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Glen H. Stassen

Just Peacemaking


As debates about war in Iraq rolled over and through churches and church members like a tidal wave, we saw the deep need for teaching Christian ethical criteria about peace and war—well in advance of a specific conflict. That teaching needs to be concrete and deeply rooted in Christian formation to survive the hot winds of secular ideologies. But which ethics should we teach? Most churches will teach both pacifism and just war theory in order explicitly to include diverse church members in the discussion, and rightly so. But the national debate of recent months has demonstrated dramatically that this is not enough.

Pacifism and just war theory are crucially important, and every church member and every Christian ethics student should know both of them well. Furthermore, they should engage in a process of discernment to know which ethic is right for their community of faith and for them. And they should be given deep biblical, spiritual, and character formation so they care deeply about this discernment, and about the destruction of war and the need for peacemaking. But pacifism and just war theory are not enough alone. They need help in a major way. As usually taught, they are usually two-dimensional (war or no war); and they need a third dimension (peacemaking practices or no peacemaking practices).

Pacifism and just war theory, for all their necessity and importance, usually cast the debate as “just say no”—or yes, in the case of just wars. Before the Iraqi war, Time Magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan argued that the war met just war criteria, while Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas countered by arguing decisively for nonviolence and pacifism.[1] Sullivan argued that there was no reasonable alternative for dealing with Saddam Hussein and his (alleged) weapons of mass destruction. Because Hauerwas did not respond to this claim that there was no reasonable alternative, and offered no other resort, many felt Sullivan won the debate. To his credit, Hauerwas said “Nonviolence means finding alternatives to the notion that it is ultimately a matter of kill or be killed.” But the only alternative he suggested was “asking the many Christians in Iraq what we can do to make their lives more bearable.”

Likewise, at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics in January, ethicist James Childress incisively examined the impending war in the light of just war theory, concluding firmly that this war would not be just. Respondents agreed, but asked, “What is the alternative?” Childress replied, “I don’t know.” He was doing just war theory; he was not responsible for suggesting constructive alternatives. Similarly, placards nationwide read: “War is not the answer.” Some responded: “Then what is the answer?”

I want to be clear that ever since we emerged from graduate school, I have counted Hauerwas and Childress as friends, and I respect their work greatly. We share many loyalties, and we have done numerous projects together. I am not trying to criticize them, but to point to the work of the best, as they use their paradigms. Nor am I trying to criticize pacifism and just war theory. I am seeking to argue decisively that these two traditional paradigms need something in addition in order to strengthen what they do. The twenty-three of us who created just peacemaking theory are ourselves all either pacifists (in some cases) or just war theorists (in most cases). We want to strengthen the two traditional paradigms and make them more convincing, not less. We want them to give them additional ammunition so that they persuade, so that they win the national debate.

Why Wars are Always Initially Supported

We need to be realistic. The public opinion polls during the buildup to the Iraqi war disclose a powerful reality that our ethics has been overlooking: just arguing no to a war is bound to lose in the national debate. In January of 2003, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal asked, “Do you think that the United States should take military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq?” War was called by a bland term, “take military action to remove… from power.” Taking action is considered a good thing in American culture—much better than being passive. Removing a dictator from power is also a good thing. No consequences of the war such as deaths of people, increasing Arab hostility against the United States, or increasing the anger of terrorists were named in the question. Clearly the poll question was biased in favor of the war; NBC is owned by a military-industrial corporation. Of those polled, 56% said yes to military action, and 36% said no. A CNN/USA poll with similar wording got virtually the same result—56% yes, 38% no.

This was in spite of worldwide opposition to the war, unprecedented near-unanimity against the war among church leaders who issued statements, the largest pre-war demonstrations against a war in U.S. history, and failure to get support of more than two members besides the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council in spite of powerful U.S. financial and political pressure. Is there some realism here that should be learned from this?

Americans initially supported every war in the 20th century, including even the Vietnam War, which failed all eight criteria of just war theory, and which ultimately was viewed as a mistake by 80% of Americans. 56 % for the Iraq War was lower than for any American war in the twentieth century. But the reality is that data show Americans support any war the president favors—initially. So it is no surprise that the majority supported this war, initially.

In his book, War, Presidents, and Public Opinion, political scientist John Mueller analyzed polling data about the Korean and the Vietnam Wars.[2]  My analysis of his data indicates that some 20% of Americans will support any American war out of national loyalty—the “rally-round-the-flag” factor. About 17% support a war because the president supports it—the “deference-to-authority” factor. When a war begins, this factor doubles to about 35%--the “support our troops” factor.  Then there is the “threat-from-the enemy” factor—worth about 16% when the phrase “to stop the Communist invasion” was added to survey questions during the Korean War. Presidents regularly dramatize or even exaggerate the threat posed by the enemy, as President Bush did in claiming that Iraq had both extensive weapons of mass destruction, and connections with Al Qaeda. In addition, some Americans support a war that they consider to be a “just war,” even apart from these factors. When these factors are added together, it is abundantly clear why a majority of Americans initially supported the recent war and every war in the 20th century, even wars that turned out badly.

The conclusion is clear: to argue against a war at the time when it is close to being initiated without articulating a clear alternative is almost a guaranteed way to lose. It is to play into the hands of those who want to say the war is supported by the people. If we are to be realistic, our ethic needs something more.

