Peace Prevail? Of Course!
by Karen Kwiatkowski: Rebellion,
Resistance, Renewal … or War?
my small part of Marc Guttman’s recently published book Why
on Kindle and I-books
When I contributed
to the recently published Why
Liberty, the assignment was easy. After all, liberty is
a condition that men and women everywhere instinctively love and
need, even if it isn’t always well-articulated. Liberty speaks to
a way of self-government that is human-centered and fundamentally
humane. Liberty defines human rights in a way that is supremely
just, and liberty, by its very nature, is antithetical to force.
Liberty is the natural condition of man, and most Americans share
this ideal. Peace, on the other hand, for Americans born in the
past 70 years, and for the millions of foreign subjects of the modern
American empire, has not been part of their ideals, their ethics
or their collective experience.
When we think
of the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his work
on individualism, libertarians and logicians alike chuckle at his
claim that "Men must be forced to be free." Rousseau likely
meant that we tend to be voluntarily enslaved by our governments
and kings, and by our cultures and traditions. He was right on one
aspect of human nature. We are often reluctant to give up our fantasies
of the justness of our rulers, and the righteousness of our traditions.
in particular, embrace the language of liberty, even as the American
state itself has become ominously and voraciously antithetical to
liberty. The state pursues its wars in the name of liberty, and
the government constantly reminds us that it maintains a large standing
army, a massive military establishment, and a heavily integrated
domestic police apparatus – all in the name of freedom. We cannot
go far in the United States without being reminded that "if
we like our freedom, thank a soldier."
To talk about
peace in the 21st century, as fresh as we are from the
deadly outcomes of the 20th, is a challenge. While it
is natural to love liberty, it seems that peace is often argued
to be unnatural, uncommon, and unlikely in the human condition.
While the claim to liberty is granted by the Creator, claims to
peace are not. But practiced liberty, with its prohibition on the
use of force to take a man’s time, his children, his property and
labor, his movement, is the fundamental precursor to peace. A truly
free society is one that embraces a culture on the value of individual
lives, a respect for their property, and aversion to the use of
force. It is one that is comfortable in the art of trading and deal-making
based on marketplace choices, not government edicts. A truly free
society is a peaceful society.
In the United
States, we once had a vocal combination of thinkers who advocated
nonviolence, and opposed the use of force, by individuals and by
states. For many decades in our history, the primary opinion in
the country was that government was to be limited in size and scope.
Statesmen referenced the Constitution as a guide for this limited
government, and limiting government (and by extension, war) was
considered both valuable and normal. In these previous eras, serious
public debate on war and peace was tolerated, and one could read
about both war and peace in the newspapers.
the state as a source of both assistance to and identity for individuals
(increasingly thought of as "citizens") emerged in part
with the emigration of the German and other national populists after
the failures of the various 1848 Revolutions in Europe. These immigrants,
unlike previous waves of Europeans seeking freedom of religion and
opportunity to farm and produce, embraced ideas of the importance
of national unity, and the supremacy of democracy, political ideas
that elevate the importance of the state. They were urban-oriented
and industrial-minded immigrants, who valued the state as a legitimizer
of individuals, and desired a powerful and egalitarian welfare state.
They became important political blocs in the country, supporting
a strong central rule, workers rights over property rights, majority
rule over rule by the more staid and limited Constitution.
the role of religionists and philosophers in the United States also
increasingly saw the state as the mechanism of virtue. The era of
Christian progressivism looked to the state to aid sinners in their
fight to resist sin, and this very powerful and popular abdication
of individual and community responsibility for diktats of state
on the individual culminated in the 18th Amendment in
1919, banning sales and consumption of alcohol across the land.
From political, economic, and religious perspectives, American as
a great state was increasingly valued over America, land of liberty.
These Europeans in general opposed Southern slavery, they generally
did so as a means to higher paychecks and full employment rather
than because they believed in equality of African Americans, or
substantially embraced the fundamental concepts of human liberty.
Slavery was enforced more effectively in the non-slave North than
it had ever been in the South, in part due to racism, and in part
due to the widely held view of slaves as economic units of competition.
