Threat of WarThe U.S. spends nearly $649 billion on military defense with the budget set to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2020. Meanwhile, 98 countries have decreased military spending, something the Global Peace Index has called the largest improvement for peace. Although people perpetuate militarization and war as necessary tools for peace and security, as well as a means to reduce the future threat of war, such ideals are not true.

Dispelling War Myths

According to the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, during the war on terror, terrorism actually increased and spread. Several U.S. military commanders have made statements against war, claiming that violence and particular war tactics are actually creating a greater threat, not suppressing it. The former head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, Robert Grenier, stated that counter-terrorism strategies can backfire by helping form enemy alliances and therefore a larger threat.

“[Al Qaeda] are not just focused on helping oppressed Muslims in Kashmir or trying to fight the NATO and the Americans in Afghanistan, they see themselves as part of a global struggle, and therefore are a much broader threat than they were previously. So in a sense, yes, we have helped to bring about the situation that we most fear,” Grenier told Frontline.

Reports of a modern arms race have circulated for the past two years. Senior U.N. security expert, Renta Dwan, said the risk of a nuclear war is at its highest since WWII. There are over 13 thousand nuclear weapons in nine countries. Ninety percent belongs to the U.S. and Russia, yet using less than half of India and Pakistan’s arsenal is enough to cause a worldwide nuclear winter. A peace treaty banning nuclear weapons has only 23 of the 50 ratifications it needs to come into effect but the United States, Russia and other nuclear powers strongly oppose it.

Even if a nuclear threat had a low annual risk – as some claim – a group of physicians published an article for the American Heart Association arguing that experts need to think of the threat in terms of humanity’s lifetime. This is parallel to how cardiologists think of the cumulative risk of heart disease over a lifespan, not just within a given year. This means a one percent annual risk of a nuclear war translates to a 50 percent risk over a 70-year period. They claim that just as preventing heart disease requires behavioral changes such as losing weight, preventing nuclear war also requires a change in high-risk behavior, such as threats, sanctions and false accusations.

Changing the threat of war isn’t as unrealistic as it sounds. The European Union has established social institutions to deal with conflict between member states, and there are many global networks and health professionals working to end war as an institution. The first time the idea of ending the threat of war nearly came to fruition was during the Cold War, with the historical and ambitious US-USSR agreement in 1961, or the McCloy-Zorin Accords.

A World Without War

The McCloy-Zorin Accords outlined a detailed plan for a general and complete disarmament. Many agree that disarmament, international law enforcement and investment are all necessary to end the threat of war. Partial or full disarmament is a must, including selling weapons to countries that do not manufacture them but needs to be under the supervision of an international organization to verify the disarmament.

The accords specified that people carry the disarmament out in stages and that an international disarmament organization verify each stage. The accord recognized non-nuclear armaments, establishments and facilities as necessary for maintaining internal order, but called for the abolishment of weapon stockpiles, national armed forces, military establishments and the discontinuance of military budgets.

The accord also required simultaneous efforts to strengthen peace and international arbitration institutions. U.N. conflict management already resolves many conflicts, but better resourcing could maximize its impact. The World Court also resolves many interstate conflicts but does not recognize war as a crime. The accords are a gilded example of how to end the threat of war and prove its attainability.

How Non-Violence Prevails

Non-violent and civil disobedience campaigns have proven to be more effective in resisting tyranny, resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence. From 1900 to 2006, non-violent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent rebellions across the globe. Non-violent campaigns are also more likely to usher in democratic intuitions and are 15 percent less likely to result in a civil war.

Even when non-violent resistance meets with violence, non-violence still prevails two-to-one. A major benefit of non-violent campaigns is how they tend to draw in larger and more diverse groups of people, but many of these campaigns usually happen without any training or support. If people better resourced such efforts and trained civilians, these campaigns could be even more successful.

