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Correspondence on World Without War


Below is some recent correspondence I had in responce to my essay "World Without War", which I wrote for the up coming Z Sessions on Vision & Strategy. In the essay I propose that war waged between nations and states using military campaigns against each other have done exceptionally more harm than good; that truly civilized nations will develop means other than war to help remedy another country’s injustice; that although war making is a choice taken by a nations elite, war has the effect of corrupting all; that all wars are bad and that it’s time to envision and strategize for a world without war. I thought that the correspondence was useful, for me, because the angle from which the writer approached my essay caused me to elaborate on some ideas that I chose not to in the essay but which I’ll probably have to explain in future discussions of it. I also really appreciated the efforts on behalf of the writer to push for a more sound argument for my premise regardless of if they actually agreed with it or not. Below is the response to my essay and then my response back..

Writers response to my essay:

A few comments about your article, "World Without War" on Z-Net

Writer quoting my essay: "First, some people may believe that seeking a world with out war is utopian, like seeking a world where birds ride bicycles or frogs play
piano; such a world being just plain impossible. However, seeking a
world without war is not the same as seeking a world where frogs and
birds have the same capacities as human beings."

This statement is interesting because the obvious implication (that
war is/isn’t human nature) is contradicted in the next:

Writer quoting my essay: "There’s a deeper reasoning behind the belief that
aiming to win a world without war is utopian. This reasoning suggests that
"war has always existed" and goes on to make the leap to also believe that
therefore "war will always exist"."

Again the implication of the first quote suggests that the, "deeper
reasoning behind the belief" is that war is part of human nature, not
that, "war has always existed." Setting aside whether this suggestion
is true or not, the argument you make to disprove, "war has always
existed […] war will always exist." That:

Writer quoting my essay: "The flimsiness of this logic is exposed when
applied to diseases that were once incurable in the past, but which
today can be treated and often times prevented."

Is in itself pretty flimsy. The equivalent in comparing the end of war
to disease would not be some disease, unless you’re arguing for the end
of some war, but the end of all disease. A real comparison might
explore the social causes for disease and the possible prevention of
most disease with that of war. Again similar flimsy logic:

Writer quoting my essay: "In addition, imagine the depression of coming to
terms with the thought that war, despite efforts to stop it, is an inevitable feature
of human existence. Anybody coming to such a conclusion should be
horrified. It would be the equivalent of resigning ones’ self to the
existence of a horrible crime – say women not being able to vote. It
would be like saying, before women’s suffrage, that "because women have
never voted in the past, women should never vote in the future";
therefore denying women’s suffrage by making an irrational leap in
logic and coming to an absurd conclusion. Just because war has existed
in the past does not mean that it will exist in the future."

Although the idea that war is an inevitable feature of human existence
is indeed depressing, it’s not "the equivalent of resigning ones’ self
to the existence of a horrible crime – say women not being able to
vote." For one, women not being able to vote, isn’t an "inevitable" or
universal feature of human societies or history and thus likely isn’t
an "inevitable feature of human existence." Two, women not being able
to vote, though terrible is far from the real and more persuasive
equivalent of resigning ourselves to a world only, "inhabited by […]
bacteria and beetles"

Writer quoting my essay: "Second, someone may wonder about my
premise that all wars are bad. They may ask "Are there any ‘Just’, ‘Good’
or ‘Humanitarian’ wars that prove your premise wrong?" There may be exceptions
to the rule and I’ll address this possibility below. But first let’s assume that there
isn’t. Here’s why…"

Two obvious exceptions you don’t address are wars fought in self
defense or for self determination. Although your definition of war
seems to exclude wars of self determination (at least civil wars within
nations) as war.

I’ll stop here. I wrote these few comments not because I disagree with
your ideas in general, but in the way they’re specifically presented. I
think the ideas you criticize do indeed deserve to be, but I don’t
think flimsy logic that rushes through to a desired conclusion (no
matter how much I agree with it or not) ultimately serves the goals of
ending war. Stopping war means understanding that there are real,
logical reasons for why wars are fought, outside of what may or may not
be logical reasons for their justification to the public. It’s only by
honestly engaging all of these reasons that they can be discredited.

——-

Now my response to the writer (comments interspersed):

> A few comments about your article, "World Without War" on Z-Net

Excellent, thank you…. The paper was for the Z Sessions on Vision
and Strategy and was the first time that I’ve tried to put these ideas
down. Already, I can see things that I’d change in future drafts…

> "First, some people may believe that seeking a world with out war is
> utopian, like seeking a world where birds ride bicycles or frogs play
> piano; such a world being just plain impossible. However, seeking a
> world without war is not the same as seeking a world where frogs and
> birds have the same capacities as human beings."
>
> This statement is interesting because the obvious implication (that
> war is/isn’t human nature) is contradicted in the next:

Actually, I wasn’t specifically implying anything about human nature,
but I was making a statement on the belief that achieving a world
without war is impossible or Utopian. Anybody can believe this for a
variety of reasons, human nature being only one possibility,
inevitability of conflict between nations being another, "humanitarian
interventions" being still more…

> "There’s a deeper reasoning behind the belief that aiming to win a
> world without war is utopian. This reasoning suggests that "war has
> always existed" and goes on to make the leap to also believe that
> therefore "war will always exist"."
>
> Again the implication of the first quote suggests that the, "deeper
> reasoning behind the belief" is that war is part of human nature

See above…

>, not that, "war has always existed."

