People who plan wars know they need to devise strategies so they can win. Likewise, we who want to achieve peace – and to abolish nuclear weapons – must also devise strategies so we can achieve peace and abolish nuclear weapons.
How could we adapt their war-making strategies into peace-making strategies? Below I’m listing a few of the classic military strategies and asking how we could use those insights to help us devise smart strategies to abolish nuclear weapons.
Concentrate force at the weakest link. Military strategists figure out where their adversaries are weakest and focus their attacks at those points.
Nonviolent grassroots movements (such as the movement to abolish nuclear weapons) know that in order to change public policies we need to bring more and more people into our peace movements, so – before we can effectively “target” the government with our full nonviolent force – we must first reach out to the public (and a wide variety of constituencies and sectors within the general public) and strengthen our nonviolent movement for peace.
Now, after nearly 77 years, the U.S. government’s obsession with nuclear weapons has relied upon consent from the public that meekly allows:
- The possession of thousands of nuclear weapons
- The willingness to let our government decide when to launch them
- The enormous spending for nuclear weapons
- The persistent failure to meet civilian needs (ending poverty, providing health care, cleaning the environment, etc.)
- The ignorance and denial about the impossibility of any solution for nuclear waste related to weapons and energy
- You might be able to think of more kinds of public support beyond the five listed above
It’s important for us to recognize that the public consent that allows these six factors about nuclear weapons is not so much an active kind of support, but mostly a silent acquiescence to a status quo that none of us has had a serious voice in deciding. The government made those decisions and imposed them upon us. Public consent has been engineered to be meek, compliant and quiet.
Which of the six factors I listed above are weak points in the government’s program? How weak is the government’s case in the powerlessness and compliance I mentioned in the paragraph immediately above? How could we adapt the militarists’ strategy of attacking the weakest link to devise strategies to inform, inspire, and activate the public to undermine the weakest factors in the six I listed above?
Maintain surprise. Keep the initiative. Don’t do what the opponent expects you to do.
The peace movement is generally very predictable. We maintain a small, ongoing voice. We do the usual things. Some of our activities are practically choreographed. It is easy for the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Media Complex to pigeonhole us and ignore us. They keep us powerless – partly because we fail to strategize clever and unpredictable ways to change the power dynamics. We play our role as “the loyal opposition,” and this allows everyone (including the public) to ignore us.
If we really want to abolish nuclear weapons, we must organize some strategically savvy surprises! Unexpected grassroots uprisings thrust issues into the public spotlight and change the political realities. They create opportunities expressed in the World Social Forum’s slogan, “Another world is possible!”
These surprising grassroots initiatives captured the public imagination and moved progressive issues ahead:
- The Nuclear Weapons Freeze movement starting in town hall meetings in the NE swept across the nation.
- The Stonewall Uprising launched the modern LGBTQ movement.
- Occupy Wall Street spread throughout the U.S. and into some other nations.
Let’s take the initiative and figure out some strategically savvy surprises! What strategies and activities could we do now – and in the near future – and next after that – toward building the grassroots movement to abolish nuclear weapons?
The moral factor is superior to material resources. I had not been aware of this as a military strategy. This certainly seems to be something we can use when we devise strategies for abolishing nuclear weapons.
I had not been aware of this third military strategy, so I don’t know what it means. Let’s figure this out and strategize how to take advantage of it.
Generally the peace movement sees peace as more moral than war. However, the general public sees war as necessary (although unfortunate), so it sees war as practical and even morally better than letting an aggressor win (either attacking the U.S. or prevailing over another country that the U.S. feels entitled to defend).
The peace movement – and the movement against nuclear weapons – could make more progress if we were to address “the moral factor” with better insights and nuances than our simplistic self-righteousness over the war-hawks. Let’s engage the public (and also moral authorities in the religious community and also the media and politicians) by re-framing “the moral factor” and provoking a more thoughtful conversation about war, nuclear weapons, ethics, etc.
Endure. The military knows that it must survive and persist until it eventually wins. The peace movement (and the movement against nuclear weapons) must know this too. We see ourselves as long-term strugglers.
We must devise strategies to sustain and grow the movements for peace and against nuclear weapons. We must endure and grow until we win. In addition to my series of 6 workshops that strengthen people’s skills and resources for organizing nonviolent grassroots issues, I want to develop a different workshop that will specifically help people endure and persist until we win. Contact me if you’re interested in taking that workshop.