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Army Captain Paul K. Chappell attended West Point with an usual goal, "determined to study war the way a doctor studies an illness." What he found in his studies and in a war tour in Iraq was a pragmatic way of envisioning what it would take to create a cure for war fever. "In the U.S. Army, as in ancient Greece, the most admired trait in soldiers is not their ability to kill but their willingness to sacrifice for their friends," Chappell notes in his new book, Will War Ever End? A Soldier's Vision of Peace for the 21st Century (Ashoka Books, 2009). His book argues that soldiers and folks at home, in order to protect each other, should mount a concerted campaign to wind down warmaking, due to the massively deadly threat of military escalation in the nuclear age. A better way of dealing with international disputes, he contends, is to adapt nonviolent tactics to produce conflict resolution that de-escalates violence.  

In an essay titled "How Patriotism Can Save America," posted earlier this year on The Huffington Post and other websites, Chappell summed up his call for peace actions in terms that echo the stance of Veterans For Peace and other antiwar vets groups: "With the survival of our planet now at stake, our country needs patriotic Americans to question, think critically, and pioneer this democratic experiment. Now more than ever, our country needs us to help it become a beacon of hope that exports peace instead of war." Chappell, who served seven years on active duty after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 2002, is the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

In his book, Chappell argues that the war on terrorism "can never be won with an army alone, because terrorism is not a place we can occupy or a dictator we can overthrow." He also notes "how multiple deployments have pushed many soldiers to the breaking point." He argues that military actions are stoking the hatred fueling angry people who use terrorism as a tactic in fighting for their beliefs and causes. "If we are going to win the war on terrorism ... the United States will require many more soldiers, and not just soldiers who are armed with guns. ... During the challenging years ahead, our planet will need soldiers of peace who understand this truth of our brotherhood, because our survival in an interconnected world will not depend upon our ability to wage war. The fate of humanity will depend upon our willingness to wage peace."

Chappell grew up in a military family, where his view of war's widespread consequences was shaped by his father's raging threats to shoot himself.  His mother, he adds, grew up in Japan during World War II and then moved to Korea, where her family endured the Korean War, where Chappell's father began a 30-year military career, which also included combat in Vietnam. "Throughout my childhood, I watched my father lose his grip on reality ... Rage overshadowed his once peaceful nature, and when I heard him complain about violent nightmares, I realized that something called war had taken my gentle father from me ... when I was a teenager, I wanted to know if war will ever end."

At West Point, Chappell studied peacemakers as well as warmakers. Gandhi, he discovered, was a British army medic during the Boer War in South Africa, where he took close measure of the British military culture that he outmanuevered to gain India's independence with a nonviolent campaign. He found that some other West Pointers had come to the same conclusion as Gandhi. His book quotes General Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address as president, in which he warned that "another war could utterly destroy this civilization" and that people must learn "to compose differences" without war.    

Chappell found a model for banishing war in the 19th century campaigns to ban slavery. "Slavery existed on a global scale for thousands of years, but due to the courageous actions of our ancestors who fought this injustice, no country today sanctions slavery. Together we have the capacity to create a world where countries no longer sanction war."    

He was struck by how hard the military has had to work to train and prod soldiers to fight a battle, rather than flee for safety. This is proof, he argues, that humans don't have a gene for waging wars. And he took note of General Omar Bradley's comment after leading armies in World War II: "Modern war visits destruction on the victor and the vanquished alike. Our only complete assurance of surviving World War III is to halt it before it starts." Reflecting on his own military career, which started at West Point and spanned two world wars, Bradley stated, in a 1948 Memorial Day speech: "Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked."  

In the foreword to Will War Ever End?, Lt. Col. (ret.) Dave Grossman noted "there is cause to hope, and believe, that there can be an end to war. The West has won the Cold War without resorting to mega-death ... In recent years we have exercised the choice to step back from the brink of nuclear destruction." Chappell is currently finishing a sequel titled The End of War, designed to offer what Grossman calls a "toolbox" of information on peace actions.  

