Ending War

November 24th, 2009

By Jan Barry 

War_EndArmy Captain Paul K. Chappell attended West Point with an unusual goal, “determined to study war the way a doctor studies an illness.” What he found in his studies and in a war tour in Iraq was a pragmatic way of envisioning what it would take to create a cure for war fever. “In the U.S. Army, as in ancient Greece, the most admired trait in soldiers is not their ability to kill but their willingness to sacrifice for their friends,” Chappell notes in his new book, Will War Ever End? A Soldier’s Vision of Peace for the 21st Century(Ashoka Books, 2009). His book argues that soldiers and folks at home, in order to protect each other, should mount a concerted campaign to wind down warmaking, due to the massively deadly threat of military escalation in the nuclear age. A better way of dealing with international disputes, he contends, is to adapt nonviolent tactics to produce conflict resolution that de-escalates violence.

In an essay titled “How Patriotism Can Save America,” posted earlier this year on The Huffington Post and other websites, Chappell summed up his call for peace actions in terms that echo the stance of Veterans For Peace and other antiwar vets groups: “With the survival of our planet now at stake, our country needs patriotic Americans to question, think critically, and pioneer this democratic experiment. Now more than ever, our country needs us to help it become a beacon of hope that exports peace instead of war.” Chappell, who served seven years on active duty after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 2002, is the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

In his book, Chappell argues that the war on terrorism “can never be won with an army alone, because terrorism is not a place we can occupy or a dictator we can overthrow.” He also notes “how multiple deployments have pushed many soldiers to the breaking point.” He argues that military actions are stoking the hatred fueling angry people who use terrorism as a tactic in fighting for their beliefs and causes. “If we are going to win the war on terrorism … the United States will require many more soldiers, and not just soldiers who are armed with guns. … During the challenging years ahead, our planet will need soldiers of peace who understand this truth of our brotherhood, because our survival in an interconnected world will not depend upon our ability to wage war. The fate of humanity will depend upon our willingness to wage peace.”

Chappell grew up in a military family, where his view of war’s widespread consequences was shaped by his father’s raging threats to shoot himself. His mother, he adds, grew up in Japan during World War II and then moved to Korea, where her family endured the Korean War, where Chappell’s father began a 30-year military career, which also included combat in Vietnam. “Throughout my childhood, I watched my father lose his grip on reality … Rage overshadowed his once peaceful nature, and when I heard him complain about violent nightmares, I realized that something called war had taken my gentle father from me … when I was a teenager, I wanted to know if war will ever end.”

At West Point, Chappell studied peacemakers as well as warmakers. Gandhi, he discovered, was a British army medic during the Boer War in South Africa, where he took close measure of the British military culture that he outmaneuvered to gain India’s independence with a nonviolent campaign. Chappell found that some other West Pointers had come to the same conclusion as Gandhi. His book quotes General Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address as president, in which he warned that “another war could utterly destroy this civilization” and that people must learn “to compose differences” without war.

Chappell found a model for banishing war in the 19th century campaigns to ban slavery. “Slavery existed on a global scale for thousands of years, but due to the courageous actions of our ancestors who fought this injustice, no country today sanctions slavery. Together we have the capacity to create a world where countries no longer sanction war.”

He was struck by how hard the military has had to work to train and prod soldiers to fight a battle, rather than flee for safety. This is proof, he argues, that humans don’t have a gene for waging wars. And he took note of General Omar Bradley’s comment after leading armies in World War II: “Modern war visits destruction on the victor and the vanquished alike. Our only complete assurance of surviving World War III is to halt it before it starts.” Reflecting on his own military career, which started at West Point and spanned two world wars, Bradley stated, in a 1948 Memorial Day speech: “Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked.”

In the foreword to Will War Ever End?, Lt. Col. (ret.) Dave Grossman noted “there is cause to hope, and believe, that there can be an end to war. The West has won the Cold War without resorting to mega-death … In recent years we have exercised the choice to step back from the brink of nuclear destruction.” Chappell is currently finishing a sequel titled The End of War, designed to offer what Grossman calls a “toolbox” of information on peace actions.

For more information:

Will War Ever End?,  paulkchappell.com
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

(This article was also posted at EarthAirWater.)


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2 Responses to “Ending War”



  1. Tom |

    The answer to the question “Will War Ever End?” is pretty obvious. No, it won’t. As long as peoples and nations have conflicting goals and interests (and they always will), there will be conflicts.

    It does no good too philosophize about just war theory and wars of choice versus wars of necessity. We can’t even agree on what those constructs mean, much less how or if they apply to specific conflicts. One thing is beyond question: We can’t continue as we have in the past few years. We simply don’t have the necessary forces, political will, money, or public support.

    I think there are a few practical things we could do that would have the effect of limiting extensive involvement in future wars:

    — While the concept of a “declaration of war” has come to be fairly meaningless, the president’s war powers should be further limited to require a specifically-worded joint resolution of Congress before large-scale commitments of military forces in conflicts can be made. Not just authorizing funds or approving vague language that gives the president a virtual blank check, but specific language.

    — Funding for military operations of all kinds must be included in the DOD budget (and other budgets, as required). No more off-budget funding like we’ve had for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    — There must be immediate tax increases to pay for military operations in wars and conflicts. No more “guns and butter.”

    — The people must have a greater stake in the military. It’s just too easy to send our volunteer forces off to combat while the rest of us continue to live our comfortable lives. I don’t want to see a return to conscription because our armed forces, particularly the Army, are better off without it. However, the families of America have to care more in personal terms about the military. Nothing will focus their attention more than the prospect of a son or daughter in combat. Perhaps that can be achieved with an overall program of required national service, one component of which could be military service.

    — The so-called Powell Doctrine should be taught in high schools and universities, and politicians should be required to address the questions inherent in that doctrine, all of which must be answered in the affirmative, before military forces go to war:

    1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
    2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
    3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
    4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
    5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
    6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
    7. Is the action supported by the American people?
    8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

    We can do a much better job of keeping peace and limiting wars in both frequency and intensity if we take these steps, in addition to maintaining military forces capable of responding to threats wherever necessary.


  2. Harvey |

    When all men have given up their convictions and have rid themselves of their passions, war will finally end. I fervently hope that day never gets here.


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