Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can Progressives and Conservatives Speak Each Other's Language?


By Winslow Myers

There is big money in polarization, as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and
other media kingpins understand all too well. But one of the many
tragic by-products of our polarized political culture is the
demonization of conservatives by progressives. Left-leaners are often
convinced that those on the right are all greedy, fearful militarists
without consciousness or conscience—a grotesque and insulting

My late father was a lifelong Republican who delighted in undermining
the conservative stereotype. He once returned from a trip to Nicaragua
and scandalized his Rotary group by asserting that he hadn’t met a
single communist down there, just a lot of farmers who wanted some
land to cultivate peacefully.

As a self-defined progressive, I am mightily tired of preaching to the
choir, my small circle of all-too-like-minded liberal friends. I am
eager for dialogue with thoughtful people who still carry the same
torch my father did for fiscal prudence, smaller government,
incremental change—and caution in our international adventures.

As Kevin Zeese writes in his article “The Anti-War Peace Movement
Needs a Restart”: “There is a long history of
opposition to war among traditional conservatives. Their philosophy
goes back to President Washington's Farewell Address where he urged
America to avoid ‘foreign entanglements.’ It has showed itself
throughout American history. The Anti-Imperialist League opposed the
colonialism of the Philippines in the 1890s. The largest antiwar
movement in history, the America First Committee, opposed World War II
and had a strong Middle America conservative foundation in its makeup.
The strongest speech of an American president against militarism was
President Eisenhower's 1961 final speech from the White House warning
America against the growing military-industrial complex.”

For twenty-five years I have volunteered for an organization called
Beyond War, which began with the assumption that preventing the world
from blowing up just might be an issue of equal interest across the
political spectrum. Some of us were Democrats and some were
Republicans. In 1988 we even gave our annual Beyond War Award to
Ronald Reagan (and Mikhail Gorbachev)—not because we assented to
everything Reagan did, but because Reagan had bravely taken the
political risk of changing his mind about the “evil empire,”
responding positively to Gorbachev’s ”new thinking.”

Liberal members of our organization peeled away in droves after that
award, demonstrating among other things that they hadn’t
understood—stood under, or stood behind—what the organization stood
for: thinking big enough to transcend polarization.

The opportunity is to cut through the foggy distraction of polarized
stereotyping to a common vision of enlightened self-interest. One
conservative thinker who has done this effectively is Andrew Bacevich,
an ex-marine and Professor of International Relations at Boston
University. His book “The Limits of Power: The End of American
Exceptionalism,” should be required reading for left- and
right-leaners alike. Bacevich argues that American military adventures
are directly related to our domestic culture of over-extension, our
desire to have it all and put off paying the economic and military and
environmental bills that inevitably come due.

Progressives have an opportunity to get off their high horses and
reach out to mainstream Americans who are perfectly capable of seeing
that it is hardly in their interest to saddle their children with
trillion dollar deficits caused by dubious wars without end—wars which
create more terrorists than they kill.

Winslow Myers, the author of “Living Beyond War, A Citizen’s Guide,”
lives in Boston and serves on the Board of Beyond War, a non-profit
educational foundation.

Labels don't help much.

We're too quick to define the conservative through the images of the Bush administration and the Teabaggers, which are like a form of tunnel vision. The word itself is loaded, whether it's being use by a self-defined conservative or one who is attempting to define a conservative. I liked the examples of conservatives in the article who are/were against reckless foreign intervention. Ironically, there are groups of self-described progressives who are cheering on the Afghanistan invasion, excuse my politically incorrect but accurate designation. And yes, knee jerking is not a trait exclusive to ilk like Teabaggers but very readily observable in some left-leaning online postings

Thanks for the centrist views, but no thanks.

The difference between you and I - a stalwart progressive - is that I never would have honored Reagen for doing one good thing amid the many bad things he said and did.

This isn't kindergarden. What you do with bad kids is remove them from the classroom, temporarily or permanently, so the rest of the class can move on.

And as for your snarky comment that progressives outght to get off their high horse, that makes about as much sense as me telling Senator Jeff Sessions to cut the drawl out of his speeches.

What you need a little more of is respect, for those who disagree with you.

Nationalism is not terrorism. And an adversary is not an enemy.

Stalwart Progressive?

While I understand your view, I look at the anti-war, pro-peace movement and do not see a lot of success.

We are excluding Middle American and traditional conservative views.

War is so ugly, so damaging to human life, national security, world stability, rule of law, undermining our economy . . . that we need to get serious about ending it. At least making sure the U.S. stops the ongoing wars of aggression, i.e. wars when we are not attacked and there is no UN resolution allowing it. We are constantly committing war crimes.

I'm an ardent progressive as well. But, I can see alliances with people on some issues and not on others which is why I was quoted in the article advocating for a re-start of the anti-war movement and making sue it is broad based and inclusive of all those who oppose war.

We need an effective peace movement and I can't see that if we exclude many, perhaps most, Ameicans who oppose war because of a progressive purity test.

Kevin Zeese www.ProsperityAgenda.US www.VotersForPeace.US

There are "Conservatives" and there are "conservatives"

The author, Winslow Myers, is taking a typical Coordinator Class, academic variety, approach to his subject.

It is true that many thoughtful Conservatives are amenable to cutting Defense Department budgets, lessening the influence and power of the military-industrial complex and rolling back the American Empire, the above mentioned Andrew Bacevich being one and Chalmers Johnson being another. What Mr. Myers does not take into account is the vast majority of self-identified "conservatives," the so-called teabaggers, fervently hold to the belief that government's primary function is maintaining a military, the police and the courts; the free market will take care of every other human want and need.

This Randian-Friedmanite belief system, i.e. government limited only to carrying out its coercive powers, is really at the root of the tea party movement. Had Mr. Myers asked any rank-and-file teabaggers if it is O.K. for a president to send their own and other Americans' children off to fight and die in foreign military adventures they would answer in the affirmative.

ET Spoon

Divide conservatives

No doubt there are many consevatives, especially of the neo-con variety, that support war, but there are also many who oppose war and militarism. They believe in real national defense, not the kind of military aggression the U.S. currently practices. Why not pull those conservatives to our side?

It will be easier for progressive or liberal anti-war Dems to oppose war if they can point to conservatives who are speaking out against war. It will make them stronger. It will be a defense to the attack from pro-war conservatives. They can say but A B anc C conservative aggress with me.

And, it will make it more likely that anti-war conservatives in Congress speak out and vote against war. We need a winning coalition to stop the war machine. It is no easy task, but it can be done if we get serious about it.

