A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu, Chinese Proverb
Consider what would happen if you asked 100 of your friends and acquaintances if they believe we have the ability to create a warless future. If you think we can, you may be surprised, even saddened, when you learn that the overwhelming majority of people say, No, it’s not possible. They believe war is in our very being. And if you yourself believe it is impossible, your disbelief would be strongly reinforced by their overwhelming agreement with you.
This lack of belief by the majority is of profound consequence. We cannot achieve any great goal unless we believe it’s reachable. The interdependence of success and belief is a fundamental truth of human nature. So the “Single Most Important Idea” of a campaign to end war is to embrace the conviction that ending war is possible.
Believing something is possible, however, is not the same as embracing it as a goal for which you will vote, pay taxes, and donate money, time, and labor. So the first and most important cornerstone of a campaign to abolish war is to spread faith in this goal among powerful and common people alike in such a way that they embrace it. That they become willing to do the hard work to make it reality.
It’s also true that success, as in most if not all great endeavors, requires a leader or group of leaders who embrace the vision and also have the ability to rally a critical mass of people to embrace it and do the work required. Great leaders must inspire us to achieve something many have dreamed about and which is now, at last, within our grasp. (see “How Far We Have Already Come”)
Embrace the goal but don’t underestimate or undersell the degree of difficulty
Recruiting others to commit to doing the work required is a necessary ingredient of ultimate success. But to recruit others, it’s essential to paint a realistic picture of what will be required, and to never underestimate the enormity of the challenge. Failing to do so will undermine the campaign’s credibility.
So how should leaders describe the effort? How can they enable potential recruits to see that the difficulty of accomplishing so many tasks isn’t an impossible barrier to success? War is so deeply embedded in our history and culture that I liken an effort to abolish it permanently to the challenges of putting a permanent colony on the Moon or Mars. To colonize Mars—an idea many still consider impossible—thousands of companies and projects must master a myriad of both technological and social issues.
Yet, consider that there are people who believe that, if motivated by sufficient resolve, we can do it. Work by visionaries like Elon Musk and the NASA Mars One project is already under way. (Wall 2017; Mars One 2017; NASA 2017; Space X 2017) And we know it lies within demonstrated human capacities: what sort of vision and organization would have been required to build the Giza or Cholula pyramids, or to convince the British to abandon the riches of India to the Indian people? Like those who promote a Moon or Mars colony or any other massive and complex project throughout history, I know that coordination of all aspects of an ending war project is not an option, it is a necessity condition of success.
What makes up the Cornerstones
This logo of the AFWW website, also found on the book’s cover, incorporates nine “cornerstones.” The essays to follow briefly summarize their nature. A thumbnail description of each cornerstone is presented in the Appendix. (“Summary of the Nine Cornerstones”)
Each cornerstone embraces a variety of projects and requirements that roughly share a common focus or theme. Grouping these hundreds of diverse but related efforts into the cornerstones serves to create an ordered way to visualize what is essential to create a warless future and maintain one.
The website AFutureWithoutWar.org provides links to more than one hundred organizations or projects whose efforts in 2018 were associated primarily with particular cornerstones (www.afww.org/links_overview.html)
Note that the logo’s cornerstone elements are depicted in a circle, not a list. This is because to be effective, the challenges they encompass must be dealt with simultaneously, not sequentially. They are intimately intertwined. Progress made on one affects the progress of others. Their coordination is vitally important to achieving success; none alone is sufficient to end war, but if their efforts can be united they have a realistic chance to topple all opposition.
Given the astounding human capacity to make social and individual change—masterfully described by neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky in his book Behave (2017)--humans could render war as obsolete as cannibalism and foot-binding. Were we to see the emergence of a sufficiently powerful coalition of peace-seeking visionaries who could coordinate the works and efforts encompassed by all nine cornerstones, there is good reason to believe that even ending war is not any more beyond our reach than is colonizing Mars.
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. US Senator, Chauncey Depew
We won’t just stumble into a warless future today or tomorrow any more than we did in the past. And the very first step on a thousand mile journey to abolish war is to “Embrace the Goal.”