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This just out at SEAL of Peace FB Page (www.FB.com/SEALofPeace):
In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet (TPS Reports?) we’re sending this update on the buildup to this weekend’s first Safening seminar, “Know Yourself!” An awesome range of awesome people are signing up, including Crossfitters, academics, homemakers and humanitarians.
They’ll get their first “homework” PDF workbooks tonight, in preparation for Saturday’s big kickoff. We’ll be doing advance work, workshopping during each event, and as much Q&A as it takes for everyone to build their own, customized security profile.
Remember too that everyone registering for the discounted bundle of three seminars is receiving a signed copy of Rob DuBois’ “Powerful Peace; A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War.” So stop by www.Safening.org and join us!
(Check out the additional cool option at the bottom.)
Many of you have written to question the scheduling for our imminent Safening seminar series. The three sessions had originally been planned for Wednesdays at 7:00pm Eastern, but it seems that sits right in the middle of a lot of families’ agendas from Coast to Coast. So with the gracious permission of all who had already registered, we have rescheduled “Know Yourself,” “Know Your Enemy,” and “Win 100 Battles” to the next three Saturdays at 12:00 noon EST!
Everyone who was previously unable to join us can now go to www.Safening.org and get registered for this Saturday Safening Seminar Series (this works better than “Wednesday” for alliteration purposes, too). Please pass the word to everyone you know who had been interested, and let’s blow up the energy!
Coolest of all: we want to stretch each of these growing and safening events to the very limit…which happens to be 100 participants. To stimulate that, we’re also sending a free, signed copy of Powerful Peace to every individual who signs up for the discounted “bundle all three” deal! Much of the material is based upon principles also unpacked in the book, so it only makes sense for us to share the literature and further expand your comprehension from the workshops.
Once again, register at www.Safening.org. See you Saturday!
I didn’t develop the “Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War” by theorizing in a La-Z-Boy. I don’t talk about this much, but I have spent years conducting and leading Red Team operations worldwide…to “attack” U.S. interests, discover their fatal vulnerabilities, and provide mitigation recommendations. I still do it, in fact, although my clients today are corporate instead of government.
So this is a primary source for the roots-of-conflict concepts you read in Powerful Peace. Besides working with foreign populations in 30+ countries, I’ve lived in our enemies’ minds…and looked out through their eyes.
And while I tend to focus on the “applied smart power” aspect of cultural competency and conflict resolution, the softer and preventive skills of SEAL of Peace Consulting, we’re seeing increasing demand for more security and Red Team instruction. At January’s “Suits and Spooks” conference in DC, for example, I’ll be running an unprecedented full-day workshop to teach corporate security managers to build and operate their own Red Teams.
And a couple weeks from now, I will begin an online seminar series entitled “Safening.” I want you and yours to be safe; I want you to safen your home and your work. Straight from my experience in counterterrorism and antiterrorism, we’ll do working sessions on “Know Thyself” and “Know Thy Enemy,” and I’ll teach you the basics on understanding your full spectrum of threats and protections.
It has been a genuine honor and privilege to walk through Powerful Peace with you to this point. I hope this journey has been more than enjoyable for you…I hope it’s been meaningful. And I hope you will seriously consider my request to let this be the beginning of dialogue, not the end of a book. I hope it will be the beginning of some small changes you choose to raise the quality of your life, and the lives of those you encounter.
While there’s breath, there’s hope. What, if anything, will you do with the gifts you’ve been given?
In the end, we find ourselves in the beginning. The brief introduction that is this book is only the first taste of the potential of Powerful Peace. If and how balanced peacemaking continues is up to you and me, together. Powerful Peace will grow through reading, and sharing, and doing…or it will not grow at all.
I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others….
All that lasts is what you pass on.
The rest is smoke and mirrors.
This is Allem, a contract cleaner from Bangladesh. He took great care of us in Iraq.
Allem doesn’t chase after glory and excitement, yet he’s a real hero to me because he does what it takes
to provide for his family. (Pay no mind to the bandage on my brow—it was from a tragic soccer accident.)
I promised you up front that we would examine the “reactive and sometimes unnecessary roots of hate,” and that you would come to better understand how “those roots strangle all involved.” Have we done that? I hope so. I hope at least one or two of the dozens of stories in Powerful Peace have helped you look at conflict differently. Most bonfires begin with a tiny spark, so let us let peace “go viral.” And the highest praise I’ve ever heard on these concepts came from my editor’s wife, Virginia, when she first told him, “I never thought of it that way before.”