Kevin Zeese www.ProsperityAgenda.US www.VotersForPeace.US

left and right populism

Excellent piece. I disagree with the idea that you cannot recognize good things done by flawed people. The fundamental divides that separate ledft vs right populism are Environment, race and cultural pride. The Right needs to get over its reflexive anti-environmentalism. Republicans used to see no contradiction between Conservatism and conservationism but today we have people all convinced that en vironmentalism is a commie plot. The Left nees to understand that rural white Protestantism is a distinct culture worthy of existing with pride, just like any other culture. It seems like the left and right populists agree on much though. The coalition of Big Business and Big Governemtn is offensive to both.A coalition might be possible, but there are big philosophical diffeferences.

Defining war is not so easy for many on the Left..

The Democrats are now divided among several camps: the Moderates are primarily all the pro-Israeli hardliners who routinely support war and believe in militarism; the somewhat hawkish true Democrats like myself who do believe in nationalism and waging targeted battles like the Afghan Pakistan border or to prevent excessive brutality anywhere; and then we have the all out anti-war types. The last two make up all of the Progressives.

The Republicans on the other hand begin with a hard-core belief in militarism and to be perfectly honest, white superiority. The vast majority are pro-war and would launch any war on an as needed basis, whether it's for oil or lumber. They easily draw over all the moderate hardliners of the Left for most defense related votes, unfortunately.

I can appreciate your efforts to change things, epecially on the Right.. Ron Paul has a hell of time converting anyone from the Right, other than some of the younger generations. But as long as money, power and resources continue to become more out of reach than ever to the average citizen, we face a slew of hardliners ready to start wars and out of the rubble nationalists are born, willing to fight to the finish against them to protect what little they have left.

Nationalism is not terrorism. And an adversary is not an enemy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seeing Ourselves in Others

Seeing Ourselves In Others

Winslow Myers

In one of the more painful ironies of World War II, the Nagasaki bomb, having been blessed at take-off by Catholic and Lutheran chaplains, obliterated the largest Christian church in the Orient and vaporized most of its adherents. Today urban populations worldwide are so diverse that a terrorist who detonated a suitcase WMD in a major city would kill thousands of his co-religionists and their children. On a small planet where “friends” can no longer be clearly delineated from “foes,” it is time to think new about global security.

Since the beginning of the atomic age in 1945, everything to do with war—security, strength, survival, and power—has changed irrevocably. Only our thinking, based in an obsolete “us and them” conception of our world, remains the same, rooted in millennia of violent conflict.

In the nuclear age “us and them” has taken the form of President Reagan’s cold war characterization of the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” or President Bush’s “Axis of Evil.” President Obama is already in danger of entrapment in the same unworkable paradigm because of our understandable nuclear fears about Al Quaeda and its Taliban supporters.

The military strategies of the “enlightened” West and of Osama bin Laden’s brand of Islamic nihilism possess one thing in common: they are both based on the premise that it is possible for “us” to stamp out evil, ignorance and error in “them.” No matter what the conflict, Iran vs. Israel, India vs. Pakistan, the U.S. vs. Al-Quaeda, the true face of evil may lie in the mutual assumption of opposing parties that evil can be exterminated. This dynamic now possesses an unavoidable nuclear dimension. 60 years after the allies raced to get the bomb before Hitler, whose insane project it was to stamp out evil on the basis of race, potentially anyone can build a weapon of mass destruction.

Will we continue to focus the energy of our fears toward the “stamping out” paradigm, or will we go the way the Buddha suggested: “See yourself in others. Then what harm can you do?”

Seeing ourselves in others is not idealistic. Instead it is pragmatic, because it is the only way we are ever going to de-cock the nuclear gun that we assume is pointed at others but is really pointed at everyone, ourselves included. For thousands of years we have chosen to pay lip service at best to the revolutionary instruction to love our enemies. In the nuclear age, creative good will and offers of humanitarian help to those who oppose us have become enlightened, hardheaded self-interest.

Winslow Myers, a retired teacher, writes on global issues. He serves on the Board of Directors of Beyond War, an educational foundation, and is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.”

Winslow Myers

88 Day St. #3

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-1113


Sunday, December 26, 2010



Winslow Myers

As I write, a plume of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion is moving toward Cuba, our purported enemy—but an enemy surrounded by the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean, a breeding ground for fish that eventually come to populate vast reaches of the single interconnected ocean that surrounds all continents.

It is hard not to think, during these tense weeks of waiting and hoping for the capping of the well, about human technological hubris in all its brightness and darkness.

The engineers who designed and built that oil rig must have taken great pride in the remarkable achievement of successfully pumping oil from such an incredible depth.

And yet at the same time that our great deeds amaze us, our total technological infrastructure has become larger than us. We, or it, can unleash powers that can affect the earth on a geophysical scale.

There was a moment back in 1945 when physicists were preparing for the first test of an atomic weapon at Los Alamos. A few scientists predicted that there was a tiny chance that the bomb could actually light the atmosphere on fire and incinerate the planet. We went ahead regardless.

Hundreds of tests by a number of nations later, we still have our atmosphere, but the very cells of every living thing, including us, are permeated with subtle radioactive compounds. We went ahead regardless.

The pervasive illusion was that the humans who are in charge of oil rigs would never let an accident of this magnitude happen. But it did.

The pervasive illusion is that the humans who are in charge of nuclear weapons will not let an accident happen. But it may.

Because our minds are currently focused upon the possibility of a terrorist getting hold of one nuclear weapon, we do not give much thought to the 10,000-odd weapons in the charge of fallible human citizens from nine nuclear nations.

For everything nuclear to continue “fail-safe” down through the decades ahead, every one of those thousands of humans must never, not once, misinterpret a mistaken signal coming in from another nation as a sign of actual hostility. All the electronics connected to the weapons must function perfectly. Is that realistic? Is that possible?

What do we do? First, we tell it like it is. There is a difference between, say, upping the threat level against the government of Iran to try to get them to behave in a certain way—and admitting that all nations have the nuclear problem in common. This problem will not even be fully solved even when all nations have abolished nuclear weapons. Why? Because weapons can be rebuilt and the whole spiral toward Armageddon can begin again. We have changed the conditions for our survival—forever—and our minds and hearts must change in response.

We are a remarkable species. If we have the engineering capacity to go to the moon or build a space station or pull oil from below the ocean floor, surely we have the capacity to look down the time-stream and take humble and prudent action to prevent catastrophe.

We need a much deeper, more pervasive realization that we are radically interdependent, that we are all in this together, not only all human “allies” and “enemies,” but also coral reefs and infant fish. It hardly matters whether the momentum of our technological advance is driven by wonder, possibility, and the thrill of risk, or by greed and fear, or a mix of all these. Absent a deep ethical reorientation toward what is best for the whole planet, that momentum will—will, not may—end in disaster. When might this realization begin to influence decisions taken by corporate boards, or supreme courts, or adversarial diplomats jockeying for national advantage?

Winslow Myers, the author o “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the board of Beyond War, a non-profit educational foundation working to end all war.