But Just War Theory and Pacifism Are Important

I want to reanalyze Mueller’s data and enter an important qualification of his interpretation of his own data—not on the point I have made thus far, but on the influence of just war theory on public opinion as a war proceeds. Mueller argued that moral arguments about the injustice of the Vietnam War had no discernible effect in the polls on support or opposition for the war. What did have influence was the number of body bags coming home. In spite of increasing demonstrations against the war by both pacifists and persons convinced the war was unjust, and despite intellectuals’ arguments that the war was unjust, these did not seem to affect the polls about the war. Furthermore, “What the tables actually suggest… is that the ‘hawk’-‘dove’ categorization is quite inadequate to explain popular opinion on the wars…. Followers tend to reject proposals for forceful or accommodating policies in the abstract if they imply an alteration of ‘our’ present course, but once the president has adopted the new policy many in the group will follow his lead…. If the administration is using force, followers will respond like hawks; if it is seeking peace, they will respond like doves.” (71). The latter sentence, that people will initially support presidential leadership, either in making peace or in making war, I do believe is supported by extensive political science data. But not the rejection of the influence of the injustice of a war.

Mueller acknowledges that “support in both wars declined from initial high levels to lower levels…. However, the pace of the transitions differed considerably: the drop of support in Korea was precipitous after the Chinese entered the war, but support for Vietnam declined considerably more gradually. Therefore…. It does not seem to be the case that the decline of war support has been related to the duration of the war in any simple manner. Such a relation works fairly well in the Vietnam case, but in Korea there was a large drop in support over a relatively short period of time during the winter of 1950-1951; thus, unlike Vietnam, support did not decline continually as time went by” (59).

Instead, he argues, support for the two wars declined in proportion to the number of body bags coming home. His “body-bag hypothesis” has had much influence both in government policy and in the public mind. (Hence the Bush administration does not allow photographs of body bags coming home from the Iraqi War or from the guerrilla war continuing after the mission was allegedly accomplished.)

But support for the two wars actually did not decline in proportion to the number of body bags coming home, and Mueller notices this. “While casualties continued to mount in the last two years of the Korean War, there was no corresponding drop in support. And, after a few years in the Vietnam War, casualties were being suffered at increasing rates; yet support continued to decline at a relatively gentle pace not really reflecting this mounting casualty rate” (59-60—italics added). Therefore, he hypothesizes that the support declined with the logarithm of the total number of casualties. “A rise from 100 to 1000 is taken as the same as one from 10,000 to 100,000” (60).

Yet I point out that this too fits the data poorly. Unlike Vietnam, support for the Korean War “did not decline continually as time went by,” nor did it decline as body bags kept coming home. When China entered the war, support dropped precipitously from 66% to 39% (December 1950 poll). But subsequent to that one-time drop, support was 41, 43, 45, 42, 39,  (and then an increase to 47 after the peace talks had begun), 37, 39, 36, 37, 50 (January, 1953, after Ike visited Korea). This is not a decline at all from the 39% in December 1950 to January 1953. By contrast, support percentages for the Vietnam War declined very steadily from 61% in August 1965 to 28% in May, 1971: 61, 59, 49, 48, 51, 52, 50, 48, 44, 46, 42, 41, 40, 35, 37, 39, 32, 33, 32, 34, 36, 31, 28. I propose that support for the Korean War stayed steady because people realized that though costly, it was a just war. Support for the Vietnam War dropped steadily as more and more people realized it was not only costly but also unjust. That matches his data much more closely. In the just war, support stayed steady—at 40%. In the unjust war, support declined more and more—from 61% to 28%.

Another way to test the rival hypotheses is to pay attention to the polls during the long-lasting and very costly World War II (which Mueller fails to do). Far more body bags came home from that war. But it was widely judged to be a just war (in spite of the obliteration bombing). Did the support decline with the body bags, or did it stay high with the perceived justice of the war? It stayed high through the end of the war. Support did not decrease, as it did not decrease for the Korean War. Mueller does report a Gallup poll in early 1944, in which only 14% thought it was a mistake for us to have entered this war, and 77% thought it was not a mistake. In 1945, when it was clearly being won, support increased to the 90% level. The threat-from-the-enemy factor was higher for WWII, support for FDR was higher, nationalism was higher with total mobilization, and the justice of the war was higher--because Hitler was so thoroughly evil.

Both in the Korean War and WWII, the body-bag hypothesis fails; the just war hypothesis succeeds. A confirming measure is that desertions were few during WWII, but high during the Vietnam War. Those who saw the Vietnam War first-hand knew it was unjust, and many deserted. The conclusion surely is that just war theory is important, especially as people assess a war when they see how it is being conducted. This is an important correction of Mueller’s hypothesis for policy and for ethics.

Mueller does not test for this alternative hypothesis. It is odd that he does not publish the graph generated by his hypothesis so we can see where it matches and where it fails to match. The only alternative hypothesis that he considers is unemployment and consumer prices. Unemployment decreased and inflation increased during both wars, and unemployment increased after both wars. Even here, he does not measure an hypothesis related to these variables.

Mueller’s Table 4.6 may give an indication of people’s growing sense of the wrongness of the war in Vietnam. “People are called ‘hawks’ if they want to step up our military effort in Vietnam. They are called ‘doves’ if they want to reduce our military effort in Vietnam. How would you describe yourself—as a ‘hawk’ or a ‘dove’?” In December 1967, the hawks won 52/35. It stayed about the same in January, and February: 56/28, 61/23, and 58/26. But by March, April, and October it was a virtual tie: 41/42, 41/41, and 44/42. And a year later, November 1969, it had become doves over hawks by 55/31. 

Having said a word for just war theory, let me also say a word for pacifism. It was pacifists in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Friends Meeting who got me to focus on the wrongness of the Vietnam War at its very inception. They organized a rice dinner so we could identify with the people of Vietnam, and did a teach-in about the injustice of the war. It led me to do teach-ins from the beginning, and to be highly active in opposition throughout that war. Only somewhat later did Michael Walzer’s and Ralph Potter’s teaching on just war theory and Vietnam enter into my critical awareness. I want to give my support to teaching pacifism, as well as to teaching just war theory, with full persuasiveness. Not all students or all church members will be convinced by only one of these paradigms, and they should not be left without an ethic.[3]

Church leaders who opposed the Iraqi war against the forces of nationalism, deference to presidential authority, and the alleged threat from the enemy might receive encouragement from the fact that the initial support for the Iraqi war was the lowest initial support in history. They were rightly in touch with the Christian ethics of just war theory or pacifism. Like prophets, they were in touch with the truth that would eventually come out: the weapons of mass destruction were not there; the model of making war unilaterally against the advice of the international community is not one what we want other nations to emulate; the world--and especially the Arab world--would greatly resent the unilateralism of an “arrogant empire”; and rebuilding Iraq after the war would be much more problematic than the administration was leading us and itself to believe.