We’ve also explored the paradox of “necessary violence” with “ruthless restraint,” and the principle that balancing courage with compassion applies in the boardroom, in the bedroom, and on the battlefield. I’d like to wind down this book with a last word, one of my favorites, which you may have noticed tucked here and there throughout the chapters: Hope.
One of my many friends from the wider world is a highly-placed officer in the Iraqi Army. Khudaier and I sometimes chatted over fruit juice on the way ahead in Iraq. Like many of his peers, he has invaluable insight on problems and solutions regarding the struggle. Also like many of his peers, his recommendations (the other-than-combat efforts we all need for a long-term “win”) sometimes compete with more immediate U.S./Western needs for force protection and combat readiness. Yet he and I contend that this apparent “competition” between national and international resources and goals is not as real as is imagined…or rather, is not imagined. I contend that “our” way ahead as a species depends less on struggling over crusts and more on exercising all our imagination muscles to make more pie.
He insisted, and I agreed, that more trust between our forces was urgently needed to improve our effectiveness. Yet hope, we concluded, is the most urgent commodity we can offer to the men and women of that ancient, noble and profoundly historic land. There are many other essential ingredients as described throughout Powerful Peace; most of them are merely steps along the path to hope.
Another friend, Jamal, lost his family home, lifelong friends and fiancée when he was identified as an American supporter. He also lost hope, although when I first met him, his confidence was unshakeable. Barely out of his teens, Jamal had left a university computer science program and hired on to interpret Arabic for U.S. forces. I asked him why he had been willing to leave the sure thing of school to enter the dangerous world of military operations. He said he had a vision for his country. He had a beautiful girlfriend, and they were in love. She would become his wife once he had enough money. And once “we” (Coalition and Iraqis) inevitably stabilized the internal strife, his country would need strong, intelligent people to step forward and lead it to prosperity. Wise beyond his years, he understood that those who were in the proper positions when stability arrived would be well-placed to assume those leadership roles. He would become a Big Man and make a difference for the people of his nation.
Jamal and other interpreters were sometimes unnecessarily kept waiting outside the ECP guard shack for several hours while their credentials were “verified” by U.S. soldiers, some of whom were literally still in their teens. (These interpreters all carried official photo identification cards, but “slow rolling” a customer is the questionable indulgence of petty tyrants the world over.) During the same assignment I met weekly with another Iraqi general officer who repeatedly expressed frustration that “your men are disrespecting my officers.” Jamal’s was not an isolated case.
(You have to understand that I’m not indicting all American soldiers here. American soldiers are Americans, like me, and I’m damn proud of my country and my countrymen. I also understand that we’re not perfect. Sadly, the kids who helped this unfortunate situation go badly probably only did what they’d been taught by older soldiers…who had learned from others before that. And the problem of disrespect to foreigners is by no means limited to U.S. forces. I’ve personally been disrespected by some of the best; in Russia, Thailand, Kuwait and a couple dozen other nations. But remember—we can only change what we control, and we only control ourselves.)
During the time Jamal and I were at that installation, local insurgents would periodically cruise by with the traffic to scope out the gates; on one of these passes, inevitably, one of the neighbor boys recognized Jamal as he sat outside the entrance for hours. Word got back to the insurgents in the neighborhood. His father received an anonymous phone call that their home would be firebombed to kill Jamal’s younger siblings. The father fled with his family.
Jamal’s future father-in-law heard next, and declared that his daughter would never marry a traitorous “pig” who worked for the invaders. Jamal’s own childhood friends shunned him on his final visit home, so he only learned of his imminent danger through a remote grapevine.
It saddens me almost to tears to remember that promising young man, with such incredible talent, hope and energy; and the hopeless, vacant young man who returned to our base after that weekend. In our final conversation before I moved to another location in Iraq, I half-jokingly asked him, “You’re not going to become an insurgent, are you?”
He paused, then said quietly, “I don’t know.”
This was a preventable disaster in one young person’s life. Not all can be avoided, of course. Automobiles and airplanes will continue to crash. Disease will continue to strike. But if I can get across only one idea through all of this, it would be that we can easily harm others through minor, selfish choices. A little thought goes a long way, even if it’s only to reduce potential backlash against ourselves.