Nuclear Weapons and The Way We Think

Nuclear Weapons and The Way We Think

Winslow Myers

Two strategic goals of the U.S. are an apparent desire to control Middle East oil and the express commitment to help keep Israel safe. This requires the U.S. to refuse the laudable vision of the Middle East as a nuclear weapons-free zone, which would demand that Israel dissolve its nuclear deterrent. Instead, news reports indicate that Israel may be gearing up for a preventive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad’s perspective is a not-unexpected mirror image: western governments have been bullies in the region, meddling in Iranian affairs since the U.S. replaced an elected Iranian president with the Shah in1953. Iran feels surrounded, and needs nukes to redress a strategic balance that overwhelmingly favors the U.S. and Israel.

Add to this the irrational anti-Semitism in the record of Iranian officials. They are not merely critical of this or that Israeli policy, but assert that the Nazi holocaust is a historical fabrication and that Jews are a disease that must be wiped off the face of the earth. From this arises Israel’s inescapable perception that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat. Add further the potentiality of Iran handing off nuclear weapons to one of its proxies for detonation in a city of one of its many perceived adversaries.

Israel and the U.S. possess the military means to delay the moment when Iran becomes the tenth nuclear nation. But when we look at the larger unfolding of the human story, absent a fundamentally new approach, the direction of world events is only a relatively slower or more rapid movement toward disaster.

Changing direction does not appear to be in the present strategic repertoire of nation-states, because leaders of democracies cannot get elected to power without looking tough and making threats, and leaders of non-democracies must look and be tough to take power at all. Ultimately toughness means possessing nuclear weapons and threatening to use them. But no one wins if they are used.

Truly a toxic stew: nuclear weapons; imperial ambitions to control a vital resource; extreme ethnic hatred; the possibility of nuclear terrorism; and the need for political leaders to talk tough, because fear wins elections. Admitting we’re stuck is a political third rail.

This is what has been called a “performative contradiction.” At this level of thinking there is no conceivable solution, because the thinking itself is all problem, ending in planet-irradiating wars without victors. This emptiness at the heart of international affairs has led that pitiless realist Secretary Kissinger to advocate for total nuclear abolition.

What mental model will help us climb out of a stew that will boil us alive if we stay in the pot? Here, as so often, Albert Einstein offered hints of the way out, when he said that you couldn’t solve a problem on the same level that created the problem.

Where else can we go but toward a post-nuclear categorical imperative: if we all want to live, I must behave in such a way that helps you survive, and you must behave in a way that helps me survive. This ideal—no, this practical truth—of reciprocity based on common survival goals appears in all the world’s major religious traditions. This is the thinking that ended fifty years of cold war.

Living the truth of interdependence (inescapable in all our trans-national challenges, first and foremost global climate change) can only be undertaken by citizens—worldwide. Only then will leaders follow. In so many ways, American and Israeli and Iranian citizens should feel solidarity as their three governments tie themselves in knots that can only be cut by citizens themselves. It is damnably difficult to do this in present-day Iran, and for different reasons it is equally difficult to do it in the U.S. and Israel. But there is no other way. Though Israelis and Palestinians of good will are reaching out to each other across high walls and barbed wire, they remain a minority in an ocean of paranoia. The sooner we all join these brave reconcilers, the better.

Two millennia ago a radical Jewish teacher (a man whom Muslims hold in high regard as an authentic prophet), while he could not possibly have foreseen the destructive power of weapons to come, perceived with laser clarity the end-consequence of “an eye for an eye.” He called out to us from Einstein’s “new level:” If we succumb to fear and try to save ourselves as a separate being whose fate is not intertwined with everything else, we will die. Instead, don’t resist evil, but overcome it with good. Love not only your neighbor, but reach out even to your adversary. Learn to forgive. Love the creation within which our lives unfold. Take these risks and we all will live.

Winslow Myers serves on the board of Beyond War, a nonprofit foundation, and is the author of the recently published book, "Living Beyond War: A Citizen's Guide." Myers lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Restoring Sanity with a New Story

Restoring Sanity with a New Story

Winslow Myers

In this silly season of the mid-term elections, where left and right are each proclaiming immanent apocalypse if the other side prevails, it can be a relief to turn to measured voices and larger views. No voice is more measured nor view larger than that of the late Thomas Berry, a historian of cultures who called himself a “geologian,” because the ruler by which he measured current events was no less than the 13.7 billion year story of the universe itself. His profundity cannot be contained within the form of an op-ed, but perhaps these few hints will allure people to his magnificent essays about the real issues we face.

In the last few centuries, technology has allied with market systems to reduce our world to “stuff,” consumable resources. Berry asserted that in this reduction we moderns have lost our story, our deep cultural sense of what gives life meaning. Yet that same technology has made available to us the new story we seek, in the magnificent unfolding epic of the cosmos, revealed by such devices as the Hubble telescope. Berry calls us back to wonder and awe as he invites us to see that the universe has brought forth on our unique planet a community of interrelated beings. Our own vibrancy, our full mental and physical health, is dependent upon the health of the trees, plants, fish, coral reefs, birds, the systems of air, water and soil, into which our own life is intimately merged. Economics and politics have to begin here. Our market and social systems cannot be healthier than the overall health of earth systems.

Even ethics begin here. Berry posited that the universe on every level is subject to three fundamental impulses, which he called differentiation, subjectivity, and communion. What fosters these impulses is good. What hinders them is evil. In the variety of life on earth we see a demonstration of differentiation, the process over time of life forms becoming increasingly diverse over millions of years of branching out into complexity. This multiplicity of fish and plants and animals strengthens the total ecosystem because life has so many ways to respond to environmental stresses. With the advent of mammalian forms of life that care for their young, we can also see a demonstration of deepening subjectivity. Our own brains, capable of creating intricate musical patterns, feeling deep empathy for the less fortunate, or gazing in wonder at the distant glimmer of stars, are proof from within of the depths of subjectivity of which the universe is capable. And no one can deny that the entire system is an exquisite balance of communion and interdependence, such that no part is not in intimate gravitational relationship with every other part.

Civility is the virtue-du-jour that is lacking in this election season, but the deeper wisdom that can inform civility lies within the story of an unfolding process that formed the wheeling galaxies, the solar system, and the earth that sustains us, whether we call ourselves conservative or progressive, Christian or Muslim, Arab or Jew. The deep sense that we belong here, within one great story that transcends all our separate religious books and stories, changes something in us. It is an experience of the whole, one that cautions against breaking up the human family into “us” and “them.” The celebration of cultural difference, the recognition of the validity of other subjectivities that are as real as our own, and the reaching out to authentically commune—these are processes that overcome the toxic alienation of politics as a rush to dominate rather than to serve—politics as war.

