When I constructed the original website (2003) most people were highly skeptical that humanity could ever escape the curse of war. If I asked audiences “Do you believe it’s possible for humans to create a future without war,” the overwhelming majority of people answered, “No.”
No man gives generously of his hard-won financial resources to the bottomless pit of a lost cause.
No woman works tirelessly to reach a goal her heart believes can never be reached.
No one passionately reaches out to enlist others in a campaign that is considered a fool’s dream.
No politicians will wage a campaign to end wars if they judge the idea to be ridiculous. We may admire Don Quixote’s willingness and unswerving determination to dream the impossible dream, but few of us want to be him.
A campaign to end war can be likened in difficulty to putting a permanent colony on the Moon or Mars. Envision the massive commitment and investment required to put a human colony on Mars, the many workers, the strategy experts, the endless hours of brain-challenging planning, the mistakes, and the delays for corrections when things go wrong. The same will be true of a campaign to end war.
Therefore, the essays to follow aren’t intended to explain in definitive detail how ending war is to be achieved. Rather, the website, this book, and other writings function to highlight the nature of the varied challenges to be met (Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War, Hand 2014; War and Sex and Human Destiny, Hand 2018; and “To Abolish War,” Hand 2010) They also explain how and why we can have confidence that despite difficulties and challenges, the goal can be achieved—relatively quickly—if we want to achieve it badly enough.
Exactly what do we mean by war?
Before going further, war as used in the essays needs to be defined so there is no confusion about what is and what isn’t being considered.
The working definition used here was derived by combing concepts from two persons who have written persuasively about war. First, the anthropologist Douglas Fry, in his book World Beyond War, The Human Potential for Peace. Dr. Fry emphasized that an action that can be called war involves people from one group getting together to indiscriminately kill members of another group who have, in fact, not personally harmed them (emphasis mine). In other words, revenge for a personal grievance is not the motivation for the attack. And second, Barbara Ehrenrich who in her book Blood Rites pointed out that a defining characteristic of war is that the majority of people in the warring group support the warriors, as do their political and religious leaders (emphasis mine).
So for example, murder clearly is not war. Murder is one person killing another person, perhaps over sexual jealousy or wealth. It may be sadistic killing for pleasure. By the definition of war used here, revenge killing of specific individuals over personal grievances—things like lethal family feuding, infighting within a gang, vigilante justice, payback struggles over social status, or control of a family’s resources—these are also not war, although some get closer to the real thing.
Two drug gangs killing each other or even outsiders, for example, also isn’t war in the sense used here because the participants aren’t supported by the larger communities where they live, nor by their religious leaders. Gang killings—community, national, or international scourges to be sure—are still a matter of community policing. Terrorists who are not supported by the larger communities from which they come also do not qualify. They are a very specialized community policing problem.
Neither are other specific types of killing we practice to be classed as war. A state relies on community sanction to execute individuals for specific crimes. Or, while lacking community sanctions, a repressive state may execute dissidents. These aren’t war as defined here.
It’s important to recognize that the reality of miniscule homicide rates—murder or revenge, or killing struggles for in-group dominance—in a variety of societies past and present makes clear that we don’t need to tolerate high rates of killing. The taking of human life, however, is a reality that goes back into our deep past, perhaps even before our predecessors became fully human. As a consequence, even well into our future we may never be able to fully eradicate that evil.
So war, as meant here, is when people band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the majority of the warring communities’ noncombatants and religious leaders sanction this action.
The Reality of War
Those of us who have never experienced living in a war zone can benefit from the experience of persons who have actually seen or even have participated in the destruction and killing, who have seen and fought against the abject retreat into evil from the good and positive. A Navy Seal once described his life in the service, smiling as he recalled all the plusses—the bonding, the excitement, the sense of competence and accomplishment, even the fact that it made him a “babe magnet.” But he ended by saying, with a deep frown, “The price is too high.”
War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell. William Tecumseh Sherman, General Graduation address at Michigan Military Academy
Abolition of war defined
Given the above definition of war, in these essays what is meant by “ending war” or “abolishing war” is that the global community arrives at a state in which war is not only unacceptable to the majority of citizens, it’s abhorrent and obsolete. Negotiation, mediation, compromise—any and all nonviolent means of resolving conflicts—are always the chosen tools.
The very practical question of how we get to that condition would be the devised “plan” any ending-war group actively pursues. The cessation of war could also conceivably be arrived at by some gradual piecemeal evolutionary unplanned and/or unorganized process that ultimately results in the permanent termination of war. I personally doubt, however, that such wonderful unorganized serendipity is capable of producing a social paradigm shift of such enormous magnitude.
At some point it seems logical that an official agreement would be drawn up and affirmed regularly by the global community--a global peace treaty. The essays in A Future Without War are written with the vision in mind that an active campaign to end war results in the signing of such a global agreement that includes mechanisms necessary to enforce it.
Goals of the Book’s Essays
Here are some major goals of the essays to follow.
explain why the creation of “fully mature liberal democracies” is not only the antidote for the evils of all forms of patriarchy, including wars, but is the foundation upon which to construct a future without war. (“Spread Liberal Democracy”)
We can never build something magnificent if we don’t believe in its value and in our ability to accomplish the task. To fashion a warless future for generations to follow we must believe it is possible.
Fry, Douglas P. 2006. The Human Potential for Peace. An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence. New York: Oxford University Press. Hand, Judith L. 2010. “To abolish war.” Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research 2 (4): 44-56. (see also: http://www/afww.org/ToAbolishWar.html.) Hand, Judith L. 2014. Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War. San Diego, California: Questpath Publishing. Hand, Judith L. 2018. War and Sex and Human Destiny. San Diego, California: Questpath Publishing. (see also https://www.weebly.com/editor/main.php# War, Sex and Human Destiny/.