Jamal had lost hope through a radically narrowed range of possibilities for his future, but I believe hope can be restored as long as we draw breath. Our species has survived plague, famine, barbarian hordes, Crusades, and World Wars. I imagine it has sometimes been difficult to hold onto hope. Yet it survives, and it can be revived, for some of the hundreds, thousands, and millions of decent people who can’t take their children to the market with them for fear of car bombs…or simply can’t feed their children because they can’t afford food. At the purely individual level, I want women who feel hopelessly trapped in abusive relationships to rediscover hope, as well as young people who feel too fat or too skinny to be of any worth. The same goes for men of the “wrong” race or class in societies that traditionally suppress their opportunities. In my own selfish way, I want human beings to be valued universally. I’m telling you now: this will bring a corresponding element of security. The world has changed in many, many ways. Shame on us if we don’t keep up with history, look at one another in the best light possible, and invite the best from all. Each individual’s increase benefits the whole. Shame on us if we participate in reducing ourselves.
Hope is something that can be given, although it can never be forced. A person cannot be “convinced” of something against his will. Hope can be inspired, by example, as when the United States of America still inspires the hope of a better life for millions who live in tragic poverty or lawlessness. Hope can be revealed, in the genuine, consistent effort of outreach from those who have it to those who don’t. Once we grasp hope firmly in our hands, we begin to perceive the extraordinary future we can create.
The energy of hope can produce startling results. In the book Let’s Roll (Tyndale House Publishers, 2002), we read of true heroes, doomed passengers on a hijacked aircraft on September 11, 2001. They knew something very bad was going to happen with their plane. They realized there might not be anything they could do about it…but they hoped they could. They hoped they could, and they acted.
These heroes saw no gain in hiding amid the herd and praying not to be the next one culled. They dared to act in the hope of stopping terrorists with their own hands. They succeeded. Powered by this hope, they saved hundreds or thousands of other innocent lives. They died, yes—they successfully stopped terrorists and they still died, because fighting to defend involves daring and risk; some always pay the price for the rest.
Will you dare to hope with me? Will you dare to question your assumptions about people in the next house, or on the next continent? I also said in the front of the book that it’s intended to offer a voice to all, to open a dialogue. That dialogue begins among the Peace Hawks, which you can join (no costs) at SEALofPeace.com. You get your voice there, whether you’re sitting in Baghdad, Paris, Capetown, or with me in Washington, DC. As a Peace Hawk, you’ll learn about and join with organizations like the Middle East Peace project at MEPeace.org, where Eyal Raviv and our friends host an ongoing dialogue among all the stakeholders of the Israel-Palestine crisis. Engagement matters. They prove it in real time. We engaged citizens will no longer sit by and wait for heads of state to solve all the problems within or between our societies. Here’s a dirty little secret: they can’t.
As a Peace Hawk, you’ll also be able to link to the “Enough Project” of John Prendergast and Don Cheadle, at EnoughMoment.org. Click in to look around at the stories from film superstars as well as compassion superstars – see where you can make a difference!
Hope is our energy; imagination and action are our tools. Let these closing words be the opening salvo on your lifelong contribution to practical peace—step away from the sofa and call up a friend to offer some heartfelt Dignity and Respect, or reflect on what sections of Powerful Peace struck you most…and what it is inside you that may have motivated this response. You might even start your own reading group, or a local chapter of Peace Hawks, to spread the ideas in your community. There are 48 topical chapters in the book, not counting this one on Hope. How would you like to organize a study of one topic each week throughout the year with your church, mosque, temple or coffee clutch?
Before his private world imploded, Jamal made one other comment that will stay with me forever: “If more Americans thought like you, there’d be less wars in the world.” Well, I doubt I’ll actually ever prevent a war, but I do believe the concepts of Powerful Peace can empower each of us to reduce conflict within the scope of our own authority and influence. Of course this goes for my American friends, with our substantial international impact, and also to my Afghan, British, Canadian, French, Iraqi, Jordanian, Kenyan, Russian, Uzbek, Venezuelan and other friends as well. Together we have the power to make a difference. Say it with me: we have the power to make a difference. This is the start of something big.
Finally: in the beginning, I asked that you “not keep this book.” I asked you to “give it away—perhaps to a young person just setting out to make a mark in the world, or to your neighbor, or to a soldier trying to make sense of his painful experiences…perhaps to your senator at her next public event.”