Large and well-coordinated campaigns are actually able to switch from concentrated methods, such as protests, to dispersed methods when met with violence. Dispersed methods include strikes, stay-at-home demonstrations, a coordinated shut-down of electricity and even banging pots and pans. Dispersed methods, said Professor Erica Chenoweth, are “very hard or at least very costly to suppress, while the movement stays just as disruptive.”Chenoweth, a professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, believes that if history courses shifted focus onto the decades of mass civil disobedience that came before the Declaration of Independence, or if Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King came first and not as an afterthought, then perhaps the “war culture” could change and end the threat of war.

The 2019 Global Peace Index reports that 104 countries recorded an increase in terrorism, while only 38 improved. Changing international policies and promoting civil disobedience instead of violence and war as a means for change does not only make movements of change more resilient but prevents terrorism and promotes stability.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

facts about MLK
As the single most influential individual associated with the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. lived life under a spotlight. His legacy continues to be praised to this day for his courage, passion for justice and his devotion to civil equality. An advocate for nonviolence, Martin Luther King Jr. brought masses together in his time to fight against oppression with words and peaceful demonstration rather than brutality, violence and war.

His birthday, now a national holiday, celebrates and teaches many of the major highlights in his life, and resulted in a nation well-versed in his incredible life, justice goals and untimely, his martyred death.

For a man so inspiring, every day words that he spoke became inspirations to the public. Speeches and statements he gave lit a flame in the hearts of people who craved social justice and equality. In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 interesting facts about MLK, one of the most profound and inspiring American heroes:

    1. Originally, Martin was not his first name—it was actually Michael. His father, Martin Luther King Sr.’s, name was also originally Michael but after a trip to Germany, he changed both Michaels to Martin in homage to the historic German, Martin Luther.
    2. He and his wife, Coretta Scott, had four children named Yolanda Denise, Martin, Dexter and Bernice Albertine.
    3. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1955.
    4. He was arrested on Jan. 26, 1956, for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
    5. Just four days later on Jan. 30, his house was bombed.
    6. In 1957, it is estimated that MLK traveled more than 780,000 miles and made 208 speeches.
    7. MLK had a lifelong admiration for Gandhi and visited India in 1959—crediting Gandhi’s passive resistance techniques for his civil rights successes.
    8. The first national celebration of MLK’s birthday was not until 1986.
    9. It is estimated that more than 700 streets in the U.S. are named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    10. At 35, King was the youngest man to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. All of his monetary winnings from the award were put toward furthering the issue of civil rights and towards civil rights movements.

– Eastin Shipman

Sources: Nobel Prize, The Seattle Times
Photo: Biography

Gandhi Utilized Advocacy
Martin Luther King Jr. once referred to Gandhi’s philosophy as “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” Mahatma, or “Great Soul,” Gandhi was an advocate for human rights and is largely known for initiating the idea of nonviolent resistance.

Gandhi’s journey as an advocate began in South Africa. As a young legal adviser, he saw firsthand the damage caused by race-oriented laws and class-based oppression.

This is when Gandhi began to teach his philosophy of passive resistance. Gandhi’s organization of the Indian community in South Africa began widespread social change.

When Gandhi returned to India in 1915, he began working as an advocate for various local struggles concerning working conditions. Four years after his arrival home, British authorities passed the Rowlatt Acts, which allowed imprisonment without trial of any Indian accused of sedition.

Gandhi advocated through a national day of fasting and a refusal to work. He termed this as an act of Satyagraha, or love-force.

Gandhi eventually transformed the Indian National Congress into a large movement committed to nonviolent resistance in support of India’s independence, otherwise known as the non-cooperation movement.

As a consequence of his activism, he was arrested in March of 1922 and served two years for sedition.

Eight years later, in 1930, Gandhi organized 80 volunteers for a 200-mile march to the sea where the volunteers made salt out of seawater in protest of British Salt Laws. The movement eventually grew to 60,000 Indians who were all arrested and imprisoned for their defiance until Gandhi negotiated a truce with representative Lord Irwin.

After Irwin left office and his successor continued the oppressive measures taken against Indians, Gandhi began his movement once again and was immediately imprisoned. In prison, Gandhi began fasting in protest of a new Indian constitution, which was to include different representatives for the “untouchables” or members of India’s lowest level on the caste system.

