Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
If you think war is inevitable, that human beings are naturally violent, consider Paul Chappell. His vision of peace is born of West Point and military service in Iraq. Captain Chappell’s mission for peace comes from his first-hand understanding of war.
A highly trained veteran soldier delivering an effective peace message makes Chappell’s words compelling. I discovered him in the April issue of Sun Magazine where Chappell uses unarguable logic to describe a new and hopeful world of peace.
Chappell begins with the idea that contemporary culture is turned inside out. How else can we, as a nation, be led to believe that killing people is a solution to security? Propaganda has convinced us that war is an acceptable price for protecting freedom, families and ways of life. Chappell exposes this manipulation and counters it with persuasion, saying that war creates insecurity by undermining jobs, the economy, education, health care, and social progress. War is the problem, not the solution.
“The difference between manipulation and persuasion,” he says, “is that manipulation uses fear, which clouds the mind. It’s difficult to think when you’re afraid. Persuasion appeals to people’s reason, understanding, compassion and conscience. If I’m trying to persuade you, I want you to be calm, rational. I want to give you all the evidence so you can make the right decision.”
Chappell urges peace advocates to use non-violent means to further the peace movement, which he compares to abolishing slavery and the civil rights movement. Despite the ravages of the Civil War and violence over racial integration, both causes were ultimately won by reason, not anger. Gandhi’s struggles against British imperialism and Mandela’s resistance to apartheid emphasize the merits of persuasion over militant protest.
Chappell’s humanistic views grew from his experiences in the Army, which he refers to as “socialistic” because it provides housing, meals, education, and universal health care for its people. “In civilian society,” he says, “we’re told that the only thing that makes people work hard is the profit motive. The army’s philosophy is that you can get people to work hard based on the ideals of selflessness, sacrifice, and service. The military has a motto: ‘Never leave a fallen comrade.'” Here is a humane rationale for universal health care.
How did an Army officer move toward peace and away from war? As a cadet, Chappell read revisionist historian Howard Zinn. He studied philosophy and war history. He was encouraged to apply moral reasoning to world issues. A key lesson at West Point, says Chappell, was that war is dangerous and should be avoided wherever possible. “War is like a natural disaster,” he concludes. “You can’t control it.”
American foreign policy needs a remake, says Chappell, in order to alter America’s negative role model as global occupier and war machine. “The seed of terrorism,” he says, “grows in the soil of hopelessness, depression and fear – of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Killing civilians and occupying countries only exacerbates terrorism … Imagine if America’s reputation around the world were strictly for providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief … We wouldn’t have to defend ourselves against terrorism; the rest of the world would do it for us.”
Training soldiers for war today, explains Chappell, desensitizes them to killing by numbing their innate abhorrence to death and destruction. Violent video games do the same and typify social programming that counters the natural peacefulness of human beings. Reversing this trend and nurturing peace, especially among war mongers and violent extremists, requires understanding and sympathy, says Chappell. “In the army there’s a saying: ‘If someone goes wrong, you have to examine their training.’ So what did society and the education system teach them that made them like that?”
Peace must be given a fresh chance, not as naïve idealism, but as a rational, realistic, powerfully advantageous doctrine that can win hearts and minds. “What’s naïve,” says Chappell, “is to think that wars can continue and humanity will survive … It’s naïve to think that we can create ever more powerful means of killing each other and not destroy the planet.”
Chappell states that a universal truth must emerge that war is morally wrong, destructive, undesirable and avoidable, and that peace has the highest value. This truth, he says, must be at the forefront of a social movement that can sweep away war mongers and replace them with peace makers. Chappell and his Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) are moving us toward the dawn of that new day.
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