I really mean that. If these ideas make sense to you, will you share them with others? They say selling a book is much more about word-of-mouth than about formal advertising; I say selling an idea is even more dependent on each one reaching one. If every reader shared this book just one time, it would double the spread of this message around the world. It will take willing and active individuals to make meaningful change and protect all our children. I promise you, I’ll keep trying. Will you accept the challenge and do the same?
I dare you to.
NOTE: Now that you’ve reached the end of this part of the Powerful Peace journey, don’t forget that you can order hard copies to read and share with friends, loved ones…and in some cases, enemies. Just click in to SEALofPeace.com/book
So what does “applying” smart power look like? Try the below scenario on for size and see if you can’t recognize the significant power in the smallest choices. You have some direct, literal control over your destiny.
Co-create your world
In one lifetime, at different moments, I’ve been hurt physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. A lot of that hurting, much to my dismay, came in the form of reactions—reactions from others or from the natural environment—to choices I had made. This is the proverbial burnt hand caused by touching a hot stove. Sometimes I had been aware of those potential consequences, and on some occasions I was blissfully ignorant beforehand…most of the time I knew better.
It may be the same with you.
If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
Imagine that I’m standing at the train station for a day trip. Imagine I’m carrying an overcoat, umbrella, satchel and coffee. I’m feeling rushed because I missed the first train, so when the next arrives and the doors slide open I am very eager to board. Another man is also trying to hurry on, beside me.
We’re going to diverge for two possible alternative scenarios and explore the two ways I may choose to literally create my immediate future.
Scenario A: I shoulder past the man trying to board in front of me, successfully winning the right of way to get on first. With a suitably disdainful glance back at my defeated opponent, I ascend the steps and assume my rightful position in a choice seat.
I fail to notice when the $50 ticket slips from my overloaded hand and flutters to the platform….
Scenario B: I begin to board, but hold back in order to make way for this other fellow who’s obviously also in a big hurry. In the moment he realizes I’m weighed down with stuff, he pauses and insists I go ahead. I gratefully proceed up the steps and settle into a good seat.
I fail to notice when the $50 ticket slips from my overloaded hand and flutters to the platform….
Now let’s rejoin our story in progress and examine the possible outcomes of these two choices.
In Scenario A, my fellow traveler happened to notice the ticket fall from my hand. With a malevolent grin, he smoothly kicks my ticket off the platform to be lost on the tracks below. As he passes my seat, his delirious smile makes me seriously wonder about his state of mind.
In Scenario B, my fellow traveler happened to notice the ticket fall from my hand. My new friend snatches up the ticket I dropped and heads straight for me. “Hey, buddy, you dropped this. Better be more careful,” he says with a genuine smile. I’m spared a serious hassle. I might have been charged again, to buy a new ticket on the train; I might not have had the funds available and been removed at the next stop; I might have spilled coffee all over myself in a frantic search of my belongings (heed the voice of experience). These were prevented because I took a moment to be considerate of another.
Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler are co-authors of Connected; How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything you Feel, Think, and Do (Little, Brown and Company, 2009). What impressed me most about Connected is their assertion:
“The great project of the twenty-first century—understanding how the whole of humanity comes to be greater than the sum of its parts—is just beginning. Like an awakening child, the human superorganism is becoming self-aware, and this will surely help us to achieve our goals. But the greatest gift of this awareness will be the sheer joy of self-discovery and the realization that to truly know ourselves, we must first understand how and why we are all connected.”
Although my train platform scenario is a fictitious exercise of imagination, most of us can easily trace out the logic of the outcomes. Many of us can easily recall a real-life example of offensive behavior biting its owner. Maybe we don’t think about this enough, but our choices clearly lead to both short- and long-term consequences, for good or bad. Did I not create the environmental conditions I experienced over those next ten seconds? If I do think about it a little bit more,
this silly example can serve as a guide to my behavior in daily life.
We’re in a funny part of the book, now, in which I seem to feel that each chapter we encounter leading to Friday’s Conclusion is my “favorite” chapter. Remember ‘way back in chapters 1 (Hate), 2 (Harm), 3 (Loss) and all the other
grim, sad, painful parts of the reality of our world? Well, all that is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge…
yet it is not the sum total of our race and our hope. In fact, I hope to remind you that these final pieces (Paradox, Opportunity, Proactivity, Commitment…) are no less real than those grim early snapshots.