One place where the tail of our consumer culture begins to wag the dog of sane policy is in the concept of the multi-national corporation. Not all corporations are evil, and each one is only a reflection of the consumerist story in which we all participate. But the extraordinary conclusion of our Supreme Court in the Citizens United case that corporations have the same right of free speech as individuals has accelerated to warp speed the infusion of money into the waging of political warfare. Even this is only a symptom of a larger distortion that affects the waging of actual wars in foreign countries. Our military-industrial structures could not prosper without finding a new enemy to take the place of communism. 9-11 became a godsend to the continued vibrancy of these structures. Domestically and internationally, we are addicted to posing enemies.

What is especially challenging is that this division into “us” and “them,” the stoking of fears and stereotypes, is so incredibly easy to cause and perpetuate. A state of mind is fostered which casually violates all three of Berry’s fundamental principles of differentiation, subjectivity and communion.

In the case of the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the corporate tail of security services and other gigantic logistical support firms supplying food or fuel for military incursions wags the dog of security goals. Stockholders want good returns on their investments. Career officers want battlefield success that will lead to promotions. And so we have the grotesque statistic that it takes a million dollars a year for each American soldier to remain in Afghanistan. With Al-Quaeda globally mobile, our ultimate purpose for staying there has become increasingly murky. The more effective our soldiers become at killing, the more ill will they generate.

Thinking long-term like Thomas Berry, four establishment figures, Kissinger, Nunn, Schultz and Perry, came out in 2007 in favor of nuclear abolition, because they realized that the use of such weapons is the ultimate catastrophe toward which existing international structures and policies are tending. An apt analogy is with the 18th century slave-owners who wrote in the Declaration that all men are created equal. These men unleashed something with implications far more momentous than they realized. The same is true of Kissinger and friends’ call for abolition: if we can pull back from nuclear weapons, could we not learn how to do without war altogether as a means of resolving the inevitable conflicts among us? Instead we can celebrate differences, recognize mutual subjectivities, and engender authentic communion with each other.

As we watch the dialogue about nuclear abolition in the next few years, we should be able to see how the corporate tail that needs to make these weapons for their bottom line will try to wag the dog of objective policy. The same is true for many powerful market forces at this seminal moment in the great human experiment: will oil and coal interests call the tune, or will we make the great transition into sustainable and clean sources of energy and stabilize the global climate?

The understandable temptation on the left is to make a new set of enemies out of the menace of self-perpetuating corporatism. That will only play into the hands of those who rationalize maintaining control by violence, enabled by vast sums of money. The real answer is to change our thinking, one heart at a time, in order to come to a new place of agreement that we are one interdependent, interrelated species among many other such species, on a small blue pearl of a planet.

This primary insight will generate the political and economic structures that will sustain us. Berry argued that we face a stark choice, where one road, the road we are on now, leads toward a “Technozoic” age of continued consumerism and futile attempts at control of both natural systems and people. Berry’s preferred road leads into what he called the “Ecozoic,” a new era of cooperation with each other and with biological systems. As John Stewart said at his rally to Restore Sanity, "This is not to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies."

In fact we can refocus our animus on solving the challenges we all share, leaving behind the need to pose enemies altogether. After a long and fruitless cold war, an unnecessary “clash of civilizations,” and a descent into domestic political polarization, that would truly be a restoration of sanity.

Winslow Myers, author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” lives in Boston and serves on the Board of Directors of Beyond War

The Great Dialogue That Hasn’t Happened—Yet

The Great Dialogue That Hasn’t Happened—Yet

Winslow Myers

Is there a way to have real dialogue between left and right about national security? As a card-carrying progressive, I get much of my news and opinion from “left-leaning” websites, and then try for token compensation by listening when I can to Mr. Limbaugh and friends. More thoughtful conservatives would say that I am doing a disservice to myself by trying to balance quality progressive thought against Wal-Mart conservative thought, which is probably true. What bothers me about folks like Beck and Limbaugh is the reflexive element in their thinking. If Obama were in favor of vanilla ice cream, Beck and Limbaugh would be against it. Though I admit to my own form of the reflexive. I have a Chomskyite tendency to be suspicious, especially after my government’s disingenuousness going into Iraq, of the motives for any American military venture.

An impressive “conservative” article appears in the April Atlantic Monthly, where Robert Kaplan argues eloquently that the President has it right about Afghanistan (I assume, in spite of what I said above about ice cream, that Beck and Limbaugh would agree). Setting aside the horrors of Predator drones and the disenheartening reports of “collateral damage,” by the end of the piece one gets an almost tragic sense of the good intentions of General McChrystal as he charges full-tilt at the Herculean task of creating enough security for Afghanistan to function as something better than a chaotic drug-financed wasteland. Which brings me to the place in my own thinking where I do believe military force may be appropriate—not “just war” theory, which seems to me to be a stilted rationalization for war, period—but in failed-state situations like the Sudan or Somalia, where a strong multi-national peacekeeping force could help restore enough order to at least stop the mass rape and pillage.

Does the Af-Pak region fit into that category? Or is the American presence only making things worse? Is this really at bottom yet another imperial-colonial adventure, one more hopeless chapter in the Great Game that goes back to the time of Alexander? Are we in Afghanistan to win the larger game of maintaining strategic control of the whole region to the east and west of Iran, our ultimate motivation being to maintain the flow of fossil fuel—and as well, to be sure, to strike directly at Al-Quaeda training camps?

If we’re there because the tail of War, Inc. is wagging the dog of security policy, then I want to know if my taxes would produce more security for me and mine if spent on low-key international police work against terrorism, rather than a military presence, however brilliantly led, whose heavy-handedness creates more terrorists than it kills. I want to know which would cost less and yield more security, the estimated million dollars a year per soldier in Afghanistan—or windmills in the Midwest that would lessen our dependence on overseas supplies of oil, and prevent our valiantly overstretched military from being used as a recruiting tool for Al-Quaeda? Which would strengthen us more as a nation, a security policy which says we have to be “stronger” than all other nations combined at the risk of bankrupting ourselves, or one that allows for multiple measures of strength, including the strength of having health care available to all our citizens?

Robert Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security. This appears to be a centrist think-tank that gathers thoughtful people from the left and right to hammer out security suggestions for now and future presidents. I’m sure the quality of the dialogue in their offices has more depth than the non-dialogue between Limbaugh and his progressive counterparts. But even ordinary progressive and conservative citizens at far remove from Washington think tanks need to find a way to do more than sneer at each other in the Limbaugh mode. Is his the model that represents the best in terms of how Americans talk with (not just to) each other? If there were more listening and more genuine dialogue, everyone could learn something and the policy discourse that bubbled up to leaders would be higher in quality. Given that we’re all in this together, can’t our disagreements produce light as well as heat?

The Main Event

The Main Event

Winslow Myers

President Obama’s speech at the U.N. showed that he knows how to keep his eye on a number of different balls at once. But climate instability is ball number one, the main event, compared to which all other security challenges, whether economic, military, or political, are all sideshows.

