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Nonviolence a better approach to resolve conflicts

The situation in Iraq plummets out of control, and Afghanistan becomes more disastrous every day. U.S. policy based upon force and the threat of force does not work. It is time to consider the magnificent possibilities of nonviolence as a better approach to international conflict resolution.

U.S. history -- with wars in 1776, 1812, 1848, 1861, 1898, 1917, 1941, 1950, 1964, 1990, 2001 and 2003, not including excursions into Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Kosovo, and fueling conflicts such as those in Nicaragua and El Salvador -- tells us that every single U.S. generation uses force as an instrument of foreign policy. One view is that we are now engaged in a "100-Year War," i.e., World War I was not resolved, World War II ensued and war continues.

It is hard to accept that the use or threat of force has not led to the enduring peace for which we yearn. But it simply is not true. Theologian Walter Wink makes a persuasive case that we are overwhelmed by the "myth of redemptive violence" from early childhood. He shows that from Greek mythology, Popeye cartoons, Westerns, cops and robbers, etc., domination by one group or individual over others is pervasive: West over East, North over South, men over women, etc.

We learn it, accept it and apply it, ever hopeful that use and threat of power will enable us to enjoy the happiness, safety and security we cherish. As a contrast to war, consider these world changes, which were secured by largely nonviolent strategies: the liberation of India; the abolition of apartheid in South Africa; the downfall of the Soviet Union; the Solidarity movement in Poland; and the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic. Furthermore, nonviolent strikes are the accepted strategy for resolving difficult labor issues instead of assassinations and bombings, and Cesar Chavez saw nonviolence as both a moral principle and a tactic to negotiate better farm worker conditions.

Many people dismiss nonviolence as a passive "doormat" strategy. It is not so. Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Nagler and other proponents of nonviolent action have drawn upon Tolstoy, Thoreau and other innovative thinkers to bring about effective nonviolent change.

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh has convened Arabs and Israelis in deep listening methods, creating friends from enemies. Denmark nonviolently resisted the German occupation. Noted sociologist Gene Sharp describes many types of economic and political nonviolent action, including noncooperation, boycotts, strikes, protests, demonstration, civil disobedience of unjust laws and many more.

We need to do more than preach, "Blessed are the peacemakers." We need to develop and promote the skillful means to be such people. The current approach, "Glorified are the warmakers," doesn't work and threatens our entire civilization.

William H. Privett is a spokesman for Pax Christi of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Williamsville.

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