civilian-based defense as a peace strategy

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  • Civillan-based Defense as a Peace Strategy by Gene Sharp


    Very often when we look a t a specific aspect of l i f e o r society, w e f a i l to examine Instead, our a t tent ion i s often at t racted to

    That is true of many of us w h o are concerned

    carefully, o r even to notice, the obvious. characteristics which are more obscure o r unusual, o r which d i f fe r only in d e t a i l from others. about the dangers of war and of military systems.

    Rarely do we focus on the obvious.

    What are the obvious characteristics of military systems which we ignore? F i r s t , military systems may be intended to deter attack o r to repel it and f igh t a war. not only do v i r tua l ly a l l governments amass the strongest military capacities they can, b u t in that e f for t they by and large are supported by most of the populations of t h e i r countries.


    I f any of you have, as I have previously, passed out l e a f l e t s o r used other means to advocate uni la teral dismantling of the mil i tary system, you know how many converts you got by the end of the day! I f you do th i s for a year o r two, o r f ive o r ten years -- some peo- ple have been doing it for some decades -- you s t i l l won't need very many extra hands to count the number of converts you have won to the idea of abolishing the mil i tary system.

    Yet many peace people ignore that , to ta l ly ignore it. We say, "Those people don't real ly understand the issues." O r , "Some other problem prevents the i r seeing the t ruth." Or, "They've a l l been brainwashed." O r , " I t ' s some kind of conspiracy tha t prevents peo- ple from agreeing with us.1T

    People can sometimes recognize that these weapons are ev i l , that they can destroy humanity, that they harm our economy, tha t they change people's personalities, but those same people s t i l l want them. We ignore that . It is obvious, yet we ignore it.

    They still insist that the mil i tary weapons are necessary.

    Remnants of the idea that somehow, somewhere, there i s going t o be a mass, popular, peaceful uprising to throw out the war system are s t i l l around. Some people think that such a r is ing w i l l be on the basis of individual conversions to pacifism, and others think that some massive c i v i l disobedience campaign o r antinuclear struggle is going t o sweep around the world. We ignore the fact that neither has ever happened. history when it looked l i k e a mass r i s ing against war might happen, i t f izzled out. was t rue a t the outbreak of the F i r s t World War and again in the 1950s and early 1960~3, when nuclear weapons and intercontinental rocketry were sti l l so new tha t w e could he shocked by them. We did then get c i v i l disobedience, demonstrations, and massive r a l l i e s and marches in different par ts of the world. the war system. succeeded, as I and many of you hoped, i s past. that i s incapable of being shocked by anything in terms of military weaponry. par t of rea l i ty , par t of existence, l i k e t rees and rocks.

    Every time i n This

    But they didn't l a s t . They didn't throw out They didn ' t even come close. The time when that conceivably might have

    llow a whole new generation has grown up

    And we ignore that . It is jus t

    We have t r i e d a l l kinds of approaches t o get t ing r i d of war. None of them have done i t . Not one. There i s n ' t even one that looks l i k e it can come close t o achieving that objective, even in the next f i f t y years. We ignore that .

    Yet, we who want to end war st i l l keep doing the same things we have been doing year

    Copyright @ 1981 by Gene Sharp.

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    a f t e r year and decade a f t e r decade. war continues. But v i r t u a l l y a l l of them ignore obvlous f a c t s .

    I t i s j u s t possible t h a t the problem of war i s more simple than we have thought,

    We a l l have our f avor i t e explanations a s t o why

    not more complicated. g ive you a va r i e ty of answers which eventually b o i l down t o the statement, "We need them." " I f we a r e well enough prepared, we won't be a t tacked , and nobody w i l l g e t k i l l ed t1 -- deterrence theory. Or, " I f we a r e a t tacked , we can defend ourselves." We r e a l l y never deal with those arguments when we come up with our peace proposals.

    I f you ask people why they hold on t o m i l i t a r y means, they w i l l

    The t i t l e of t he Colgate/COPRED conference -- Conference on Alterna t ive In t e rna t iona l Secur i ty Systems -- suggests an attempt t o come t o g r ips with t h a t s i t ua t ion . The t i t l e marks a t l e a s t a beginning of some recognition t h a t some kind of an a l t e r n a t i v e t o the m i l i t a r y system may be des i rab le or necessary.