It is naturally difficult for us to grasp that life on Earth has endured five previous mass extinctions, and we ourselves are pretty clearly the major cause of a sixth. Our human presence on the planet is bringing the 65-million-year-long Cenozoic era, the era that saw the rise of mammalian life, to a close. The overwhelming evolutionary success—success so far—of one particular mammal, homo sapiens, will now determine the ultimate fate of all the other life forms sharing “our” space.

Even some national governments have accepted this picture of our fate. Ecuador now has a constitution that gives rights not just to people but to rivers and forests—rights to exist.

From a systems perspective, the terrorists and the worldwide military-industrial complex need each other. Each makes no sense, has no motive for existence, without an enemy to focus on. In the context of what we are really facing, wars are a huge distraction, adversaries aimlessly circling each other in the midst of a larger reality they choose to ignore. Each can destroy on a grand scale, but they can do nothing to slow the disintegration of coral reefs or the yearly extinction of thousands of species.

As the Cenozoic fades, it will take with it certain concepts and institutions that once seemed permanent. One of these concepts is the very idea of “enemy,” with all the institutions and tools of force that follow invevitably from the concept. When our biggest challenges threaten the planet as a whole and can only be solved by the planet as a whole, national rivalries become part of the sideshow. Mr. Ahmadinejad may deny the holocaust as part of his campaign against Israel, but he cannot deny the melting of Arctic ice or the release of methane from thawing tundra. As a post-Cenozoic Earth takes shape, evolution itself is going to favor unprecedented modes of human local/global cooperation. Posing enemies is utterly irrelevant to that emergence. Building relationships based on common survival goals is utterly essential to it.

Now even the Pentagon is looking into the future and assessing the security implications of climate change, including scarcity of fresh water or arable land. If want real global security, where do we focus our resources? Will more ballistic missiles and tanks hold back the rising of the oceans? Will more aircraft carriers help us transition out of the fossil-fuel era—or would it make more sense to spend the same money on wind generators in the Midwest? If we directly address the main event of climate instability, we will not only prevent future wars that don’t have to happen, but we will do it at a fraction of the cost of actually fighting the wars.

Cenozoic means “new life.” Our species, homo sapiens, “wise human,” is one of the most recent forms of that new life, appearing only an instant ago within the vast reach of geological time. The beginning of the Cenozoic era saw the extinction of the dinosaurs. If we can learn to become as wise as we say we are, there is the possibility we can help create a different world—we could call it Cenozoic 2.0.

Winslow Myers serves on the Board of Beyond War and is the author of the recently published book, “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.”

Winslow Myers

88 Day St. #3

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-1113

617-942-2790, 774-239-0954

Torture, Truth and Nukes

Torture, Truth and Nukes

Winslow Myers

June 2009

Torture produces lies not truth. Victims say anything to get the pain to stop, and then the powerful use such false confessions to justify war—which leads to more torture. This vicious cycle was masterfully clarified by Jonathan Schell in his article “Torture and Truth” in The Nation (, making the case that we cannot afford to move on from Bush-era torture policies without a moral or legal accounting more exacting than what President Obama has so far advocated.

But behind our unashamed justifications of torture looms the larger context that has been Schell’s area of expertise since his book “The Fate of the Earth” was published back in 1982—the moral implications of nuclear weaponry. Looking back from 2009 the landscape of nuclear policy in the era of Soviet-American rivalry looks positively Edenic in its simplicity. In our own time the combination of sheer destructive power, concealable size, and potential availability of nuclear weaponry throws our leaders into fits of helplessness. The deterrence formerly provided by our nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines has become obsolete. Infinite military power has been rendered helpless against stealth. This then becomes the true context for the “normalization” of torture—that it is more than justified if it helps prevent a terrorist from setting off a suitcase nuke in one of our cities. Down the slippery slope we slide: since any enemy combatant might have information about terrorist nuclear intentions, we must torture them all without mercy.

To move beyond such helplessness, we (“we” being both any “us” and any “them” on the planet, including extremists who might like to obliterate a city) must begin by admitting that neither the breaking of a single human spirit by torture nor the nuclear annihilation of millions will resolve any conflict anywhere. The destructive force of weapons of mass destruction is so great that after the fact there would be no meaningful moral difference between a terrorist using one deliberately, a government doing the same, or even an accidental detonation. All those killed would be equally dead. On the micro-level of torture, the moral prohibition is equally inclusive. Torture, like the use of nukes, is not only repugnant but also absurdly purposeless.

President Obama, facing a series of converging challenges, is understandably reluctant to indict former officials for war crimes. Under the wise supervision of Bishop Tutu, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission enabled South Africa to emerge from the horrors of apartheid by means of public and dramatic recitations of truth from both victims and perpetrators of racist violence. Perhaps that model, as both Senator Leahy and the economist Paul Krugman have suggested, has something to offer us. It is hard to see how we can build a solid future as a nation of laws without some process that applies the light of truth to an epidemic of secret lawlessness.

But any such commission cannot even begin to pay the truth debt coming due if we are to ensure a future for the world’s children. Einstein nailed it way back in 1945 in his telegram to Roosevelt: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” The ultimate intention behind both torture and the use of weapons of mass destruction is an old mode of thinking: the attempt to stamp out what “we” or “they” perceive as an evil mind-set. But as Solzhenitsyn wrote, the line between good and evil runs down the middle of every human heart.

Deterrence and torture are both about affecting hearts and minds: they are based on a belief that even if we cannot exterminate our adversaries, we can at least make them fear our power. The only way forward is also about affecting hearts and minds, with the opposite of the obsolete policies of deterrence and torture—with powerful initiatives based upon a new “mode of thinking”: the non-violent resolution of all conflicts based on global self-interest. And that’s the


Winslow Myers, a retired teacher, writes on global issues. He serves on the Board of Directors of Beyond War, an educational foundation, and is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.”

Winslow Myers

88 Day St. #3

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-1113


What is Enlightened Self-Interest?


What looks at first glance like a difficult time for peace activism may in fact be the dark before the dawn. Remarkable developments have occurred in the way social change happens, as we know from such phenomena as the powerful role of the Internet, not only in U.S. electoral politics but also in citizen communication within and between many nations.

Literally millions of non-governmental organizations are springing up around the planet that share values such as non-violence, economic justice, sustainability, human rights, and gender equality. Grassroots energy is there to be harnessed for the long-term project of helping people worldwide see that endless war is not in anyone’s best interest.

Terrorism looms large in the minds of many as a legitimate fear. But too much fear can paralyze. Fear initiates a cycle of blame and retaliation that will only stop when responsible people encourage alternatives that address root causes and foster reconciliation among adversaries.

The cold war demonstrated for all future time that no victory is possible in a nuclear exchange between nations. Today the educational need is not only to make the case for the futility of nuclear weapons, but also to make clear that the costs of war and preparation for war are infinitely greater than the costs of addressing the conditions that cause war.