And it’s my conviction that the more we are aware of our whole potential, and the more intent we are in manifesting
these greater aspects in ourselves, the brighter our shared results will be. Basically, that’s why I won’t shut up about it.
Tomorrow in our hands
I hope you’ll indulge a fanciful flight of optimism. I have a fierce belief that we can and will overcome the limits of
today, as generations before us have sometimes done—limits in our ability to trust and risk; limits in our ability to imagine; self-inflicted limits in general. It’s a little-known fact that the U.S. Navy SEAL training program was established on the premise that a man can go ten times further in mind and body than he believes possible. That’s why we don’t swim several hundred yards at a time; we swim several miles. It’s why we don’t do twenty pushups for punishment; we do two hundred.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Iraqi kids and my fanciful predictions for their future lives: (left to right)
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Famous Comedian, (tallest) Restaurant Owner,
(tiniest) Architect, (looking aside) Ambassador, (center) President of Iraq,
World-Famous Model, Neurosurgeon
I don’t think limit-smashing should be limited (pun intended) to SEAL training. SEALs are just men, and men are just humans. Humans have the capacity to shatter their limits across the board. We forget that visionaries like the Wright brothers were considered crackpots for years while they challenged widely-accepted limits that mankind would never fly. Without the irrepressible determination of a few crackpots, the world would be much different than it is today.
I, for one, will not permit my mind (my thoughts and beliefs) to be reduced. I will believe larger, and larger, and larger to help the material world become as it should be; it should be better than it is right now.
This is so urgent, because I have a difficult confession to make. I’m dying.
…Oops. Sorry. Let me rephrase that: I mean, I will die. We all will. In a way, we’re all dying, all the time. Why don’t we let that tick-tick-tick inspire us to act fully, to “live out loud,” with the time we have left?
As Mel Brooks said, “If Shaw and Einstein couldn’t beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.”
We all know we’re going to kick the bucket, whether in a few minutes or a few decades. If when I kick that bucket the world isn’t somehow better off because of my little flicker of life, what a tragic waste it will have been.
As you read in this chapter’s opening quote, a great American once said, “I have a dream.” Well, I and many others share that dream. You probably do, too.
It’s high time we followed his example. He knew it was risky to say what he needed to say. He could have stayed home and watched TV that day, instead of going out to say what we needed to hear. He could have stayed home, but he didn’t. He could have stayed home another day, but he didn’t…and he was shot to death for trying to bring all people together.
This single person’s dream energized decades of transformation. How much greater, then, if you and I and everyone else picked up and carried that willingness to dream—and act—according to our most life-producing imagination? Robert Fritz wisely said, “If you limit yourself to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”
I will not subordinate my dreams and our future to fear and doubt. Dreams are the only part of tomorrow that we own today! The only limits to what might be are those we choose. Since goals pull us toward some version of what we seek, why accept any goal smaller than greatness?
Welcome to my personal favorite chapter! “Paradox” has it all: girl power, martial arts, Maslow, necessary violence, and even Getting Things Done! (Thanks, David Allen.)
War is good
From leaping into action for humanitarian reasons we turn to leaping into action with the necessary intent to destroy. Sometimes the worst we can imagine turns out to be a blessing. A family suffers financial ruin, then finds its true riches come from one another. A tyrant brutalizes his subjects, then (when all other options are exhausted) courageous nations initiate what Washington called that “plague of mankind” —war. The paradox of conflict includes also the need to integrate women into the male-dominated culture of war, and the martial artist’s understanding that sensitivity helps us fight better and end war sooner…with less destruction.
Our dojo, c. 2009: I’m third from right in standing row; also standing, with goatee, is my good friend and very dangerous teacher, Corey Capone; behind the standing boy is Corey’s even more dangerous teacher and the master of our school, George Parulski. Devon Hayden, Corey’s daughter, stands to left; my sons Gabe and Jack kneel/stand to right.
I hope the subtitle hooked you.
It is a true statement. Read through to the end and you’ll see the point.
I’m a retired SEAL, so you can believe this: I’m not squeamish about the readiness and willingness to cause harm. It’s a simple fact of life that there are some in this world who target innocents and won’t choose to stop. They can only be stopped. Someone must be prepared to stop them.