The state centralized
as a result of the Civil War, and militarized as a result of Reconstruction
and the professionalization of civil servants. Dehumanization, destruction
of property, unlimited post civil war takings but both the state,
and its friends and allies, all challenged constitutional ideas
of liberty. Without liberty, and the innate justice that comes from
respecting property of others, peace is impossible. That many in
the Christian churches condemned their more peaceful advocates in
the abolition movement, and came to see the state as an ally in
pursuit of common goals of social order, the hypocrisy of those
who worshipped the Prince of Peace became more and more obvious.
The rise of the Yankee Leviathan, as phrased by historian
Richard Bensel, and the statist/church Battle Hymn of the Republic,
written at about the same time illustrates the nature of the perversion.
famous "The War Prayer," published in 1923 but believed
to be dictated in 1904 or 1905, and referring to the Christian calls
to reconvert the failing Spanish Empire from Catholicism to Protestantism,
even as the public school movement at home was attempting to do
with the waves of impoverished Catholic Irish and Italian immigrants,
indeed captures the hypocrisy of Christians who long for war, death
and destruction, often overseas or in another’s backyard, and usually
the name of the state. This lust for war, equating support for the
state for love of country and government-led collective hate confused
with patriotism, was not something the founders envisioned for the
new and free Republic. They certainly understood both the nature
of mob thinking as well as the nature of ruling elites, the latter
of which were in a position to profit from war. To prevent the nation
from adventuring into wars abroad without the full awareness and
support of the people, and without a concluded public debate on
the justness of the war or military adventure, they specified the
Congress, at that time representing the people and the several states,
as the branch of government that could declare and authorize such
a war or military adventure.
to work with few exceptions until the late 1800s. Was it a desire
for war, or a desire for global relevance, or just the evolving
nature of the American state that caused this shift? Had Americans
thrilled to the idea of peace, it seems we would have heard more
in the public sphere about how we could achieve it. Instead, we
got a 20th century of state wars on the indigenous, state
wars on other states, cold war militarism and fearmongering, and
the positioning of global alliances against global alliances. There
were also wars on drugs, wars on cancer, wars on illiteracy, and
wars for "humanitarianism" and human rights.
War is organized
in vertical authoritarian structures, and entails force against
one’s own people through regulation, drafts, and economic mandates
from the state. War requires great collective fear of an enemy,
as well as great personal fear of one’s own state. When Randolph
Bourne wrote "War Is the Health of the State" he explained
how the state is fully realized only in war:
terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the
organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member
of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing
down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches.
All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible
to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military
defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly
struggled to become - the inexorable arbiter and determinant of
men's business and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken
up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly
and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, toward
the great end, toward the "peacefulness of being at war," of which
L.P. Jacks has so unforgettably spoken.
And what is
that "peacefulness of being at war?" Jacks observed that
in the early years of the First World War.
is not more gloomy. He is brighter, more cheerful. He worries
less about himself. He is a trifle more unselfish and correspondingly
more agreeable as a companion or neighbor. … This feeling of being
banded together, which comes over a great population in its hour
of trial, is a wonderful thing. It produces a kind of exhilaration
which goes far to offset the severity of the trial. The spirit
of fellowship, with its attendant cheerfulness, is in the air.
It is comparatively easy to love one's neighbor when we realize
that he and we are common servants and common sufferers in the
same cause. A deep breath of that spirit has passed into the life
In a sense,
there is no way to speak about peace to a 21st century
American, except as the absence of war. There is no way to collectively
think about the absence of war, because the language of modern America
is filled to the gills with talk of war, and a reactionary embrace
of the centralized state. War is what we do. War sustains a significant
portion of our government, gives our presidents manliness and makes
our men and women aggressive and longsuffering patriots. War and
munitions makes up over half of our global exports and employs over
three million people, not counting men and women in uniform. The
US government is obsessed with war, and in war, both seeks and finds
its political and economic identity. This war obsessed government
employs today over 22 million Americans, twice the number of people
employed in manufacturing.
Yet, for all
of this, Americans themselves do value peace, and are increasingly
tired of war, and the endless lies and prevarications about the
wars that seem to constantly engage us. Happily, the latest flurry
of news from the White House about the final end of al Qaeda leader
Osama bin Ladin is not producing the presidential political "bump"
in the polls that past similar announcements have done, and instead
of loud celebrations, Americans seem newly interested in what bin
Ladin’s death can tell us about our own country’s prospects for
real peace, and a contraction of our global military empire.
on a more concrete meaning when people are struggling to feed families,
buy gas, get and keep a job, and make their mortgage payments. As
the productive capacity and civil liberties of Americans are shrinking,
as they have done radically since September 11, 2001, the idea of
living in a constitutional republic rather than an empire or global
military enforcer becomes more compelling to the average American.