In presenting an argument against the belief that "war has always
existed" therefore "war will always exist" I deliberately left the
belief wide open to any number of rationalizations i.e. human nature,
inevitability of conflicting interests between nations, "humanitarian
intervention" and so on… I chose not to address these things one by
one because I believed it wasn’t necessary, it’s left open to
interpretation, but is an argument against the belief that a world
without war is impossible…

>Setting aside whether this suggestion
> is true or not, the argument you make to disprove, "war has always
> existed […] war will always exist." That:
>
> "The flimsiness of this logic is exposed when applied to diseases that
> were once incurable in the past, but which today can be treated and
> often times prevented."
>
> Is in itself pretty flimsy. The equivalent in comparing the end of war
> to disease would not be some disease, unless you’re arguing for the end
> of some war, but the end of all disease.

This seems to be a conflation of my argument. I took the approach of
identifying and defining a very specific kind of war: war waged
between nations and states using military campaigns against each
other.

In the analogy I compare it to a very specific kind of disease,
diseases: that were once incurable in the past, but which today can be
treated and often times prevented.

I don’t see this argument as suggesting that the struggle for the "end
of some war" is the equivalent of arguing for "the end of all
disease", and the reason is because, implicit in the argument is that
I’m arguing for the prevention of particular wars, as defined above,
just as in the past there has been prevention of particular diseases.
I am not arguing for the prevention of all wars. i.e. civil war, armed
liberation struggles, etc., just a very specif type of war, between
nations and waged by military campaigns. My presentation stops
there…

>" A real comparison might explore the social causes for disease and
>the possible prevention of most disease with that of war. Again
>similar flimsy logic:

"Social causes"? Why not institutional causes like poverty, capitalism, etc.

> "In addition, imagine the depression of coming to terms with the
> thought that war, despite efforts to stop it, is an inevitable feature
> of human existence. Anybody coming to such a conclusion should be
> horrified. It would be the equivalent of resigning ones’ self to the
> existence of a horrible crime – say women not being able to vote. It
> would be like saying, before women’s suffrage, that "because women have
> never voted in the past, women should never vote in the future";
> therefore denying women’s suffrage by making an irrational leap in
> logic and coming to an absurd conclusion. Just because war has existed
> in the past does not mean that it will exist in the future."
>
> Although the idea that war is an inevitable feature of human existence
> is indeed depressing, it’s not "the equivalent of resigning ones’ self
> to the existence of a horrible crime – say women not being able to
> vote." For one, women not being able to vote, isn’t an "inevitable" or
> universal feature of human societies or history and thus likely isn’t
> an "inevitable feature of human existence."

Of course it isn’t, the proposal is absurd, but people opposed to
women’s suffrage reasoned some variation of this based on beliefs
about human nature, that for various reasons women’s place was in the
home, inferiority of women’s skills, women’s intelligence, threatening
patrilineal inheritance, male political, economic, and cultural
authority, etc. Again, I consciously chose not to deal with each of
these issues, leaving it open for a variety of rationalizations…

>Two, women not being able
> to vote, though terrible is far from the real and more persuasive
> equivalent of resigning ourselves to a world only, "inhabited by […]
> bacteria and beetles"

Agreed, absolutely, but the point, which I’m very clear about in the
essay, is that just because war has existed in the past does not mean
that it will exist in the future — that’s it…

> "Second, someone may wonder about my premise that all wars are bad.
> They may ask "Are there any ‘Just’, ‘Good’ or ‘Humanitarian’ wars that
> prove your premise wrong?" There may be exceptions to the rule and I’ll
> address this possibility below. But first let’s assume that there
> isn’t. Here’s why…"
>
> Two obvious exceptions you don’t address are wars fought in self
> defense or for self determination. Although your definition of war
> seems to exclude wars of self determination (at least civil wars within
> nations) as war.

Yes, you’re right my definition does exclude these other forms of war,
because I’m not opposed to armed liberation struggles, but this is
another ball of wax…

> I’ll stop here. I wrote these few comments not because I disagree with
> your ideas in general, but in the way they’re specifically presented.

Again, thank you for the attention you’ve given my essay… Please let
me know if you have more concerns or questions about my response. I’m
really glad to have this kind of dialogue…

>I think the ideas you criticize do indeed deserve to be, but I don’t
> think flimsy logic that rushes through to a desired conclusion (no
> matter how much I agree with it or not) ultimately serves the goals of
> ending war.

Well, I hope this response has clarified my reasoning for you, as I do
think that the kind of war argued against here is a waste and should
be stopped.

>Stopping war means understanding that there are real,
> logical reasons for why wars are fought, outside of what may or may not
> be logical reasons for their justification to the public. It’s only by
> honestly engaging all of these reasons that they can be discredited.

Agreed, and thank you…

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