||The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives||A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
But the culture of war is not sustainable. This became clear when I worked during the 1970's and 1980's as a scientist in the old Soviet Union. The Soviets tried to match the West in military spending on top of an economy only half as large as the West. To do so they had to devote 80-90% of their scientists and engineers to the military, which was double the percentage in the West. Their production of useful products suffered as a result, both for the needs of their own citizens, and for their exports. Eventually, imports outstripped exports, the balance of payments became worse and worse, and finally the ruble collapsed. Meanwhile, over the years the Soviets had lost the support of their people. The same secrecy that hid the negative balance of payments was used to hide information from the public. The Russian people used to say, "You can find the news anywhere except in Izvestia and the truth anywhere except in Pravda", the government newspapers named "news" and "truth" in Russian. The combination of the disastrous war in Afghanistan and the disastrous explosion of Chernobyl destroyed what faith might otherwise have remained. Hence when the economy collapsed at the end of the 1980's, no one went to streets to save it and the military, the last resort for the culture of war, stayed in their barracks.
Now the same scenario is being played out by the American Empire. The quantity and quality of civilian goods manufactured and exported by the U.S. decreases each year as its dependence continues to rise on bases and interventions abroad and military spending at home. The U.S. has tried to hide the high proportion of military spending over the years by distributing it to separate accounts (nuclear weapons are in the Department of Energy), keeping it secret (the secret budget of the CIA) or exaggerating the size of the non-military budget (by including social security). Meanwhile, the American people have lost faith in national institutions such as the media and government. Polls in recent years have shown that confidence in government, either the Presidency, the Congress or the Supreme Court has fallen to an all-time low. The disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the failure to protect New Orleans are destroying whatever faith might have remained. When the American economy collapses, who will go to the streets to save the government? And will the military, demoralized by Iraq and Afghanistan, leave its barracks to intervene?
History teaches us that the crises in Russia and the U.S. are not exceptions, and that state systems, being based on the culture of war, collapse from time to time. It is at the moment of such collapse that transitions become possible. For example, at the end of the two World Wars in the 20th Century, when state systems collapsed, they were replaced by revolutionary governments. Unfortunately, since these new revolutionary governments were established by movements organized according to the culture of war, the new governments were no less cultures of war than those that they replaced. Similarly, in the 1930's with the collapse of the global economy, many governments collapsed and were replaced. Unfortunately, in many cases the new states were fascist, with fascism being the extreme case of the culture of war in all respects.
Without being able to predict a precise date, we can expect within the next few decades that the American Empire and the globalized economy associated with it will crash as did the world economy in 1929 and the Soviet economy in 1989. This time, the interdependence of states in the global economy is greater than in 1929 and we may expect massive failures of states around the world. The suffering of people will probably be greater than after 1929 because people are now much more concentrated in cities than they were a century ago. At least in the 1930's they could subsist on the family farms, but most of these farms have long since disappeared.
A global crash sets the stage for two possible political solutions which are diametrically opposite. One is a strengthening of the culture of war at the level of the state into fascism which was the predominant reaction in the 1930's. The other is the reorganization of the world's political structure to be based on cities and local governments rather than states. The latter would provide a golden opportunity for a transition to the culture of peace.
A third possibility seems unlikely according to the present analysis: the transformation of the state to a culture of peace. It is unlikely because it is not only the state that is entangled in the culture of war, but the entire structure of industry and media linked to it, the military-industrial-media complex. The roots of this structure involve far more than a simple analysis of military forces might suggest. Instead, its roots extend into the exploitative economic systems between and within nations, corruption at all levels of which the drugs-for-guns trade is only the most extreme, as well as attitudes about nationalism. Nationalist attitudes are associated with enemy images, male and racial supremacy, and belief in the efficacy of violence, and they are constantly being reinforced at all levels from the family to the media to election campaigns, to the systems of education at all levels from primary education to the universities and academic specialists. And finally, the last resort of state power is to rely on military force for the maintenance of its power. The experience of the 1930's indicates that the response to an economic crash in the absence of a viable alternative culture of peace often tends towards nationalism and the reliance on internal military force leading towards fascism.
To avoid the "fascist solution," we must continue and intensify efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and educate people to recognize the danger signs and resist the government-industrial-financial conspiracies that move a country towards authoritarian rule.
People ask me when the American Empire will collapse, and my response is "Much too soon, because we are not prepared for it." And I refer them to an article of Johan Galtung (2004), On the Coming Decline and Fall of the U.S. Empire. One takes Galtung especially seriously because in 1980 he predicted the collapse of the Soviet Empire within 10 years and he was precisely correct. In the year 2000 Galtung predicted that the U.S. Empire would collapse in 2025, but in his 2004 article he says that the ill-conceived actions of President George W. Bush brings the end forward to 2020: In any case, we have little time!
My utopian novel, I Have Seen the Promised Land (Adams 2009), imagines a scenario of a crash of the American empire and the global economy in 2020 and a subsequent transition to a culture of peace by replacing representation of Member States on the UN Security Council by representation of local government authorities. It has been a useful exercise for me to write this scenario, and I hope that readers will find it equally useful.
Although the crash of the global economy will provide an opportunity for restructuring world government, it will also be a disaster for ordinary people. Supermarket shelves will be empty when there is no fuel for trucks to transport food and no fuel for production by agrobusiness. After the supermarket shelves are emptied (which could happen in a few days time), it will not be long before the cities are emptied of people. In the countryside, the few remaining family farms and organic cooperatives will be swamped with uninvited visitors.
Many young people have already thought about this scenario and have begun working on alternative local agriculture. These young people are a solid base on which the new culture of peace can be developed, and it is recommended that culture of peace commissions seek them out and involve them in their work.
End of chapter
The History of the Culture of War