Transcending War: Everyone Wins

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

By Robert C. Koehler

When will we as a nation admit it? Barbara Lee was right.

She was the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force back in 2001, following the 9/11 disaster, which allowed George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan. A year later she voted against a second AUMF that launched the invasion of Iraq and Bush’s alleged Global War on Terror, a.k.a., our endless war to pummel evil into dust and sweep it out of the universe.

Ever since then, American presidents have been empowered to play war anywhere in the world, without congressional approval. And Lee is still pushing back against this insanity. The House recently passed legislation she sponsored repealing AUMF 2002, which now must pass the Senate; she is also working for the repeal of AUMF 2001. She calls the effort Win Without War.

My question of the moment is this: What if the mainstream media allowed itself to ponder the meaning of those three words, indeed, to stand in their glow? In the world of geopolitics, how can one win without war? I do not ask this question superficially. What if the media, in its coverage of violent conflict, refused to “obey orders” and wrote about war in a context far larger than military and political leaders would ever acknowledge, let alone condone?

Here, for instance, is the New York Times purporting to explain the complexity involved in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, after a mere 20 years: “Mr. Biden and his top national security aides had previously suggested that once U.S. troops left Afghanistan, air support would end as well, with the exception of strikes aimed at terrorist groups that could harm American interests.”

What in God’s name does any of this actually mean? Is the story simply informing us of the strategic complexity involved in withdrawing, militarily, from a country we are still, for some reason, obligated to control? Or is this story basically just a verbal stew of propaganda, cowardice and insanity? To what American “interests” does it refer? What exactly is “air support”? Why not call it bombing – and killing – civilians?

Instead of tossing strategic abstractions at its readers, what if the media wrote with . . . moral intelligence?

“Love alone,” wrote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man, “is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them up and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.”

I know, I’ve just entered the “no trespassing” zone, tossing the word “love” into a discussion about geopolitics, war and the national interest. I’m sorry, but what if Teilhard is right, not abstractly and within the confines of academia, and not in some limited psychological sense, but right in a way that addresses human behavior at every level? What if life is sacred? What if, in defiance of that sacredness, warmakers at every level are pushing themselves, and all of humanity, to the brink of global suicide?

What if “love” doesn’t refer to some hopeful fantasy but, rather, a reverence that transcends the human ego, that connects us beyond ourselves to all of life . . . even to what we fear? What if attaining such a connection is the essence of empowerment, rather than bombing and killing what we fear (along with a few innocent bystanders who happen to be in the way)?

What if the media wrote about war from a perspective that did not leave its basic assumptions unchallenged, even in the face of farcical failure, such as this tidbit from the same New York Times story:

“Top American generals have acknowledged that the Afghan security forces could collapse in a year or two, or even a matter of months, after the departure of Western military support.”

What if the media acknowledged that war doesn’t work and opened itself, and the bulk of the American public, to far more effective ways of relating to the rest of the world, including those we call our enemies? What if the media valued relating to the world by connecting with it, and in the process growing in our understanding – which is to say, evolving?

To this end I bring the late Marion Woodman, author and Jungian psychologist, into the discussion, to join Teilhard de Chardin and Barbara Lee. Talking about “the feminine principle” in an interview, she noted:

“When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living — or suppressed — in both men and women. The feminine principle attempts to relate. Instead of breaking things off into parts, it says: Where are we alike? How can we connect? Where is the love? Can you listen to me? Can you really hear what I am saying? Can you see me? Do you care whether you see me or not? . . .

“Power in the sense of controlling somebody else is different from personal presence. That kind of power — patriarchal power — does not value other people. What I strive for instead is empowerment.

“Love is the real power. It’s the energy that cherishes. The more you work with that energy, the more you will see how people respond naturally to it, and the more you will want to use it. It brings out your creativity, and helps everyone around you flower. Your children, the people you work with — everyone blooms.”

What if we began attempting to expand such ideas beyond the personal, to the size of Planet Earth? What if we figured out that there is no such thing as “American interests” separate from everyone’s interests?

Yes, we can win without war. Indeed, we can only win without war.