Increasingly Americans are expatriating, and if not fully disengaging
from the American state, are seeking second homes in places that
truly, seem to embody peaceful living.
We are reminded
today, almost three generations later, of the emerging prosperity-oriented
ideas of the late 1950s. Barry Goldwater called for smaller more
accountable government, in the face of a growing and ever more confiscatory
state. President Dwight Eisenhower questioned the burgeoning growth
of the military-industrial complex, and warned all Americans that
unless checked, we as a nation would sacrifice both peace and liberty.
In 1957, Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged, posing a last
ditch solution to the monster war-loving state, a "shrugging"
off of individual productivity by simply disappearing from the purview
of the state.
– all related to peace, all related to prosperity, founded on Renaissance
revelations of the intrinsic value of the individual and resting
on the Founders’ ideas of a Creator-granted organic right of liberty
– have persisted, even as the government of the United States has
morphed into a war-addicted, liberty-offending, debt-ridden global
And why now? We have become a country that cannot afford the luxury
of killing human beings and destroying economies around the world.
Americans are slowly waking to the ongoing destruction of our own
economy, due largely to government spending abroad and government
malinvestment in a military sector that dwarfs anything existing
anywhere else on the planet. Americans are beginning to separate
in their own minds their government’s unending interest in military
force and intimidation around the world, and their own interest
in living a profitable and peaceful life, and seeing their children
prosper in their own great land, not die miserably or be damaged
irreversibly in some barren mountaintop or miserable desert inhabited
by people we simply do not care about. Americans are slowly recognizing
that the rule of law in this country has been usurped by a new imperial
model, where presidential assassinations of enemies of the state
around the world are standard, and where American citizens in general
are viewed as threats to the state, not as free and valuable individuals,
for whom the state must necessarily be submissive and subordinate.
Peace is the only way we can to resolve and reduce the state’s grip
on the lives and economies of Americans, even as peace will resolve
and reduce our government’s rip on much of the rest of the world.
increasingly sense that economic hardship and limited freedom is
the new 21st century reality for them and their children.
They correctly associate hardship and a kind of citizen servitude
with the United States global military empire, even as this empire
has been slowly evolving, in some ways surreptitiously, for nearly
100 years. We require peace because we can no longer afford war.
More importantly, Americans are beginning, thanks in part to vastly
and immediately available access to a wide variety of information,
both historical and real-time, to recognize and even laugh at our
prevaricating and parasitic political masters in both parties. When
major public polling entities begin to regularly pose questions
for the "political class" as opposed to "the people"
as Rasmussen did in 2010, it is a major sign of impending revolution
– or, if we are fortunate, a peaceful evolution towards a value
set that will publically and commonly criminalize war and war-mongering,
and celebrate peace, liberty and prosperity at home, and everywhere.
In the dystopian
future imagined by George Orwell in 1984,
Winston is advised,
be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing
pleasures will be destroyed. But always – do not forget this,
Winston – always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly
increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment,
there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling
on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future,
imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
In this simple
description, we see the answer to the question "Why Peace."
War is intoxication, addiction, and destruction. It is sensation,
compulsion, and sin – the enemy not of peace but of humanity itself.
Randolph Bourne correctly observed, "War is the health of the
state," and we can clearly see that the converse is also true.
Peace is the health of the individual, the family, the community
and the land.
We don’t have
to accept the boot of the state and its wars stamping on a human
face forever, even as it is served up daily by the ever-ravenous
political class, sitting atop a sand-based pyramid of state paranoia.
Peace trumps the zero sum game of war, and peace is additive, creative,
infinitely inventive, and just. Only in peace can a true "spirit
of fellowship" be experienced. To use the language of war with
which Americans have become so comfortable, peace always wins, even
as states inevitably collapse under the weight of their hubris and
columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send
her mail], a
retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty
and Power and The
Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles,
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is currently running for Congress in Virginia's 6th district.
2012 Karen Kwiatkowski
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