If “War is not the Answer” what is? Diane Randall of FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) talks Quaker pacifism, pentagon spending, and the military industrial complex.
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- Diane says that, “conflict is inevitable, but violent conflict, we believe, is not inevitable.” What do you think she means by this? Do you agree?
- What does it mean to “live in the power and virtue that takes away the occasion for all war?”
We try to find policies to specifically call for solutions to war, solutions to deadly conflict. Conflict is inevitable, but violent conflict, we believe, is not inevitable.
War is Not the Answer
I’m Diane Randall. I’m the executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, based in Washington, DC.
People know FCNL by our blue bumper sticker, “War is Not the Answer,” but FCNL is a lot more than being a bumper-sticker or a sign organization and being anti-war. We think it’s incredibly important to offer alternatives for the world we seek. We seek a world free of war and the threat of war. That’s part of our vision.
So if we’re going to have a world free of war and the threat of war, what are the options, if not military, when conflict arises? First of all, we’ve had a program for a long time to work on prevention of deadly conflict. There are a lot of ways that that can happen. None of them are quick, none of them are immediate. But we believe that when our US state department and our US agency for international development invests in countries in terms of both development and peace building and diplomacy, that the outcomes on behalf of the United States and the rest of the world will be much more beneficial.
Challenging the Military Industrial Complex
We’re spending well over 550 billion dollars a year in pentagon spending. The challenge on that is both that if you believe that we should be more fiscally prudent about federal spending, that’s well over 50 percent of the amount of discretionary spending that we spend in the United States every year, so there’s just a disproportionate amount of money going there, and disproportionate in terms of the amount of money we’re spending domestically.
When we put a disproportionate amount of our resources into the military, then we rely on the military for a disproportionate amount of our solutions and not every problem has a military solution.
Interestingly, it used to be that the debates over how much we spend on the military was about whether or not we would be secure and safe. Now, that debate is whether or not people have jobs. So a lot of people in our country rely on working for defense contractors or their subsidiaries. In every state, in every congressional districts, there are contracts that go out that are sent out through the pentagon. People need jobs, but where else might people get money from that allows them to work?
If we were starting with a clean slate and we had a hundred billion dollars to invest, investing that hundred billion dollars in jobs that would be for education or for health-care is a much more productive investment in terms of the number of jobs that are created. But if you’re sitting in a city or a state where your neighbors or you work for a defense contractor, it’s hard to say, “Cut all those contracts.”
So that’s what I mean when I say that it’s a system that’s been built up. It was Dwight Eisenhower over 50 years ago who warned us about the military industrial complex, and his warning has come to bear. We have continued to escalate our military spending, and the sad part is that the military spending that has been put in to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t even part of the military budget. It’s a side budget. And so right now, part of what we’re doing is trying to reduce that spending as well, and trying to make the case that these wars are winding down, that spending should wind down as well.
Living Quaker Faith into Action
Friends have always been highly engaged when they see broken systems. We’ve done that throughout our history, and Friends continue to do that in many ways. So doing advocacy with elected officials is another way to do that that addresses some of the systemic changes that need to happen and it’s a way that we can live our faith into action. We are, as a people, not shy about both speaking up and taking action that comes from the changes that we experience when we know how the divine lives in our own lives, and when we operate from that center that is a call to love, then it calls us to act into the world in different ways.
I think it’s the quote about living in the power and virtue that takes away the occasion for all wars that speaks to me most deeply, because that is about changed lives. Not just about a philosophy or a stance, but it’s about, “What in me has changed that makes me believe that I couldn’t harm another person and I don’t think that’s the way we should live?” Coming to live in that virtue is a lifelong process, and it is practicing love and that’s a lifelong process.