Mueller’s data do show decisively that if people see that a war is not working out well, support declines. The Korean War and the Vietnam War eventually became widely unpopular, and the parties in power lost their next presidential bids. So did the elder president Bush, after Iraq continued to be a problem and U.S. deficits and unemployment grew.  This time as well, since the claimed weapons of mass destruction are not found, the political future in Iraq does not match the administration’s promise, and the damage to the U. S. economy from the costs of war and the withdrawal of foreign investment from the U.S stock market hurts the economy, support is dropping significantly.

Opposing a War Wins Only When it Focuses on a Clear Alternative

Articulating a clear alternative to war fares much better in the national debate. During the buildup to the recent war, much of the peace movement focused on the alternative: “Let the inspections work.” On February 10, February 24, and March 4, the CBS News Poll asked, “Should the United States take military action against Iraq fairly soon, or should the United States wait and give the United Nations weapons inspectors more time?” Respondents preferred the clear alternative of giving inspectors more time by a ratio of almost two to one: 59% to 37%; 62% to 36%; and 60% to 35%. This debate was won by the war’s opponents, assisted by reports from the UN inspection team that weapons of mass destruction were not being found, and that Iraq was cooperating with the inspectors’ demands for immediate access anywhere, overflights, and destruction of those slightly over-range missiles. Therefore, the White House shifted its argument from the alleged threat of the elusive weapons of mass destruction to the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and a promise to bring democracy with human rights to Iraq. President Bush thus committed himself verbally to the “nation-building” that he had previously opposed.

Similarly, Americans thought--by about a two-to-one majority--that the United States should wait for approval from the United Nations before waging war. Hence President Bush shifted from originally contending that he did not need a UN vote to going to the UN and stating he would ask for UN approval before waging the war.

Did articulating a clear alternative also fare better during the national debate over the Vietnam War? Because that war began surreptitiously, the opposition awoke only after war had begun. Therefore, it had to concentrate on a hard-to-support alternative—U. S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Withdrawal would be seen as an admission of defeat. Nevertheless, support for this alternative grew steadily from 16% in the fall of 1964 to 57% in January 1969. Then in June 1969, a poll question stated that “President Nixon has ordered a withdrawal of 25,000 American troops from Vietnam,” and asked people if they approved. It got 64% approval. In 1971, three polls asked if people would like their Representative in Congress to vote to bring all US troops home from Vietnam before the end of the year. Support was 72%, 66%, and 68%. This was especially significant; it meant withdrawing sooner than the president intended.

A strategically important realism is speaking to us from these data: If the president advocates a war, and the question is simply whether or not to support the war, majorities will say yes. Posing the ethical question that way is almost a guaranteed way to lose the national debate. The reality is that an ethic that focuses on a constructive alternative has a much better chance to win the debate.

Likewise, the prophets of Israel did not just say no to war, but spelled out the changes, the repentance, the practices of justice and wisdom that were necessary in order to avoid the judgment and destruction of war.[4] Jesus did not just say no to anger and revengeful resistance, but commanded the transforming initiative of going to make peace with your brother or sister; and going the second mile (Matt 5:21-25, 38-42)[5].

Just Peacemaking as Hermeneutical Key for Constructive, Preventive Strategies on Terrorism

Just peacemaking theory is designed to point to a set of constructive alternatives that are realistic in the sense that each just peacemaking practice has demonstrated its effectiveness in preventing some wars in actual historical context. The ten just peacemaking practices are supported by various theological-ethical approaches: the twenty-three authors come from different branches of theological ethics. But each practice is already being implemented in various historical contexts, and each has demonstrated empirically for political science that it has a preventive effect.

My assignment is to ask, How does just peacemaking theory point to a foreign policy that fits our historical context more realistically, with particular focus on the threat of terrorism? A strength of just peacemaking theory is that its ten practices are historically situated. Their effectiveness is being demonstrated in actual practice, in recent and present history. Hence I will not discuss the just peacemaking practices one at a time, as isolated practices, but instead I shall look briefly at several cases or issues in the current struggle to prevent international terrorism, suggesting how some of the practices point us in a different and more contextually fitting direction than present policy. Looking at one case or issue at a time will have the advantage of being historically contextualized and engaged. It will also have the advantage that terrorism will not be reduced to only one dimension. But it will have the disadvantage of not laying out one practice at a time for clear definition. That has been done already in many places. My assignment is to suggest several dimensions of an effective anti-terrorism policy as seen from the perspective of just peacemaking theory as a hermeneutical key. This means I must be suggestive; I cannot analyze in the depth that each issue deserves. Each of the dimensions deserves a paper in itself; and each in the hands of other interpreters can suggest other insights.[6]

Just peacemaking is a hermeneutical key: it alerts us to practices that are historically effective in preventing terrorism. It will lead us to see several different dimensions of an effective policy. It will not lead all of us to see exactly the same implications, but it will lead us to fruitful angles of vision.

