Patriot for Peace…

Author:  David Swanson

War No More Cover (264x300)Patriotism is a complicated concept.  Love for one’s homeland can be so easily manipulated or corrupted that even those with honorable intentions can end up supporting various atrocities all in the name of patriotism.  Or maybe it’s not love that motivates as much as the fear of being labeled unpatriotic by everyone else.  Whatever the mechanism, the use of patriotism is a particularly effective way to tempt people to suspend their critical thinking skills.  This seemingly universal human tendency may be one of our greatest liabilities as a species as not a decade goes by where we don’t witness another demonstration of its potentially horrific effects.  For millennia, patriotism has been called upon to justify war making, one of humankind’s most ghastly habits – you might even call it an addiction.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Despite what seems like a general acceptance that war is simply a part of human nature, author and pacifist David Swanson argues in War No More – a sequel to his 2010 book War Is a Lie – that we can put an end to war once and for all.

A US Army M113  armed personnel carrier occupies a local mall in Panama 1989.

A US Army M113 armed personnel carrier occupies a local mall in Panama 1989.

Swanson is perfectly willing to admit that the elimination of warfare is no small task, but he’s convinced that it’s possible and for years has written prolifically in print and online to try and persuade others that it’s possible.  He divides this work into four sections:  arguing that war can be ended; that it should be ended; that it’s not going to end on its own; and that we have to end it.

The analogy that underlies the entire book compares the institution of war with the institution of chattel slavery.  There was a time – not so long ago – when intelligent and thoughtful people were convinced that slavery was an inevitable and natural part of human society and even if it was awful, it could never be eliminated.   Given courageous efforts by thousands of brave abolitionists, within a century, slavery went from being the accepted norm to being an abomination.  Swanson argues that the very same approach can be used to stop war and I find him to be surprisingly convincing.

Kadena Air Base, one of 32 US military installations on the small island of Okinawa.

Kadena Air Base, one of 32 US military installations on the small island of Okinawa.

What I like most about Swanson’s writing is his non-judgmental approach.  He doesn’t care about your place on the political spectrum nor does he disparage those who have chosen to enlist in the military.  In an unrelenting and non-partisan way, he’s trying to convince anyone who will listen, building his robust anti-war argument by incorporating ideas from many directions.  Anything that might push the world to reduce its reliance on warfare is on the table.

Surprisingly optimistic, despite the quixotic nature of his quest, Swanson writes clearly and passionately and I defy anyone to question his patriotism.  Highly recommended for anyone interested in making peace the new normal or who wonders why the United States has military personnel in 175 countries and seems to be perpetually at war, War No More may well convince you that the abolition of war is actually possible.

— D. Driftless

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