From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years

By Kent Shifferd

Notes prepared by Russ Faure-Brac

            In this book, Shifferd does a great job of analyzing war and discussing the history of peace and nonviolence movements.  In Chapter 9, Abolishing War and Building a Comprehensive Peace System, he lays out how we can get from where we are today to a more peaceful world.  He has many ideas similar to those in my book, Transition to Peace, but goes into much greater detail on my concepts.

The following is a summary of his main points.

A.  General comments

  • The thesis of his book is that we have a good chance to outlaw war in the next hundred years.


  • To abolish war we will need to have a “Culture of Peace” rooted in our institutions, values and beliefs.


  • Only a broad-based movement toward peace will get people to give up old habits, however unworkable they have become.


  • Peace must be layered, redundant, resilient, robust and proactive.  Its various parts must feed back to each other so the system is strengthened and the failure of one part does not lead to a system failure.  Creating a peace system will occur at many levels and often simultaneously, often in overlapping ways.


  • War and peace systems coexist along a continuum from Stable War (war is the dominant norm) to Unstable War (norms of war coexist with peace) to Unstable Peace (norms of peace coexist with war) and Stable Peace (peace is the dominant norm).  Today we exist in the Stable War phase and need to move to the Stable Peace phase – a global peace system.


  • We already have many of the parts of a peace system; we just need to put the parts together.


  • Peace can happen fast because when systems change phase, they change relatively quickly, like how water transitions to ice when the temperature drops from 33 to 32 degrees.


  • The following are the primary elements in moving toward a culture of peace.



B.  Institutional/Governance/Legal Structure


  1. Outlaw War

Persuade the International Court of Justice to outlaw all forms of war, including civil war.  Municipalities, states, religious groups and citizen groups will need to pass resolutions supporting such a change to bring pressure on the court and the UN General Assembly.  Then the General Assembly should pass a similar declaration and change its Charter, to be ratified finally by the member states.  Some may object that it is useless to pass a law that cannot be immediately enforced, but the process has to start somewhere.


  1. Outlaw International Trade in Arms

Enact a treaty that says trade in weapons is a crime, enforceable by the International Criminal Court and monitored by existing international policing agencies.


3.  Strengthen the United Nations

  • Create a Standing International Police Force

The United Nations should amend its Charter to convert its temporary UN peacekeeping units into a permanent police force.  There would be an “Emergency Peace Force” of 10,00 to 15,000 troops trained in crisis situation response, deployable in 48 hours to put out “brush fires” before they get out of control.  The standard UN Blue Helmets peacekeeping force could then be deployed, if necessary, for the longer term.


  • Increase Membership in the Security Council

Add permanent members from the global south to the Security Council (current members are the US, France, England, China and Russia).  Also add Japan and Germany, major powers that have now recovered from WWII.  Abolish the single-member veto power by operating with a supermajority of 75-80% of the members voting.


  • Add a Third Body

Add a World Parliament, elected by citizens of the various nation states, that acts as an advisory board to the General Assembly and the Security Council.


  • Create a Conflict Management Agency

The CMA would be located in the UN Secretariat to monitor the world and report on general trends leading toward future conflicts (Does the CIA do this now?).


  • Adopt Taxing Powers

The UN should have the taxing power to raise money for its new endeavors.  A miniscule tax on a few international transactions such as telephone calls, postage, international air travel or electronic mail would boost the UN budget and relieve a few wealthy states from being its major funders.


  1.  Add Conflict Forecasting and Mediation Structures

Add conflict forecasting and mediation structures to other existing regional governance structures, such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, the African Union and various regional courts.


  1. Sign International Treaties

All major powers, including the US, should sign existing international treaties governing conflict.  Create new treaties to ban weapons in outer space, abolish nuclear weapons and put a permanent halt on the production of fissile materials.


  1. Adopt a “Non-provocative Defense”

Create a non-threatening posture in our national defense.  That means withdrawing from military bases and ports around the world and placing emphasis on defensive weapons (i.e., no long-range missiles and bombers, no long-range naval deployments).  Convene global talks on military reductions.  Seek a ten-year freeze on new weapons and then a gradual, multilateral disarmament by treaty, getting rid of classes and numbers of weapons.  Cut arms transfers drastically during this time.

Making this happen will require a massive initiative on the part of global civil society to prod governments into multilateral action, since each would be reluctant to take the first steps or even to move at all.