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Originally posted to Jan Barry on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 11:39 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The answer to militarism is not pacifism. (0+ / 0-)
    •  The answer to militarism is warlessness. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hound Dog

      Waging peace is one way to do it, holistic activism.  

      Efectus nihil profundus sub pensus est

      by Riddlebaugh on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 11:53:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Both are extremes. (0+ / 0-)

        Militarists are extreme on one end.  Pacifists on the other.  Both are wrong.  Both lead to increase in war.

        The golden mean or the happy medium or the middle path by avoiding extremes.  Gandhi believed it.  Because its right. Its just. It is the only way to contain.

        If you care about peace, give up the false promise of extreme practices and take to the middle path

        •  If a world of zero violence were possible (0+ / 0-)

          near-infinite violence would be justified to bring it about.  Therefore I agree with Plubius.  The best we will ever have is a sustainable level of violence.

          When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

          by amyzex on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 01:59:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Okay. I'm into the I Ching, and agree, in theory (0+ / 0-)

          and practice about the golden mean.  I live that consciously as well as I am able.  But, I don't necessarily think warlessness is pacifism.  And I agree that a sustained but hopefully minimal level of violence, given the nature of the human race, may need to be accepted...if nothing changes. about this: one answer for militrarism is not showing up for it.  It's my answer for it -- not running to it.  If it comes to me, I'll do what I have to to survive.  But, otherwise, why go toward it?  

          Efectus nihil profundus sub pensus est

          by Riddlebaugh on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:14:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  since the U S of A (0+ / 0-)

      is the world's leading exporter of war, drastic reduction of the defense budget would be a damn good start.

      Who thinks we can't more than adequately militarily defend the US if we cut the defense budget in half?  instead of exporting hundred of billion$ in war to one of the poorest areas on Earth?

      A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

      by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 12:12:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The US is not the 'world's leading exporter (0+ / 0-)

        of war.' Its not about defending the US.  Its about defending US interests.  The US is the world's leading supporter of order, stability and peace. While you may not like that peace, the US does.  Because it means a peace in the US's favor.

        Be that as it may, even if I grant your whole post, you do no make a clear rebuttal to the initial position:  the answer to militarism is not pacifism.  Indeed, you implicitly recognize it.

        •  Har! (0+ / 0-)

          The US is not the 'world's leading exporter
          of war.'

          Well, Plubius, why don'cha just pull up a chair and tell me a whole pack of lies?

          I'm pro-military and pro-defense, myself, which is why I'm ANTI these wasteful foreign deployments which misuse and abuse our Armed Forces.

          A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

          by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 12:38:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Damn fine diary, Jan (0+ / 0-)

    tipped and rec'd, of course!

    A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

    by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 12:14:00 PM PST

  •  The analogy to the abolition of slavery (0+ / 0-)

    is a very interesting one which I haven't seen before.

    Thanks!  You gave me something new to think about - it's a good day when that happens.

    "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jrooth on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 12:45:06 PM PST

    •  Its been tried (0+ / 0-)

      And failed.

      Abolishing war is impossible.  Its reckless, and will only lead to more needless war, human suffering, and injustice.  

      Its the hight of irresponsibility.  We KNOW what happens when strong nations do not invest their power in power sharing international framework: general war.

      What's more, Americans know this. The monuementally foolish advocation of dismantling the global  US security array will ONLY result in defeat at the polls.

      That means more Republicans.

      •  "impossible" is a strong term (0+ / 0-)

        Abolishing slavery took generations.  Who's to say what can happen with war through a similar extended effort?

        You act like even thinking or talking about it is tantamount to unilateral disarmament.

        "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

        by jrooth on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 01:50:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting that Chappell should use slavery. . . (0+ / 0-)

    as an example.  While no countries currently sanction slavery, it still exists.  War would similarly continue to exist without the sanction of countries.  Conversely, I believe the willingness of countries to engage in war is the only thing stopping the actual theatre of war from spreading over the entire planet simultaneously.  What you would need therefore is some way to convince at least all the world's civilians that it is better to die in a war than kill in one.

    When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

    by amyzex on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 01:57:39 PM PST

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