While accepting this cold reality, we need to respect another: governments with the means to stop those who harm innocents have to be conscious of the potential consequences of their use of force. Put another way, the worthy surgeon knows his tremendous power to heal with a knife must be managed with tremendous care, because misuse of his gift may cause injury or even death.
No doubt about it; there’s plenty of room for debate on the question of how much hard power is appropriate. There can be no debate, however, that it’s absurd for innocent bystanders to be hurt as a consequence of our protecting innocent bystanders.
As Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” I see this one-tool dynamic at work in the behavior of some of my fellow soldiers and in the imaginations of some soldiers’ supporters. To be effective, however, we need as many diverse tools as can possibly be assembled. Most of them are not designed to kill. Many are intended for building up households, neighborhoods or regions.
What I’m trying to say should be pretty obvious: whatever idiocy we adults may choose, the children whose flesh and spirit are torn by our petty struggles deserve to have us fight much, much harder…toward better solutions. Restraint is possible, and careless fighting spawns fighting.
There is another tremendous paradox inherent in conflict. War and violence instinctively stimulate rigid and closed resistance by those threatened…but solutions are most easily discovered through open sensitivity to the root causes of a conflict. War is traditionally the domain of men, and men traditionally reject sensitivity as an acceptable behavior or identification. In discussions on the topic of women and war at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), the New America Foundation (NAF) and other venues, we have reached two conclusions:
Firstly, “women’s” issues in war are unique to females, yet simultaneously universal. Consider the epic tragedy of mass sexual violence waged strategically against a population. The immediate victims are (usually) women and girls…yet the terrorizing effects are often targeted against the men in their lives. Husbands, fathers and brothers of potential or actual rape victims are emotionally damaged along with the emotionally and physically traumatized female victims. These men are often responsible heads of households. They often hide their families or flee with them instead of stepping forward and participating in armed resistance.
I’m humbled to be acquainted with Abigail Disney, filmmaker of the documentaries Pray the Devil Back to Hell and Women, War and Peace. Her work is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Women—and men—Abby shows us come through as incredibly powerful, courageous and resilient human beings instead of helpless victims.
The other inescapable conclusion on women and war is that males have too long dominated in this arena. Perhaps a better way to say this is that if women had enjoyed a more equal voice in governing the affairs and disputes of state throughout history, there would have been less war.
Three of my other female heroes co-edited the USIP book, Women and War (Endowment of the United States Institute of Peace, 2011). Kathleen Kuehnast, (Director of USIP’s Gender and Peacebuilding Center of Innovation); Chantal de Jonge Oudraat (Director of USIP’s Jennings Randolph Fellowship program); and Helga Hernes (Senior Advisor on women, peace and security issues at Oslo Peace Research Institute) are highly accomplished individually; but in this partnership their results are inspiring. Their active and able cohort on gender issues and war is Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. Gayle is the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (Harper, 2011), the true account of an enterprising Afghan woman, her family and their town under the Taliban.
Abigail, Kathleen, Chantal, Helga and Gayle personify the insight and ability necessary to build powerful peace. While on the subject of gender and conflict, of course, as mentioned in chapter 19, I strongly recommend Half the Sky; Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
The value of sensitivity in conflict won’t surprise those with experience in traditional martial arts. Since my earliest military days I’ve practiced various Japanese and Korean fighting styles, and consider my “home” art to be jujutsu—the hand-to-hand style of the Samurai warriors and parent of today’s karate, judo and aikido. To put it mildly, an insensitive jujutsu-ka, (jujutsu practitioner) is a losing jujutsu-ka. Success depends on maintaining a quiet mind and relaxed body, effectively turning oneself into a living, breathing sensor. The more sensitive a martial artist, the earlier he can perceive an intended threat, respond appropriately, and survive.
I like the description provided by Jonathan Maberry in Ultimate Jujutsu; Principles and Practice (Strider Nolan Publishing, 2002):
“The word Jujutsu may be translated freely as ‘the gentle art,’ but the word ‘gentle’ is often misunderstood, a result of poor translation from centuries ago. A more accurate translation would be, ‘the art of gaining victory by yielding or pliancy.’ Gentleness refers to the art’s approach to self-defense, as well as to the spirit of the warrior. A gentle spirit is one that does not seek to fight, and in modern Jujutsu this is the very core of honor: to fight only in defense, and never through desire, or anger, or hatred.