His fasting gained international attention and was the precursor to the 1947 resolution, which made the discriminatory practice illegal. Britain left India that same year. Gandhi had won his country’s independence back, without the use of violence.

Gandhi’s approach to advocacy inspired many leaders, from Nelson Mandela to Martin Luther King Jr. The Dalai Lama, a follower of Gandhi, expressed, “As Mahatma Gandhi showed by his own example, nonviolence can be implemented not only in politics but also in day-to-day life. That was his great achievement. He showed that nonviolence should be active in helping others.”

– Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Stanford University, New York Times, MSN News, The Borgen Project
Photo: Wikiphotos

Ivan Illyich on aid
Martin Luther King and Ivan Illyich give two very strong, yet seemingly opposing views about aiding someone from afar. While King suggests it is our duty to help, Illyich states that it is our duty to stay away before causing any more harm. How can aid be given that truly helps the recipients? Is that even possible?

King’s philosophy on the subject was taken from a letter written when he was placed in Birmingham Jail after participating in a nonviolent protest which he traveled from Atlanta to take part in. His skeletal argument was that one cannot rest if there is injustice anywhere and we have the right and duty to eliminate injustice for the sake of everyone.

Ivan Illyich expressed his view while speaking at the Conference InterAmerican Student Projects in Mexico, boldly telling his entire audience that what they are doing (volunteering abroad) was foolish and not helping anyone.

Although the arguments suggest opposite viewpoints, I don’t think the two authors would entirely disagree with each other.

Ivan Illyich gives very specific reasons for why “Latin American Do-gooders” are harming more than helping. Economically, the money used to operate groups of Americans going abroad could be put directly into the country they would be serving, rather than adding a “feel-good” factor for Americans.

Emotionally, those going abroad to serve are rarely educated about the culture in which they are serving and are diving in headfirst to areas where they are unwanted “there is also a gulf between what you feel and what the Mexican people feel that is incomparably greater.” He recognizes that their intentions are pure, but states that good intentions are not enough, the title of the speech being “To Hell with Good Intentions.”

Illyich would not have “called King out” on his work away from home or even his reasoning behind it. King does make many general statements about how fighting injustice that directly affects you is not good enough, but his efforts, in his situation, would have been justified by Illyich.

King opens up answering the question to why he was in Birmingham Jail, why he bothered visiting Birmingham, and already separates himself from the Illyich “Do-gooder.” King was invited by an organization he was affiliated with. From the start, King had a direct link to his cause and an invitation for entry.

King was not coming into the situation with an absence of true empathy, blinded by his need to help. He was fighting the same injustices he was personally facing at the time. In his letter, he states:

“When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

Martin Luther King would pass Illyich’s standards for having the right to aid others: he was aiding a cause he was directly affected by. But how can others pass those standards? Or do we even need to have the “approval” of Ivan Illyich, when we could just go by King’s standards of aiding other people?

The root of both arguments come from the standards of solidarity amongst people. King argues that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly”, overall implying that we must stick together as mankind and should not be satisfied when our fellow man is troubled.

Illyich’s argument, while suggesting the opposite action as King’s, uses the lack of solidarity to argue his point: we should stay away from “helping” others, because we don’t truly know what they need, and in the end we cause more harm than good:

“If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home. Work for the coming elections: you will know what you are doing, why you are doing it and how to communicate with those to whom you speak.”

What it comes down to is how connected one feels with those they are working with. Do we see them as fellow people trying to make ends meet or do we see them as victims who can only be helped by an outside hand? Are we working with equal partners or charity recipients?

Not only is it important to know what aid recipients are going through, but it is equally important to know the economic and cultural impact being made through the work being done, which is where Illyich’s intended audience usually falls short. It is impossible to truly see through the eyes of others and to know exactly how they feel about the help coming in, but the least that can be done is to do everything in your power to understand the impact being made.

If international aid is done thoughtfully, then the good intentions being done are not backed only by empty deeds.

 – Courtney Prentice

Sources: Swaraj, University of Pennsylvania
Photo: Robbbeck