Turkish and Russian Antiterrorism Compared

Turkey has wrestled with decades of terrorism by ethnic-minority, Muslim Kurds in southeastern Turkey seeking independence, just as Russia has wrestled with terrorism by ethnic-minority, Muslim Chechens in southern Russian seeking independence. A comparison is instructive. Russia chose a scorched-earth military approach, attacking repeatedly with large force. The result has been enormous devastation, many deaths, and no end to terrorism. Fareed Zakaria wrote in December, 2003, that in the four previous months,

seven Chechen suicide bombers, all but one of them women, have detonated explosives that have taken 165 lives, including their own…. In the early 1990s, there were no Chechen suicide bombers, despite a growing, violent movement against Russian rule…. Reporters who covered the Chechen war in the early 1990s mostly agree that there were very few “international Islamists” —Saudis, Afghans, Yemenis—present. They grew in numbers… as a direct result of the “brutal, botched and unnecessary” Russian military intervention of 1994-96.[7]

Turkey had an analogous and very serious problem with the Kurdish rebellion and terrorism led by the PKK (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan). It had killed more than 30,000 persons since its beginning in 1984. The Turkish army had been attacking them with widespread force, but in the mid-1990s, they developed a much more disciplined approach to avoid attacking civilians, and introduced health and education for the Kurdish area.[8] One just peacemaking practice is sustainable economic development, and the key to that is community development--development of the civic society of local communities. Kurdish areas have been economically worse off and neglected by the central government. But in a change of course to pay attention to sustainable economic development, the government “initiated huge investments in the southeast, exemplified by the $32 billion Southeastern Anatolia Project, to improve the long-languishing region’s economic prospects. Indeed, between 1983 and 1992 the southeast received twice as much investment per capita as any other region in Turkey….”[9]  “Considerable economic development has taken place.” Recognition was given to Kurdish language and community customs. The government invested extensively in improving education, including for girls and women. Instead of trying to break down Kurdish tribal structures, as previously attempted, they gave them recognition and sought to enlist them in the struggle for economic development, community development, and political representation.[10] 

Another just peacemaking practice has been to advance human rights, democracy, and religious liberty. Kurds have gained actually more representation in the Turkish parliament than their proportion of the population. This has been in part a response to pressure from the Western European Union and Turkey’s drive to be accepted as a member off the WEU. The Kurds have seen the move toward joining the WEU as promising them improved democratization as well as economic development.[11] “Civil associations in Turkey are growing in strength and exerting increasingly effective pressure on the government…. The election of Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a prominent democrat from the judicial establishment, to the country’s presidency could also have a positive effect….”[12]

The pressure, and the allure, of the WEU suggests the importance of working with emerging cooperative forces in the international system--another practice of just peacemaking. And the international community was also important in arresting Ocalan, the leader of the terrorist organization. He had been living in Syria, safe from Turkey’s military, but Syria expelled him as part of its effort to improve relations with Turkey and international pressure against terrorism. Ocalan sought refuge in Italy and other countries, but instead Italy arrested him.

Turkey then negotiated with him, and achieved his cooperation in ending the terrorism in exchange for forgoing the death penalty.  Here is the just peacemaking practice of cooperative conflict resolution. “In 1996 the journalist Franz Schurmann called the PKK ‘the biggest guerrilla insurgency in the world.’” But by May, 2000, the PKK had basically quit.[13] 

The painful and tragic irony is that recently we have seen two more days of terrorism in Turkey. But they were not Kurdish terrorism against the Turks. They were apparently Al Qaeda terrorism against Israel and the British-American “coalition of the willing.” As president Bush and prime minister Tony Blair were meeting in London, Nov. 20, 2003, terrorists attacked the London-based HSBC bank and the British consulate. Twenty-six people were killed, including British Consul Roger Short was killed.  Five days previously, two Jewish synagogues in Istanbul were bombed, killing twenty-three people and wounding more than 300. There had been several small attacks on UK and US diplomatic premises April 3, April 8, May 31, and June 11.[14] 

It is a tragic symbol. It symbolizes that the anger in Turkey has been shifted from Kurdish anger against the government to terrorist anger against Israel and the alliance between the U. S. and Britain. It might suggest what works and what does not work in combating terrorism.

Rewarding Terrorists?

This also may help us think through to a clearer answer to the objection often raised, that “we must not reward terrorists.” Turkey did not reward the PKK terrorists; they went after them in a carefully targeted way. They separated them from the people by energetic action for justice for the people. They convinced the Kurds that their future was better with Turkey than with the ideology of the terrorists. They undermined the ability of the terrorists to recruit more support, and they enlisted international forces in arresting the leader of the PKK.

Terrorists thrive by identifying themselves with just demands of the people. A policy that fears rewarding terrorists easily becomes a policy that avoids doing justice for people. If a region is being oppressed, and the terrorists identify with that oppression, doing justice for the people is not rewarding terrorists, it is doing justice. Hence just peacemaking focuses our attention on justice, on sustainable economic development, and on human rights, democracy, and religious liberty. And in this case, Turkey rewarded Ocalan for his cooperation by keeping him imprisoned but not seeking the death penalty.

The belief that “we must not reward terrorists” derives in part from a stimulus-response view of human nature, which may also connect with the ideology of a market-consumerist view of human nature. It also connects with a punitive and retributive—and authoritarian—attitude, and with the Munich image that fears rewarding aggressors. An example is the Bush administration’s problems dealing with North Korea that have gone so very badly seem to stem from a declared unwillingness to continue the accord worked out by former president Carter that supported alternative energy sources that do not produce nuclear weapons fuel, and its unwillingness to negotiate a non-aggression agreement, because it might reward the North Korean government. Social movements are far more complicated than mere behaviorist understanding, or the Munich image, assumes. People are not merely the rationalistic model of stimulus/response to be rewarded or punished; they perceive in complex ways and they have complex drives. One must ask what drives for justice, security, honor, and cultural recognition are involved, and what initiatives and what policies make sense and work effectively to prevent terrorism.

