7. I have not seen a peace web site yet that offers material and arguing points for researchers, students, the media or casual visitors that shows a map of how you can get to there (a peaceful world) from here (where suicide bombers or jet fighter pilots take innocent lives). 6)

      8. I propose that peace groups pay for public relations firms to conduct focus groups who would identify the concerns of non-war abolitionists. Follow up with the same individuals after developing answers to their concerns.
      9. 7)

      10. Develop songs, plays, movies, short stories and novels that celebrate peace. A few months ago, I heard Marty Robbins’ “Ballad of the Alamo” for the first time in decades. The song stirred me, even though I am something of a pacifist. Songs like “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells show a vision of peace. For young old-timers, Pete Seger’s songs or the Beetles’ “Give Peace a Chance” might be models for inspiration. Mariano Azuela’s “The Underdogs”, Gunther Glass and Kurt Vonnegut show the uselessness and harm of militarism. “All Quiet on the Western Front” and other classics and a few modern movies may call peaceniks to action and make themselves a public presence. Peace groups must appeal to the heart and mind.
      11. 8)

      12. Hopefully, Catholic peace groups will draft an encyclical for the Pope to sign that includes specific proposals, such as a second Marshall Plan for the world’s poor or a sales tax on international arms transactions and other items. Avoid generalities that even the warriors can endorse and then cry about or lie about later, as did Robert McNamera or Robert Gates. After all, President Bush wants peace but would certainly not agree with anything in the “Braeswood Declaration: the Abolition of War” article. Put in a timetable or at least a sense of urgency.

An informal definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The peace movement must become something close to a mass movement to change what our politicians and defense contractors are doing and transform the chaos, destruction and the death of the present. Peace groups have to do things differently in 2007 and from now on to achieve desired results. They can make the need for peace part of the national dialogue.

Ed O’Rourke is an environmental accountant in Houston, Texas.

Morris Edelman, English professor at the Houston Community College contributed to this article.

The National Catholic Reporter’s Conversational Café web site ( posted a version of this article on June 27, 2007.

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