We won't just stumble into a warless future today or tomorrow any more than we did so in the past.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! - Goethe
Consider what would happen if you asked 100 of your friends and acquaintances if they believe we can create a warless future. If you think we can, you may be surprised, even saddened, when you learn that most people say, No, it's not possible. And if you believe it is impossible, your belief would be reinforced by this overwhelming agreement.
This lack of belief by the majority is of profound consequence. We cannot achieve any great goal unless we believe it's reachable. The interdependence of success and belief is a fundamental truth of human nature. So the Single Most Important Idea of this campaign to end war is the conviction that ending war is possible. (1) We must work to create a critical mass of positive expectation that this goal is achievable.
Believing something is possible, however, is not the same as embracing it as a goal for which you will vote, donate money and time, and pay taxes. So the first and most important cornerstone of our campaign is to spread faith in this goal among powerful and common people alike in such a way that they embrace it. That they become willing to do the hard work to make it reality. It’s also true that success, as in most if not all great endeavors, requires a leader or group of leaders who embrace the vision and also have the ability to rally a critical mass of people to embrace it and do the work required. Great leaders must inspire us to achieve something many have dreamed about, and which is now, at last, within our grasp. (see How Far We Have Already Come).
Embrace the goal but don’t underestimate or undersell the degree of difficulty
To recruit others, it’s essential to paint a realistic picture of what will be required, and to never underestimate the enormity of the challenge. Failing to do so will undermine the campaign’s credibility.
So how should leaders describe the effort? How can they enable potential recruits to see that the difficulty of accomplishing so many tasks isn’t an impossible barrier to success? War is so deeply embedded in our history and culture that I liken an effort to abolish it permanently to the challenges of putting a permanent colony on the Moon or Mars. To colonize Mars—an idea many still consider impossible—thousands of companies and projects must master a myriad of both technological and social issues.
Yet, consider that there are people who believe that, if motivated by sufficient resolve, we can do it. Work by entrepeneur Elon Musk and the NASA Mars One project are already under way. (Wall 2017; Mars One 2017; NASA 2017; Space X 2017) And we know accomplishing great, difficult things lies within demonstrated human capacities: what sort of vision and organization would have been required to build the Giza or Cholula pyramids, or to convince the British to restore the riches of India to the Indian people? Like those who promote a Moon or Mars colony or any other massive and complex project throughout history, it will be essential to realize that coordination of all aspects of an ending war project is not an option, it is a necessity condition of success.
Given the astounding human capacity to make social and individual change—masterfully described by neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky in his book Behave (2017)--humans could render war as obsolete as cannibalism and foot-binding. Were we to see the emergence of a sufficiently powerful coalition of peace-seeking visionaries who could coordinate the works and efforts encompassed by all nine AFWW cornerstones, there is good reason to believe that even ending war is not any more beyond our reach than is colonizing Mars.
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.— Chauncey Depew, US Senator
We won’t just stumble into a warless future today or tomorrow any more than we did in the past. And the very first step on a thousand mile journey to abolish war is to “Embrace the Goal.”
Sapolsky, Robert. 2017. Behave. The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. New York: Penguin.
For extensive exploration from a biological perspective of the cause of war, why war is not inescapable, and how we could end war, see Hand, Judith L. 2014. Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War. San Diego, CA: Questpath Publishing.