The environmental movement shares so much in common with the movement to end war that they are becoming one. Issues such as global climate change cannot be adequately addressed without a new level of international collaboration and a commitment to redirect the planet’s limited resources away from military hardware and toward meeting dire human needs.

The military-industrial complex is a powerful and self-perpetuating entity. Terrorism is a convenient adversary for this entity precisely because it is so difficult either to locate a specific enemy or to define victory—war becomes justified everywhere and for all time. This situation is also convenient for extremists—they can point to a pervasive worldwide occupation by foreign forces, energizing their own self-perpetuation.

There is no way out of this cycle on the level of war itself. Those in a position to act must vigorously advocate for the shift from a vicious circle to a virtuous one. Anger directed at entrenched interests is obsolete and irrelevant, because it both wastes energy and perpetuates the illusory divisions between “us” and them.” We are all in this together, military and civilian, capitalist and socialist, mainstream politician and street protester. The task is to demonstrate new models and possibilities that are simply better at getting us where we want to go.

Fortunately such positive cycles are in everyone’s interest. If the United States decided to turn from building new weaponry to building windmills in our Midwest, our need for oil from the Middle East would lessen, our carbon footprint would be lightened, and the military industrialists would have the creative and profitable task of producing more efficient windmills—or solar panels, or hydrogen cars. Everyone wins.

Established counter-insurgency strategy calls for an 80-20 ratio of non-military to military initiative, where at present in Afghanistan, at least on the level of spending, the ratio is 94-6 military. Though U.S. forces are aware of how crucial it is to win hearts and minds, they cannot overcome the fundamental contradiction between winning peoples’ trust and bombing them. In failed states that harbor terrorist cells, it is infinitely more cost-effective to build hospitals and desalinization plants and schools, or initiate micro-lending for small businesses that give potential mercenaries useful work, or send engineers and teachers and agricultural experts, than it is to take on the impossible task of exterminating an elusive tactic and a mind-set.

Even the most difficult ongoing “us and them” crises, such as conflict between Israel and Palestine or civil war in the Congo, are subject to the same need for a paradigm shift. Organizations on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, realizing that violence offers nothing but further violence, are already initiating virtuous circles of reconciliation. The resolution of these seemingly intractable conflicts will greatly lessen the incentives for terrorism.

The making of peace takes as much resourcefulness, courage, and creative energy as the making of war. It begins with a personal, individual decision based in a clear understanding of where this planet has been, is now, and might go. It begins with us, with me. Our minds, our fears, and our resources have been tied up in a cycle of violence and blame that will never end unless we ourselves decide to change. As we wake up from this trance of war, we can begin to see where our real self-interest lies—in ending starvation worldwide, providing sustainable supplies of food and water, adequate medical care, shelter, schools, and help with the establishment of stable political institutions. We need to provide this help especially to those who think we are their adversaries.

When a virtuous circle begins and accelerates around the planet, and more and more people have access to the very basics of life, higher aspirations emerge in cultural, aesthetic, communal, and spiritual forms—which as they are realized, enrich everyone's lives, including our own.

In some parts of the world, such good intentions may be rejected at first, even violently. But military initiatives are rejected and opposed even more violently, and simply delay the inevitable moment when all parties to conflict must sit down and talk through their differences. In the long run, sincere efforts to meet human needs will be appreciated, and terror will diminish.

Behind all complexities of contemporary international relations on this small planet, everything comes down to two possibilities: either we will continue trying to solve our conflicts with war, and sooner or later nuclear weapons will be once again used on people—or we will build a different world, a world beyond war. Isn’t it obvious where we will find our safety and security, our true self-interest?

What Makes America Strong?

What Makes America Strong?

Winslow Myers

An unmanned drone hovers over the house of a suspected leader of a terrorist cell, the craft’s camera and missiles controlled by a soldier thousands of miles away on the plains of Kansas. A missile is launched, and the terrorist is blown apart—but so are innocent bystanders, among them a dark-eyed eight-year old girl named Aeisha who dreamed of becoming a doctor.

Can our war on terror justify the death of this child? Or is it a step down a path not only toward the creation of more terrorists, but also toward our resembling terrorists more? Are there better ways of achieving our goals? This is not a liberal or conservative issue; it is not only an ethical challenge, but also a question of practical self-interest bearing on the safety of our own children. As we make greater use of drones, we find it impossible to imagine that similar technologies might someday be used against us.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the United States continues to assume that it can most effectively head off potential threats by deploying, from 800-odd bases around the world, the most powerful military force in the history of the planet. Have we citizens given conscious consent to this policy, or have we drifted into it? Will genuine security be the outcome of continuing in this direction? Or is our police-the-world conception of power as obsolete as those of past empires like England, Spain, the Soviet Union—or Rome?

If our imperial project collapses because we relied too much on military definitions of strength, it will not matter whether our motivation was the disinterested expansion of freedom, or the self-interested expansion of markets for our goods, or the control of remaining sources of fossil fuels.

Why do empires fail? First because they over-extend themselves, second because the peoples of the world always push back against what they perceive as unjustified domination, and third because true security calls for addressing issues that are insoluble by military means— issues like the global challenge of maintaining sustainable sources of food, water and energy in the context of growing climate instability.

Over-extension can be seen in what we already ask our volunteer military to do in our name—repeated tours of duty which put intolerable pressures on families; nation-building projects beyond the scope and skills of our troops; and the giving and receiving of brute violence that resolves nothing. Over-extension also has obvious implications at home, where economic stresses, including the ever-rising national debt, challenge our domestic resiliency.

The second reason over-reliance upon military strength will fail is pushback. What Americans may rationalize as noble aims, people in other cultures, who are as real as we are in spite of cultural differences, will be less willing to see in a positive light. War, no matter who is perceived to have started it, is often embedded in a cycle of retaliation that continues through generations. This vicious circle will create more terrorism than it eliminates.

Our belief in American exceptionalism, which at its best posits our ideals as the hope of the world, has a shadow side: we think we are exempt from reaping what we sow. We assume we can rationalize torture or the murder of innocent bystanders without a terminal loss of integrity. If we do, we will gradually become the very thing we despise and resist. And then pushback, the violent response to our own violence, will only increase.

A third reason we need to change the way we think about our strength is that there are security challenges the military is not presently designed to address—though this could change, and is already starting to change, as military leaders understand the need to win hearts and minds.

But the cost of preparing for and waging even small wars has become so huge that it becomes much more efficient to prevent wars by meeting human needs directly. Should we maintain bases to secure the flow of oil from the Middle East, or should we build windmills in our own Midwest that not only increase our supply of non-fossil-fuel energy, but also allow us to lighten our military footprint in places where it may be fatally resented? Manufacturers of missiles and fighter jets who are concerned that if peace broke out their bottom line would suffer, can also make the solar panels and mass transit infrastructure that are alternative indicators of national well-being.