    I f you ask what war is, people w i l l tel l you it is many d i f f e r e n t th ings : sp i racy of t he c a p i t a l i s t c l a s s , t h e too l of t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r d e v i l , t h e consequence of a l l inhumanity, or t he r e s u l t of so-called aggressiveness -- which we blame on the innocent animals who do not behave as we do. We do not f i g h t because we have weapons. had it a l l backwards.

    a con-

    But, bas i ca l ly , war is a system of f igh t ing . We have weapons because we f igh t ! We have

    People believe t h a t there a r e some i ssues on which they ought no t -- morally, humanly, o r ; i o l i t i ce l ly - - to compromise. You a l l have such i s sues yourselves. There a r e some issues on which you w i l l no t give i n . a r e , but it i s when they a r i s e t h a t most people have believed t h a t they have t o have means of f igh t ing -- which a r e assumed by them automatically t o mean violence. a na t iona l and in te rna t iona l s ca l e i s simply t h e organized expression of a means of f igh t ing using the supposedly bes t ava i lab le weapons and t h e most e f f e c t i v e system of organization and command t h a t people could come up with.

    Human beings d i f f e r on what those i s sues

    War on

    We of t en ignore another very obvious thing: t h e world is an except iona l ly danger- ous p lace , and it has been so f o r centur ies . Whole cont inents have been a t tacked , as well as countries. Look a t the expansion of Europe outs ide o f t h a t continent, and what it has done t o the rest of the world. Even legit imated governments a r e o f t en attacked by t h e i r own m i l i t a r y forces . One ideo- l o g i c a l p o l i t i c a l par ty or another a t tacks the soc ie ty and the p o l i t i c a l system, i n t e n t on s e t t i n g i tself up as t h e saviour of t he soc ie ty -- which means occupying t h e pos i t i on o f d i c t a t o r of t he S ta t e . Whole peoples ge t attacked. Remember t h e Holocaust? Remem- ber what happened t o the Native Americans? The Armenians? Many o the r peoples? People have had t h e i r land, t h e i r r iches , even t h e i r cu l tu re and language s t o l e n from them. We pass it o f f a s l tpast h i s tory ." The gold of t h e Incas and t h e Aztecs was taken back t o Europe. People were s to l en from t h e i r homes i n Africa, and brought t o the United S t a t e s and o ther places a s s laves . In o the r words, t he world has been and i s a dangerous place! about t he h is tory of t h e i r own people, t h e i r own p a r t o f t h e world, know t h i s . know the re were occasions when t h e i r people should have been ab le t o f i g h t more e f fec- t i v e l y than they d id .

    Countries ge t attacked, with ghas t ly consequences.

    The r iches of India were taken back t o England. Those who know anything


    People a l so h o w tha t t he way t h e world i s moving, it is l i k e l y t o become dangerous, f i l l e d with more c o n f l i c t s , not fewer. It i s u t t e r nonsense t h a t we a r e on the way t o harmony. we have not ye t reaped the f u l l whirlwind.

    With a l l the v io l en t he r i t age of t he pas t t h ree cen tu r i e s and more,

    In t h i s s i t u a t i o n t o advocate disarmament and the abandonment or d r a s t i c reduction Now t h a t does g& of defense and f igh t ing capacity is, t o most people, u t t e r l y insane.

    mean t h a t what peace people say about t he e v i l of war i s not t rue . I t does no t mean

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    that the military means are good means of fighting. not gross dangers from modern weaponry, dangers which are going to get infinitely worse. Eowever, the widespread fear and reluctance to disarm military means and violence are the only means of fighting in which they have confidence. To ask people to give those up, without first having an alternative means of fighting, Is to ask people to agree to be helpless in the face of a dangerous world. standable, therefore, that every single major proposal to abolish war that has been presented to the world has failed. It is today utterly predictable that every such proposal going around now is likely to fail also. Is not particularly effective or even noble.

    It does not mean that there are

    mean that to most people

    It is uuder-

    To run rapidly in the wrong direction

    The problem is not to eliminate conflict from the world -- which, first of all, we cannot do and, secondly, probably we ought not to do. understand each other better; the


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