  1. Begin Universal Service

Begin a universal service requirement that would provide training for able adults in nonviolent civilian-based defense, covering strategies, tactics, and the history of successful nonviolent defense.


  1. Create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace

The Department of Peace would assist the president in focusing on alternatives to military violence in potential conflict situations, treating terrorist attacks as crimes rather than as acts of war.


  1. Begin International “Trans-armament”

To avoid unemployment, nations would invest in training those working in the arms industry, geared to new industries such as sustainable energy.  They would also invest start-up capital in those industries, gradually weaning the economy away from its dependence on military contracts.  The Bonn International Center for Conversion is one of many organizations working on the issue of defense industry conversion.

[The Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting peace and development through the efficient and effective transformation of military-related structures, assets, functions and processes. BICC organizes its research around three main topics: arms, peacebuilding and conflict. Its international staff is also involved in consultancy work, providing governments, NGOs and other public or private sector organizations with policy recommendations, training activities and practical project work.]


10.  Engage Cities and States

Cities and states would declare free zones, such as the many existing nuclear-free zones, armaments-free zones and peace zones.  They would also establish their own departments of peace; put on conferences, bringing citizens and experts together to understand violence and plan strategies fore diminishing it in their locales; expand sister city programs; and provide conflict resolution and peer remediation training for students in public schools.


11. Expand University Peace Educations

Expand the already thriving peace education movement at the college and university level.


12.  Ban Military Recruiting

Ban military recruiting and remove ROTC programs from schools and universities.


C.  Role of NGO’s

Thousands of international non-government organizations (NGO’s) are working for peace, justice and development aid, creating a global civil society for the first time in history.  These organizations increase the cooperation of citizens by crossing the old and increasingly non-functional borders of nation states.  A citizen-based world is rapidly coming into being.


D.  Nonviolent, Trained, Citizen Peacemaking

Some of the most successful NGO’s for peacekeeping and the control of violence have been “accompaniment organizations,” such as Peace Brigades International and the Nonviolent Peaceforce.  They have a large-scale international peaceforce of civilians trained in nonviolence who go into conflict areas to prevent death and protect human rights, thus creating the space for local groups to seek a peaceful resolution of their conflicts.  They monitor cease-fires and protect the security of non-combatant civilians.


E.  Think Tanks

Another component of the developing culture of peace are think tanks focusing on peace research and peace policy, such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).  Never has so much intellectual power been directed toward understanding the causes and conditions of peace in all of its dimensions.

[Note: Established in 1966, SIPRI is an independent international institute in Sweden, with a staff of about 40 researchers and research assistants dedicated to research into conflict, arms control and disarmament. SIPRI maintains large databases on military expenditure, arms-producing industries, arms transfers, chemical and biological warfare, national and international export controls, arms control agreements, annual chronologies of major arms control events, military maneuvers and nuclear explosions.

In 2012 SIPRI North America was opened in Washington D.C. to strengthen research in North America on conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.]


F.  Religious Leaders

Religious leaders will be important players in creating a culture of peace.  The great religions have to emphasize the peace teachings within their traditions and cease to revere and honor the old teachings about violence.  Certain scriptures will have to be ignored or understood as belonging to a very different time and serving needs that are no longer functional.  Christian churches will need to walk away from holy war and just-war doctrine.  Muslims will need to place the emphasis of jihad on the inner struggle for righteousness and give up, in their turn, just-war doctrine.


G.  Other 

  • Replace GDP with an alternative index for progress, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
  • Reform the World Trade Organization so it can’t make so-called free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that override national laws protecting the environment and worker’s rights.
  • More fortunate nations should produce food instead of biofuels and open their borders to starving refugees.
  • The US should contribute toward ending extreme poverty.  As the war system winds down and there is less military spending, more money will be available for sustainable development in the world’s poorer regions, creating less need for military budgets in a positive feedback loop.

One Response

  1. We need a way to build the mass movement for this; none seems to be in sight. How to get there is what we need to learn and carry out.

    I’m not seeing how to get this to happen, like how to motivate religious people to advocate and organize effectively, massively, for the ways of peace our religions call us to.

    In my local church, there’s lip service, sympathy, but a local shelter for women and families and lunches for a neighborhood school takes up all their activity. No thought for where the places the low-income people came from: they’re here because it’s much better than where they came from, but our church members won’t deal with our own government’s militarism and corporate domination imposition that drives them out of their own countries to come here.

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