An analogous point is made by Rob de Wijk of the Royal Military Academy in Leiden. Strategies of deterrence or coercion developed for interstate war do not work in terrorism

because the coercers—the United States and its allies—must clearly indicate that the war is not against the Afghan people, but against terrorists and the regime supporting them. Thus there are no civilian populations (such as the Soviet people in the Cold War) to threaten in the effective use of coercion. Worse, excessive military force could split the fragile Islamic alliance that is cooperating with the United States in the war against terrorism…. For that reason, humanitarian aid for the civilian population accompanied the initial attacks on Afghanistan in early October 2001.[15]

The point is to separate the terrorists from the people, and to do justice for the people so they separate from the terrorists. As Susan Thistlethwaite writes, “The spiral of violence will end only when justice is done. No amount of retaliatory violence will give us security in the age of terrorism.”[16]

Biological Weapons

The biggest fear is chemical and biological weapons, and especially biological weapons. One can see this throughout the most recent literature on terrorism.[17] If terrorists use biological weapons, the diseases may be spreading for a week before the first outbreak of symptoms, and medical personnel are not likely to diagnose what they are for another week or so, so the disease may have spread to many cities. “The United States has a profound interest in preventing other countries from testing nuclear arms and stopping rogue regimes and terrorists from acquiring biological weapons. Despite their imperfections, the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Biological Weapons Convention] would advance these important goals. If the United States rejects the restraints these agreements impose or declines to negotiate improvements, how can it ask others to embrace them?[18] Yet the Bush administration did precisely that. “In the summer of 2001, the United States shocked its peers when it rejected the protocol to the bioweapons treaty” that would have established verification procedures.[19] Without verification, the treaty was without teeth. And without the United States, the verifications do not go into force. The treaty had already been signed and ratified in 1975, but negotiations to establish legally binding verification did not begin until 1995. Verification would include annual declarations to nations describing their programs and their factories that could be used to produce biological weapons, random visits to declared facilities, and short-notice inspections of facilities suspected of producing bioweapons. Clearly this would be useful in preventing many likely sources of bioweapons for terrorists.

By mid-2001 a consensus text was emerging, and on July 23, 2001, the twenty-fourth negotiating session convened. Delegates expected their efforts would soon result in a final text. During the first three days, more than 50 nations spoke in favor of promptly completing the negotiations. Then U.S. Ambassador Donald Mahley brought the entire process to an end: “The United States has concluded that the current approach to a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention … is not, in our view, capable of … strengthening confidence in compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. . . . We will therefore be unable to support the current text, even with changes.”

And later in 2001, “the United States tried at the last minute to terminate protocol negotiations completely, throwing the meeting into disorder and leaving no option but to suspend the conference until November 2002.” This earned the U.S. great disappointment, criticism, and anger from the world community. Furthermore, it moved the other nations toward developing biological weapons without inspections, which can be placed into the hands of terrorists. It blocks an enforceable international law that mandates inspections where terrorists might be seeking to develop such weapons for their own use. 

One just peacemaking practice is to reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. Surely this practice is the way of wisdom for bioweapons. In an age of terrorism, does the United States want to be in a world where it is responsible for blocking the very inspections for bioweapons that it demanded of Iraq and North Korea?  Another practice already mentioned is to work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system. And still another is to strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights. Yet the Bush administration began by withdrawing from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty designed to stop nations from developing nuclear weapons, from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty designed to keep outer space unweaponized, from the International Criminal Court, from the Kyoto Accords, and from engagement in peacemaking in the Middle East and with North Korea. These go in the opposite direction from just peacemaking practices. Surely it seems clear to us now after 9-11 that we need cooperation with international networks in supporting international treaties like the bioweapons treaty.

Apparently this reality occurred to some in the Bush administration. When the conference met again in November of 2002, the chairman proposed annual two-week study meetings, looking toward a possible reconsideration in 2006. This time the United States softened a bit, allowing the studies to go forward. We do not know what the United States will do, but just peacemaking suggests reducing bioweapons and working with the cooperative forces of the international community is especially needed now.

Israel and Palestine

The greatest source of anger for Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East is the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel, the increasing spread of Israeli settlements in Palestine, and the assassinations of terrorist leaders plus Palestinian citizens in the vicinity, with U.S. support. The Israelis are angry at the terrorist violence that they experience. The history and the issues are enormously complicated.

I can only point to two just peacemaking practice that can make a difference. The “Geneva Accord” was a dramatic of cooperative conflict resolution engagement of Israeli and Palestinian leaders who, though not speaking for their governments, were prominent and respected leaders. They met in Geneva and worked out the borders and the arrangements for a Palestinian state with integrity, a shared Jerusalem, and security for Israel. This was the practice of conflict resolution in a truly hopeful sense. Getting that plan into the public awareness sets a target, a reasonable solution that takes both sides’ interests seriously, that is already pressuring the governments to move toward a resolution to the seemingly unending conflict.

The Bush administration announced from its first days that it was disengaging from efforts to do conflict resolution in the Middle East. This left a weak Palestine with a powerful Sharon-led government, and a huge increrase in terrorism. “By any measure 2002 was an astonishing year for Israel in terms of suicide bombings. An average of five attacks a month were made, nearly double the number during the first fifteen months of the second intifada—and that number was itself more than ten times the monthly average since 1993. Indeed, according to a database maintained by the National Security Studies Center, at Haifa University, there were nearly as many suicide attacks in Israel [in 1992] (fifty-nine) as there had been in the previous eight years combined (sixty-two).”[20]

Just Peacemaking would urge the administration to re-engage in practicing conflict resolution. And indeed, Tony Blair persuaded President Bush to become engaged in the “Roadmap for Peace.” The Roadmap is or was the just peacemaking practice of independent initiatives. In this practice, the two sides do not wait for the slow process of negotiations—which in cases of great distrust and threat may be impossible. Instead, one side takes initiatives of threat-reduction independent of the process of negotiations. Palestine chose a prime minister who could act somewhat independently from Arafat, as Israel had demanded. And he persuaded the leading terrorist organizations to suspend terrorist acts for a three-month trial period. Israel freed most of Gaza from military occupation, freed a few prisoners, and loosened curfews and checkpoints in a few places. These are independent initiatives. However, Israel did not pull back any significant settlements, and it continued to assassinate Palestinian leaders whom it identified as terrorists. And Palestine did not disarm terrorist organizations. The United States did not push forcefully for implementation of further initiatives. As a result, the roadmap failed, at least for the time. And now reports are that the Bush administration has disengaged for the election year. Just peacemaking encourages re-engagement in the independent initiative process.

