WHAT ARE THE PEACEFUL ALTERNATIVES
TO RESOLVING CONFLICTS?
Veterans For Peace Chapter 49 in Indianapolis represents military veterans and families whose goal is a Peaceful and Just Society. We seek the best we can be as Americans, a society that pursues constructive long-term solutions to resolve conflicts and to provide meaningful and fulfilling lives for all concerned. We followed the call to serve our country and to fight for Freedom and Democracy. We swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and its values in equality, justice, and responsibility for all members of our society... a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We continue to serve to realize an America that lives up to our own values and ideals, and a society that reflects the best we can be as human beings.
Who pays the costs of war?
Those of us who have served in war understand that violence and destruction breeds a cycle of violence and destruction. Our national leaders have asked us to kill other human beings without a clear a clear goal of how our sacrifices would lead to long-term solutions that benefit Americans and the world. We became aware first-hand of the costs of war. We lost our comrades and members of our families, and have experienced the high rates of PTSD, suicide, domestic violence, and other tragic problems our troops bring back from war. We also see the faces of those whom we have killed, and of the women and children and families whose homes and lives we destroyed. We look at an economy where trillions are spent on destruction, while people in our own communities and around the world suffer from malnutrition and illness and lack of hope in life.
Who really benefits from war?
We have also seen who benefits from war. We have witnessed a few who become rich and powerful from violence and destruction, while the rest of us bear the economic and social burdens. For whom are wars really fought?
So how can we promote peaceful alternatives to conflicts?
- First, we ask what are the underlying causes of conflict?
Both individuals and groups have different ways of seeing life.
How can we work together for a meaningful and fulfilling life for all of us?
All human beings seek fulfillment in life, to have a meaningful and functional existence. Great works of art and literature, philosophies, and religions call on us to be the best we can be as human beings.
But often in human history, humans have experienced conditions that contradict these ideals, systems that no longer work in providing meaningful and functional lives. Political oppression, economic deprivation, and social disintegration stand in sharp contrast to the ideals in which we all believe. Normally, people try to address these contradictions within the system, calling for reforms that lead to personal and social fulfillment. When the system fails to respond, however, people begin to question the validity of the system itself, and look for alternatives that promise fulfillment. At this point, they are often open to new ideologies and even susceptible to "extreme" solutions. We can see this process in our own history, beginning with the American Revolution.
- Then, we ask what are our goals in resolving conflicts?
Where do we want to go in life?
What outcomes do we expect as a result of our addressing a conflict? In our personal relations, we call on people to dialog with each other, try to understand what motivates the other's behavior, and to negotiate practical solutions that acknowledge each others' humanness. We do not necessarily have to agree with each other, but we can try to find a balance that helps both sides find fulfillment in their lives, meet their basic needs, and foster stability. These values are expressed in our homes, schools, religious beliefs, and in the Constitution of the United States.
Or is our purpose to force others to conform what we want? We seem not to consider what we ourselves would do if others try to force us to do things that only benefit them, and so we find ourselves in a cycle of conflict. Unfortunately, this practice can be seen in much of our international and domestic policies. This approach is based on immediate vested interests rather than clear far-sighted goals, and we fail to consider the long-term consequences of our actions, particularly when these practices lead to us failing our own standards, such as using torture and support of repressive regimes that control rich resources. History shows that this approach rarely produces the well-being and sense of fulfillment of the people involved in all sides, though it may benefit a few such as the rich and powerful. We can see how the Versailles Treaty at the end of WWI set up the conditions for WWII, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq set up the rise of ISIS.
- And finally we ask what are the long-term solutions to conflict?
It takes creativity to find solutions that work for all sides.
Lasting solutions have to include the fulfillment of people in their daily lives, on both sides of a conflict. Such solutions are not easy to develop, particularly when the focus is on short-term vested interests. But if we consciously consider the goal of people who are fulfilled in life, then this vision can guide us in working out the specifics in resolving a particular conflict.
As military veterans and families, we call for:
How could we have better used the $5 trillion we have spent on our recent Middle Eastern wars?
For example, $60 billion would end world hunger.
- Conduct a full public debate on the causes and the goals and long-term solutions in a conflict.
Congress is supposed to represent the different views of Americans, not impose the interests of a selected few. Our elected officials have a constitutional responsibility to understand the underlying causes of a conflict. What has led people to lose faith in the system and resort to other options? They also have a constitutional responsibility to identify long-term outcome goals of U.S. policies. Do we want to foster meaningful lives on the part of everyone involved, or to impose our will on others? And they have a constitutional responsibility to identify long-term solutions that resolve the underlying causes of conflict. Do proposed policies result in human beings on all sides finding fulfillment in their lives, meeting their basic needs, and realizing personal and social stability?
- Invest in long-term stability.
In recent years, Americans have spent more than $5 trillion on our wars. Where would Americans and the world be now if we had invested this money in supporting human rights, meaningful lives, and the basic needs of people in regions of conflict? When we do not provide fulfillment in these people's lives, others will offer options that challenge our own lives.
For example, we can invest in humanitarian aid to those who are suffering the impacts of economic deprivation and social displacement, and generate good-will instead of hostility. This support should be made through respected international agencies, to avoid the appearance of favoritism and imposing conditions on those in need.
We can also materially support local structures that function to maintain the subsistence, health, well-being, and self-determination of all segments of the society. When people can live more stable and satisfying lives, they are more likely to put their energy into constructive efforts in their community and society.
Our Veterans For Peace group follows this approach in trying to resolve specific conflicts, including:
A Peace Budget.
Peace in the South China Sea.
Peace in Palestine.
Peace with Iran.
As veterans who have experienced war, we ask our communities and our elected officials to support long-term constructive alternatives to resolving conflicts.
For more on VFP49 news and activities, follow us on Facebook at Veterans-For-Peace-49. If you are interested in working with us for peaceful alternatives to conflict, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© VFP49 2016