We can apply similar thinking to the places where extremists are actively training to do us harm. The reality that 500,000 Soviet troops could not subdue the tribal chaos of Afghanistan in a decade of occupation contains a lesson for America about the role of military force in making a barely functioning state more resilient. In his school building projects, Greg Mortenson has shown another way, tapping into a universal yearning for the education that will lead people beyond the simplistic temptations of extremism.

Finding alternatives to militarism is based in a paradigm shift that has already occurred. It happened during the fifty-year experience of the cold war period, including the hot wars in Korea and Vietnam. Those who possessed nuclear weapons, the ultimate military option, realized that they could not use them to win wars, because such use might initiate a world-destroying holocaust.

With the understanding that our planet is too small to sustain another world war, there is now a global consensus that nuclear weapons are useless and self-defeating. But because our existing stockpiles of warheads cannot deter non-state entities from using nuclear or other means of mass destruction, the way forward to security is blocked first of all by the weapons themselves—including our own. Nuclear war itself has become the ultimate enemy. The negotiation of reciprocal treaties for the reduction of existing warheads and the securing of loose nuclear materials becomes the only path open to the community of nations that leads to safety for all.

The United States is strong enough to defend itself not only militarily, but also to strengthen global security by enlarging its non-military initiatives toward a world in need. It will help us arrive more quickly where we wanted to get by the unworkable model of domination. When you become more secure, autonomous, and resilient, I become more secure. It is more in my interest to befriend you, to ask what you really need and try to supply it, than to threaten or bomb you into submission.

Our country can still decide to awaken from the delusions of empire and instead lead the world beyond war. If we humans can learn to resolve our conflicts without the use of nuclear weapons that would exterminate millions, the way is surely open to resolving our conflicts without violence on any level—without blowing up Aiesha, the dark-eyed girl who dreamed of becoming a doctor.

Winslow Myers serves on the Board of Beyond War, a non-political, non-profit educational foundation, and is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.”

The True Passion of Jesus

The True Passion of Jesus

Winslow Myers 2004

The emphasis on the suffering of Jesus' last hours in Mel Gibson's violent film “The Passion of the Christ” both obscures and underlines the truth that it was Jesus' life and teachings, not his death, that ought to be important to us. The manner of that death was hardly unique. Many thousands were crucified by the Romans. Jesus’ willingness to die without protest only underscores the creativity

of his life. The manner of his death confirmed that he felt he had completed his mission, which was to teach. Would his teachings still be useful even if he had not been killed? And are they still relevant in a post-September 11 world? Yes, of course, on both counts.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about the teachings of Jesus concerns their apparent doormat quality. Resist not evil, but overcome it with good. Turn the other cheek. If your neighbor asks for your coat, give him your shirt also. If someone needs you to walk a mile with them, agree to walk

two miles. Pray for your enemies, and do good to those who spitefully misuse you. Such instructions seem to contain a passive, wimpy aspect which has never sat entirely well, even with serious Christians, and especially not today as we face the irrational destructiveness of terrorism.

But in the context of Jesus' world, Jewish Palestine under Roman military occupation, his teachings demonstrated the exact opposite of passivity. Turning the other cheek came from the notion that a Roman reserved the right to slap an inferior with his open palm, but could only slap a fellow Roman with the back of his hand. To offer one's other cheek was to confirm one's essential equality with the Roman occupier.

Again, a Roman soldier was allowed to conscript any citizen to carry his equipment for one mile. The willingness of the citizen to help out for two miles implies an autonomy and equality that undermined the smug Roman assumption of superiority.

When we pray for our enemies, we sink past their hate to the level of empathizing with their woundedness, and our own resentment of the way they have treated us can be replaced by compassion. Even if our good will brings no apparent change in them, our own head remains clear: we may be their enemy, but they do not have to be ours. This leaves us freer to respond creatively rather than react destructively.

Such preachings suggest a nimble kind of activism and initiative under difficult circumstances. Instead of resisting the abuses of Roman authority in Palestine, be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi said. For Jesus, that meant training ourselves in alternatives to the traditional eye-for-an-eye mentality. It required a creative

workout, an ability to apply to daily (or international) conflicts the perennial truths found at the heart of all the major religions: loving and caring for the creation, respecting yourself, loving your neighbor, regarding his loss as your own and his gain as your own, and even

learning to see value in your enemies as fellow members of the human species. This was a very high setting of the bar, about as non-passive and brave as human behavior can become.

What is the relevance of Jesus' creative activism to the “war on terror”? Not only may extremist adversaries wish us dead, but there is the possibility that they may try to kill us with the same kinds of weapons of mass destruction we ourselves possess by the thousands. While the stakes are higher and our historical moment is more complex, the challenge of responding creatively to evil and injustice and abuse of power has not changed since Jesus' time. He would tell us that we do not have to react with the law of talon, responding on the same level as those who have done us terrible hurt.

One aspect of his teaching concerned the need to include ourselves in the total picture of a conflict. "Seek not to pick the mote out of your neighbor's eye before you examine the beam in your own eye." It is a seductive temptation to see ourselves as entirely good and terrorists as entirely evil. Jesus suggested a more inclusive and responsive way, in

which we see the interconnection of ourselves with our neighbors. His suggestion is that when someone disagrees with us or even attacks us, we take a hard look within, examining the possibility that our own fear, greed or indifference may play a part in the total situation. When we respond to attack having registered the larger context that includes ourselves not just as victims but as autonomous beings, there is a greater chance that conflict can be resolved in everyone's best interest.

What would the American answer to terrorism resemble if it were carried out in the spirit of "resist not evil, but overcome evil with good?" Imagine having at our disposal the hundreds of billions of dollars that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost and using it to provide medical and communications technology, new schools, new sources of clean water and nourishing food for the coming generation. Wouldn't there be a chance that we could turn a vicious circle of retaliation into a virtuous circle of trust-building?

The most important thing is to do whatever we choose to do with a spirit of truth and good will, one which, even if it may not be able to "disarm" the core group of our adversaries, can positively influence the vast middle group of ordinary people among which extremists shelter. Terrorism cannot be overcome with military force alone, but of course will require the winning of hearts and minds. All out war, on the other hand, polarizes, and encourages extreme thinking on both sides. We justify retaliation in kind upon each other. Jesus opposed military force with the passion of what Gandhi called truth-force, action taken with the understanding that my adversary's life is equal to my own in the eyes of God.

Though millions of Christians insist upon it as gospel truth, perhaps it is the traditional interpretation of Jesus' death, the interpretation insisted upon by the Gibson film, that truly suggests passivity. It argues that all sin for all time was redeemed by the protracted torture and violent death of a single martyr, and on account of that, no great choice or discipline or workout is required of us except to believe

passively in Jesus the Christ. By emphasizing the passion of Jesus' death over his passion for life, we can miss his active message of responsibility and interconnection.