Perhaps I can propose an innovative independent initiative. The world knows that the settlements are the big obstacle to the peace between Israel and Palestine. And the Palestinian terrorism is causing Israeli politics to shift to the right and become more rigid. Realism points out that Palestinian leaders cannot clamp down on the terrorist organizations unless they see significant progress on pulling back settlements. Realism also points out that Ariel Sharon’s political support depends in part on the settlers’ movement; he is not pulling back settlements, and the roadmap to peace is being undermined. Waiting for him to pull them back is waiting for an unlikely hope. The settlers are financially subsidized by the Israeli government, which in turn is subsidized by $3 billion per year by the U.S. government. An independent initiative that the U.S. government can take is to use a portion of the $3 billion to buy settlers’ homes at prices high enough to give good incentive to move back, provided they use the money to buy homes in Israel, thus contributing the money to Israel’s economy and saving the IDF the costs of defending the settlements. According to polls, most settlers would be willing to move back to Israel if the financial incentives were reversed. Other settlers, seeing their neighbors leave, and not wanting to be left alone with Palestinian neighbors, would start leaving also.

For the first time, Palestinians would see the trend toward reduction instead of expansion of settlements. Their leaders would then have something real to point to as they persuaded the terrorist organizations once again to halt the terrorism.

Failing to make peace in the Middle East is quite sure to cause terrorism against the United States, and will be responsible for additional destruction in the near future. If the administration is serious about reducing the threat of terrorism, it will heed the warnings that failure to engage in strong support for conflict resolution and independent initiatives in the Middle East will cause violence against Israel and against its main supporter, the United States. It causes angry recruits to terrorism.

Failed States as Havens for Terrorists

The Washington Quarterly reader, The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Using Soft Power to Undermine Terrorist Networks, pays special attention to failed states-- that lack an effective government, so something like anarchy reigns. The failed states are Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan; a dozen others are candidates. Failed states create havens where terrorists can organize and train recruits, can establish weapons collections; and can engage in drug trade or other money-gathering endeavors. The obvious example was Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda organized and trained.[21]

Military action is not sufficient; these states need rehabilitation and democracy-building. A bipartisan consensus supports efforts at building democracies (235), which is a practice of just peacemaking. It is not called nation-building because that carries historical associations with failed efforts in Vietnam, and because president Bush campaigned for the presidency while denouncing nation-building. “I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place…. Morale in today’s military is too low…. I believe we’re over-extended in too many places.” Therefore, it is now called “postconflict reconstruction” or “democracy-building” instead (175-6). Since president Bush’s election we have seen the truth in what candidate Bush said: not only is the military over-extended, it is, as he said, “over-extended in too many places.”  The military is not trained for nation-building, and we are seeing that Pentagon control of the rebuilding process in Iraq has not worked as if it had been well planned. Furthermore, it is true that the morale is indeed low.

Battle for Hearts and Minds has much wisdom about building democracy, and about why it should be led by civilians focused on rehabilitation of civic society, not only elections and military security. It requires strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights, developing genuine political processes, fostering the development of civic society; promoting accountable public institutions, and developing governmental capacity to deliver basic public goods (242). Thus far, there has been too much attention to building a police force and overlooking of other dimensions of democracy-building (201 et passim). Karin von Hippel is especially insightful in her study of Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor (108ff.). She writes what just peacemaking theory affirms: “The promotion of democracy is based on the assumption that democracies rarely go to war with each other, and therefore an increase in the number of democratic states would imply…a more peaceful and secure world” (109). And democracies produce far fewer terrorists because disgruntled citizens have other means for seeking change, as the essay by Windsor explains (362ff.).

This is bipartisan consensus, and it affirms the just peacemaking practices of advancing democracy and human rights, and fostering just and sustainable economic development, which we argue depends on community development. The problem that the book identifies is that present policy emphasizes military action too much and community-development and civil-society development too little. So much of the anti-terrorism money and attention goes to strengthening the military forces in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Israel, where the military forces have been the enemy of human rights and democracy. Thus the United States is seen by many as the supporter of autocracy and the enemy of citizen movements (103-4 et passim). And as the United States declared its military war against terrorism, Indonesia canceled peace talks with the rebels in Aceh and instead made war against them; Israel increased its military attacks against Palestinian leaders; and Russia pursued its destructive war against Chechnya free of U.S. government criticism.

Recruiting Terrorists

There is much wisdom in The Battle for Hearts and Minds. But it might be over-influenced by the war in Afghanistan, a failed state, which had just occurred at the time of the writing. Other studies of the recruitment of terrorists point not so much to failed states as autocratic states. The failed states are havens for terrorist organizations that come from other countries, and they do create the terrorism against their own people that comes with anarchy. But Afghanistan, Angola, and Burundi have not been known for producing international terrorist recruits; authoritarian autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt produce them. But not all autocracies. Syria, Iran, and Iraq before Saddam was defeated, have not produced terrorists who attack the United States, because the United States government did not support those autocracies and so was not resented by their people who chafed under those autocracies. It is the U.S.-supported autocracies that produce terrorists against the United States. The conclusion would seem to be that the United States should be nudging these autocracies in the direction of human rights and democracy (362-6), a key just peacemaking practice.