Asserting flatly the black and white separation between good and evil, that the world is either with us or against us on the issue of terrorism, we are in danger of finding ourselves in a hauntingly familiar role: for the Iraqis and Afghans, we are seen as Roman overlords. Perhaps

we will be able to do some good in faraway parts of the world, but we need all the help we can get from a creative spirit of good will and truth, the spirit that inspired the life of Jesus, the spirit that, because he taught so well, was not extinguished by his brutal death.

Taxes, Budget Priorities and Nuclear Weapons - a Dangerous Shell Game

Taxes, Budget Priorities and Nuclear Weapons - a Dangerous Shell Game

Winslow Myers

Each April 15th tax day, the United States funds its priorities. In our democracy we want to believe that our government will make the best choices as it spends our money. As Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine states, "budgets are moral documents.” They speak volumes as to our priorities, who we are as a people and how we are perceived in the world. These budgets fund everything from federal school lunch and environmental protection to nuclear weapons programs. At a time when concern is growing about the slow death of the planet from the challenge of climate change, we often fail to acknowledge the still-present threat of nuclear catastrophe and possible extinction from nuclear war. Is this inertia due to a sense of hopelessness or to a lack of awareness of the scope of the problem?

Public opinion now shows that 73% of Americans favor elimination of nuclear weapons entirely ( So what is the cost to our American communities of these weapons systems? Unfortunately in our government of the people, by the people and for the people, this funding has lost the transparency of public scrutiny either by design or oversight in a budgetary and bureaucratic "shell game". The dollar amount has become a number that is difficult to calculate, because components are buried in separate departments from the Department of Defense to the Department of Energy.

Steven Kosiak, Vice President of Budget Studies for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis ( published his work on "Spending on U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces" in 2006. His analysis concludes that current annual U.S. funding for nuclear-related forces and activities amounts to $54 Billion. Combining data from this report with resources from the U.S. Census '06 population estimates, and the 2008 U.S. Federal Budget, we can calculate the approximate current per capita nuclear expenditure for Lamoille County, where I live, at $175. What that means is that in the 2007 tax year nuclear weapons took $4,309,010. out of the Country that would otherwise be available for pressing local needs.

There is an opportunity to begin a real change in direction of nuclear policy. Public opinion is changing. Conservative leaders including Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn of the Nuclear Threat Initiative ( are embracing a nuclear-free world. We must lead by example. The means truly are the ends in the making, or as Martin Luther King stated: "We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means." We invite all to join us in this effort. Support the efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons by endorsing the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World at .

Winslow Myers, of Stowe, serves on the Board of Beyond War, a non-profit educational foundation.

Winslow Myers

POB 3476



Earn This: Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

Earn This!

Winslow Myers

President Obama’s speech in Oslo was powerful, subtle, honest, and provocative—provocative in that it cries out for thoughtful citizen response, especially in the context of the cognitive dissonance which he sought to finesse: a leader at war receiving a peace prize.

Obama has called Reinhold Neibuhr, the great Christian realist, his favorite theologian. Neibuhr, facing the enormity of Hitler’s crimes, asserted that Christians must temper the pure way of the Gospel with a bitter but unavoidable acceptance of just wars.

But the question remains, in this nuclear world, is realism still what it was? The presence of nuclear weapons has changed our world so profoundly that a seismic paradigm shift has occurred under our feet. Meanwhile our minds, even minds as brilliant as Mr. Obama’s, are only beginning to catch up. As Einstein put it in the familiar but ultimately unheeded telegram to President Roosevelt in 1945: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

As untenable as Mutually Assured Destruction was, even that is woefully outdated.
Technological marvels like our 560 foot-long Ohio-class submarines, each with enough
firepower to cause a nuclear winter, can do nothing to stop a determined terrorist

If nuclear weapons cannot win wars or prevent wars, the very possibility of them can cause wars, as we so painfully learned in Gulf War 2, ostensibly undertaken to rid Iraq of Saddam’s nonexistent WMDs. Wars for the U.S. in Korea or Vietnam, or for the Soviets and now almost certainly us in Afghanistan, have not yielded clear and splendid victories, but only ambiguity—and often further war. They bankrupt the players. In back of everything lurks the possibility that any small war could escalate into nuclear war: it could happen as the present tensions in Palestine or Afghanistan ripple outward, overlapping the enmities between Pakistan and India, or Iran and Israel.

Obama and the rest of us are caught in the Orwellian confusions of language that one might expect in the midst of a paradigm shift. Mr. Obama said in his escalation speech that we do not seek to occupy Afghanistan, while the central thrust of the speech was to do exactly that. He referred often in his Nobel speech to Martin Luther King, whose life was a testament to the fact that there is no way to peace through war.

If an ancient paradigm of war is dying, what is the shape of the emerging paradigm? Is it a utopian dream, or might it be a new form of realism? We are seeing as never before that we are all in this together. We need look no further than the conference on climate change in Copenhagen. The planet will not make it unless all nations sacrifice and change. What helps you helps me. What hurts you hurts me. Whether the issue is nuclear holocaust or ecological disaster, we must learn to resolve our conflicts non-violently, or die.

It is no secret that the Pentagon is studying how to fight wars based on resource scarcities or the effects of climate change. But in this emerging paradigm, it is grotesquely less expensive to switch from the deterrence that is now obsolete to war prevention by meeting global needs directly. John Robbins has pointed out that for the equivalent of the cost of the Lockheed Joint Strike Fighter, (200 billion as of 2001) we could solve many the world’s most pressing problems, including providing the entire world with adequate food, clean water, health care and reproductive services. That is the way beyond terrorism.

We Americans find it hard to face the reality that we are now a garrison empire, with more than 800 foreign military bases on the soil of more than 100 nations. We may mean well, as Mr. Obama clearly does, but we often end up doing heart surgery with a chain saw. Even empires and their sorrows are part of a dying paradigm, as the larger empire of the human family cries out in the anguish of unnecessary deprivation.

One cliché about Afghanistan is that there are no good options. Nonsense! Look at the work Greg Mortenson has done building schools in the Af-Pak region. He has done this for years without harm to himself , and, for the most part, to his schools—because his clients have come to trust his disinterested good will. A surge in dialogue with the Afghan people about what they want is a good option. A surge in jobs for Afghans is a good option. A surge in our soldiers will engender a bigger pushback from people who for millennia have been trying to get foreign occupiers out of their ravaged country.

Congratulations on your prize, Mr. Obama! Now, as Tom Hanks said to Matt Damon after rescuing him in Saving Private Ryan: “Earn this!”

Winslow Myers is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” published by Orbis Press, and serves on the board of Beyond War.

Winslow Myers
88 Day St. #3, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-1113
Tel: 617-942-2790 - Cell: 774-239-0954