In The Battle for Hearts and Minds, Windsor’s chapter describes “authoritarian political systems” in the Middle East that are supported by the United States government. Almost every Arab country is less free than it was forty years ago. “In such societies, severe repression drives all politics underground, placing the moderate opposition at a disadvantage, and encouraging political extremism.” Double-digit unemployment causes the educated but unemployed youth to grow increasingly angry and frustrated (364-5).

It’s not the poorest states, but the autocratic states, that are the prime generators of international terrorists. Autocracy generates terrorists (150ff. 162-3, 166).

Some have pointed out that the poorest and least educated do not become international terrorists, and then they argue that economic development is not important for preventing terrorism. But, as Just Peacemaking points out, it is those who have developed some expectations and then see their own or their fellows’ conditions dropping well below those expectations who tend to turn to violence.[22]

So for example, Michael Radu first shows that joblessness of educated Muslims, not poverty of uneducated Muslims, creates terrorists. But then he concludes that the terrorism is not created by economic injustice. This is a non sequitur: the economic joblessness of educated Muslims is surely a problem of economic injustice. And their seeing their poor and uneducated compatriots also oppressed heightens the anger. See Radu’s logic:

The known backgrounds of the September 11 terrorists suggest the same: leaders and recruits to the most fanatical terrorist groups are not the poor, unfairly treated, and marginalized masses of the Islamic world, but rather—just as in Latin America, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, young and radicalized university graduates who have lost their traditional employment in government-paid universities and other public sector positions and find their career aspirations blocked. The same syndrome applies to unassimilated and unassimilable young, well-educated, usually second-generation Muslim immigrants in the West…. Nothing in the background of the Western-born or –based Muslim terrorists supports the widespread fantasy that Islamic terrorism can somehow be explained by injustice, poverty, or discrimination. On the contrary, terrorism on the scale of the September 11 attacks requires elaborate coordination by multilingual, adaptable, and highly educated people. No impoverished, ignorant victims of Western imperialism need apply. At bottom, therefore, international fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is not a social or economic, but rather a cultural,

phenomenon.” [23]

Surely it is also a cultural problem, including the culture of authoritarianism. That is why just peacemaking practices focus both on human rights and democracy, and on sustainable economic development.

Zachary Abuza has written an impressive study of terrorist networks in Southeast Asia. He combines relative economic deprivation with authoritarian religion as causes of terrorist recruitment. In Southeast Asia, “radical Islam is growing for a variety of reasons. These include economic dispossession, the lack of political freedom, the spread of Wahhabism and Salafi Islam, the failure of secular education, and an increased number of religious students studying in Middle Eastern and south Asian madrasses (Islamic schools).”[24] 

The growth of Islamic extremism around the world, since the Iranian revolution in 1979, has less to do with theology and more to do with the failure of the domestic political economies of respective Muslim countries. Increasing gaps between the rich and poor, inequitable distribution of wealth, poverty, a lack of economic diversity, unemployment, corruption, and the lack of a viable political alternative, have all given rise to Islamic extremism. People literally have become so desperate that they have nowhere to turn to except extremist religious politics.[25]

Yet Abuza’s main theme is the intricate international interconnections of the international terrorists. It is an astounding web of financing, money-raising, recruiting, teaching, organizing, encouraging, inspiring, that connects the terrorists together across the many countries in which they exist. The conclusion seems clear that combating terrorism cannot be the work of one powerful country with a large military force. It requires work with the international forces of justice and peace, a cooperative foreign policy, and not a unilateral policy that alienates other nations with what they perceive, in Fareed Zakaria's words, as “the arrogant empire.” [26] 

The Limits of Unilateral Power and Need for a Cooperative Foreign Policy:

There is a limit to how much the United States can do or will do, and there is a limit to how much military power can do. Many of us recall Reinhold Niebuhr’s realistic essay, “The Limits of Military Power,” during the Vietnam War. There is surely a limit to how much the United States can do alone, without major help from Europe and from other nations.

Many of us also recall the debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when Bush said, “It is time for the Europeans to do their share in Kosovo”? Apparently he did not know that 85% of the troops in Kosovo then were European and 15% were American. I thought that was the error of ignorance that Gore would catch and turn the presidential debates into Bush’s demise, as in Gerald Ford’s error when he said one of the Eastern European nations was not dominated by the Soviet Union. Carter caught him in that error of ignorance, he was embarrassed, and Carter won. I expected Gore to catch Bush in his error of ignorance, but Gore just let it go by. Gore was Vice President. Surely he knew! Or was that Gore’s error of ignorance also, and did it lose the election for him?

The point is that, even in ignorance, Bush was right then that the United States should not be expected to do it all alone; we need the Europeans, Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners and all the world to do their share. He said we need “a more humble foreign policy.” He was right. But his statement is irony now. We need a new foreign policy of cooperation, in which the United States cooperates with other nations so they cooperate in bringing their skills and capabilities to these complex problems.

Enormous complexity is not at drift. We are involved in rebuilding Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia. If that goes wrong, we have trouble. We are involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. Once before, Afghanistan was in flux, after they kicked out the Russians, and we failed to help them rebuild effectively, and now we see the result: The Taliban supporting Al Qaeda, Muslim resentment, and 9-11. The Muslim world is watching to see if the United States only wants to make war on Muslim nations or will be committed to building justice and peace and a semblance of government, education, and economic opportunity. So far the record is that we are doing the job in Kabul, but mostly neglecting the rest of the country. And much of what is being done is being done by Europeans and others. We are involved in rebuilding Iraq. Clearly it was a mistake to put the U.S. Pentagon in charge of the effort; they were not prepared for the task, and they have positively neglected international cooperation in making the war and in letting contracts that was needed to achieve the necessary international cooperation. Iran is in flux; a democracy movement is being blocked, and whatever the United States can do for Muslims to see us as a friend rather than a foe will influence the outcome. Egypt is in flux; in a fair election, the Muslim Brotherhood, and not the party of Mubarak, would likely win hands down. Egypt depends on billions of dollars of U.S. aid to stay afloat, and whether the U.S. government is seen as pro-democracy or pro-autocracy, and whether it is seen as engaged in the struggle for peace and justice between Palestine and Israel, will significantly influence the outcome in Egypt. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and its leader, Musharraf, has an uncertain grasp on power; the tensions created by Al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan and by the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, and the subsequent semi-chaos in Afghanistan, threaten a political earthquake in Pakistan resulting in an Islamist government with nuclear weapons. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, is struggling between becoming a working democracy or an ungoverned failed state. Israel and Palestine threaten to become even worse in the midst of the opportunity to march toward peace. That is the major source of anger and recruitment of terrorists throughout the Middle East, and all Arab nations are saying it was an egregious mistake for Bush to have begun his administration by disengaging from peacemaking there and leaving a weak Palestine to the mercies of a Sharonic Israel, which in spite of its great military superiority itself feels like a weak victim of increased terrorist attacks in the last three years.

All these are sources of terrorist recruitment. Many of these are places where terrorists could obtain weapons of mass destruction. All these complexities are in play now. The world is changing, and the world is complicated. The United States cannot do it alone. Nor can military power do it alone.

And at the same time, these forces of flux create significant opportunity for change toward peace. The Greater Middle East, reaching all the way to Pakistan, needs more responsive governance, more effective economics, and a strengthening of the peaceful side of Islam rather than the authoritarian and radical side. Things could move in this direction, if they receive wise and consistent help. But that is more than the United States can do alone. The United States needs to work consistently with the United Nations, and the international forces for human rights and cooperation—two key practices of just peacemaking--so that those forces work with the United States to nudge the world in the direction of peace.

Change is in the air. There is great danger, and great opportunity. The United States is very powerful. If it aligns its power with the cooperative forces in the international system, and with the United Nations, together they can do much more; they can do a great deal for peaceful change.


[1] Time Magazine (March 3, 2003): 44-45.

[2] John E. Mueller, War, Presidents, and Public Opinion (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1973).

[3]  During this time Paul Ramsey was arguing the war was just. I discussed his use of just war theory in supporting the war in an article on method, “A Social Theory Model for Religious Social Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics (Spring, 1977). I contend just war theory needs to expand its method to include critical attention to loyalties and assumptions in perceiving the social context.

[4] Norman Gottwald, All the Kingdoms of the Earth: Israelite Prophecy and International Relations in the Ancient Near East (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), is highly insightful and realistic, and forty years later, still is must reading for ethicists.

[5] ref  CONTACT _Con-46C300861 Glen Stassen, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), Chapters 2 and 3.

[6] I have written a somewhat systematic overview in “Turning Attention to Just Peacemaking Initiatives that Prevent Terrorism,” The Council of Societies for the Study of Religion Bulletin 31/3 (September, 2002), 59-65. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite has written an incisive essay on just peacemaking practices that combat terrorism, “New Wars, Old Wineskins,” Strike Terror No More: Theology, Ethics and the New War (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2002). [Page info. needed here and in a few other endnotes.]

[7] Fareed Zakaria, “Suicide Bombers Can Be Stopped,” msnbcnews, December, 2003 (

[8] Svante E. Cornell, “The Kurdish Question in Turkish Politics,” Orbis 45/1 (Winter 2001): 42.

[9] Michael Radu, “The Rise and Fall of the PKK,” Orbis 45 no 1 (Winter, 2001): 58.

[10] Cornell, 37.

[11] Cornell, 40.

[12] Cornell, 45.

[13] Radu, 47.

[14] Peter Woodman, “Stay Away from Istanbul, Britons Told,” The Press Association Limited, Nov. 20, 2003.

[15] Rob de Wijk, “The Limits of Military Power,” in Alexander Lennon, ed., The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Using Soft Power to Undermine Terrorist Networks (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), 16. Though, as Susan Thistlethwaite points out, “the airdrops are not coming anywhere close to meeting the need for food,” and picking them up in that heavily mined country involves much danger.

[16] Susan Thistlethwaite, “New Wars, Old Wineskins.”

[17]  As attested to in The Battle for Hearts and Minds, 69, 286, et passim; and Arnold Howitt and Robyn Pangi, ed., Countering Terrorism: Dimensions of Preparedness (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003), chapter 5 et passim.

[18] Anthony J. Blinken, “Winning the War of Ideas,” in The Battle for Hearts and Minds, 285.

[19] Mark Wheelis, Malcolm Dando, and Catherine Auer, “Back to Bioweapons? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 59/1 (Jan/Feb, 2003): 40-47. The following information and quotes come from this well-informed essay. It contains further discussion of reasons why the United States rejected enforcement, which lead it to the conclusion the U.S. should re-enter the treaty.

[20] Bruce Hoffman, “The Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Atlantic Monthly 291 no 5 (June 2003): 44.

[21] Battle for Hearts and Minds, 73, 79, 91, 153, et passim.

[22] Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices, 112.

[23] Michael Radu, “Terrorism After the Cold War: Trends and Challenges,” Orbis (Spring, 2002): 286.

[24] Zachary Abuzah, “Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Network,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 24/3 (Dec 2002): 428.

[25] Ibid., 433. For a wider-ranging historical study of terrorism in a readable format, see Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 79-156; and Paul Gilbert, New Terror, New Wars (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2003).

[26] Fareed Zakaria, “The Arrogant Empire,” Newsweek (March 24, 2003): 19-33.

Glen Stassen is author of Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace, Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War, and Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (InterVarsity Press), which won the Christianity Today award for best book of the year in theology or ethics. He is Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and co-chair of the long-range strategy committee of Peace Action.

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