“The ultimate goal of Jujutsu is not to kill, or even maim. Rather, it is to control a situation so that it never becomes violent. This requires common sense, a balanced ego, courage and a keen knowledge of psychological cause and effect. Sometimes violence is unavoidable, and in those circumstances the Jujutsu-ka has a variety of available defenses depending on the level of threat, from simple non-destructive control techniques to far more severe responses.”
Sounds a bit like Powerful Peace, doesn’t it? Readiness to fight, combined with determined restraint. The pursuit of victory without force.
Sensitivity allows an individual to literally “go with the flow.” Conflict is, at its core, resistance. In jujutsu we happily go with the flow and make full use of an opponent’s resistance energy. If he pushes, I get out of the way and pull. If he pulls away, I push him faster and farther than he intended. This push-pull, pull-push harnesses available energy and magnifies the “resources” (energy and motion) available to accomplish my goal of no longer being in a fight. And flow itself is very important. Stopping and starting not only steal valuable time in a critical situation, but discard the kinetic power of momentum.
One final diversion to reinforce this concept of paradox; with this one, I hope to throw your comfortable mental state and assumptions right to the mat. (That’s jujutsu humor.) My own personal “guru of stress-free productivity” and supporter of Powerful Peace is David Allen, author of Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life (Viking Adult, 2008). In his original, wildly-successful personal productivity process and book, Getting Things Done (commonly known as “GTD,” Penguin Books, 2001), he points directly at the same concepts as acquired through his own martial arts experience. Here they are applied to management of the self:
“In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: ‘mind like water.’ Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact….
“Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a ‘mind like water.’”
David’s simple explanation of the ineffectiveness of reactiveness and imbalance in daily tasks is immediately translatable to the realms of interpersonal and international conflict:
“Reflect for a moment on what it actually might be like if your personal management situation were totally under control, at all levels and at all times. What if you could dedicate fully 100 percent of your attention to whatever was at hand, at your own choosing, with no distraction…?
“It’s a condition of working, doing, and being in which the mind is clear and constructive things are happening. It’s a state that is accessible by everyone, and one that is increasingly needed to deal effectively with the complexity of life in the twenty-first century.”
To me the linkages are obvious between an awareness of gross abuses against women, the martial artist’s appreciation for balance, the management of the self and the practical conflict reduction of Powerful Peace. We humans are far more connected than not. Grasping this connectedness allows us to understand both our real ability to act for positive change and a real sense of responsibility to do so. Being “connected” is so significant to daily life and conflict that another important book has been written under that very title. We’ll come to that closer to the end.
Returning to our original paradox: War is good…but for one thing, and one thing only: establishing a secure peace. As stated in our dojo, “avoid rather than check…for all life is precious and no one has the authority to take it away.” An intolerable wrong like Hitler’s conquest must be confronted, but no healthy person desires a perpetual state of war. A powerful peace does not come about by accident but by deep sacrifice, willingness to seek middle ground, and a reasonable sense of urgency. It results from pouring our souls into the efforts of restraint and considered response…no matter how much we want to kill back.
As in some previous weeks, this chapter represents my frustration at what I consider destructive short-sightedness demonstrated whenever an organization or nation of influence doesn’t seize the “low-hanging fruit” of humanitarian aid in moments of greatest desperation. There are many layers of value in lending a hand.
It’s all well and good to talk about “applying” smart power, but what would it look like in practice? This chapter lays out an appeal I published immediately following the devastating Indonesian earthquake of September, 2009.
In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.
We all breathe the same air.
We all cherish our children’s future.
And we are all mortal.
John F. Kennedy
At this blog on October 2, 2009 I posed an argument that the United States should hasten into an aggressive and
well-publicized (bear with me – this is a benevolent self-promotion) humanitarian response. I addressed it to the president, departmental secretaries, Congressional representatives and senators, and patriotic Americans everywhere. I said that “the gauntlet has been thrown down by Circumstance. Our honor, obligation, and privilege is to respond in force.”
Samoa, American Samoa, and Indonesia had been devastated by earthquake and tsunami effects. Hundreds lay dead, thousands staggered injured and homeless. I wrote, barely twenty-four hours past the second set of lethal tremors, that “we must seize the gauntlet with fierce determination.”
America has promised the world change. America has promised the world a more balanced, more effective, more human engagement on every front, including in even the harshest realities of terrorism and insurgency. This terrible human tragedy was an excellent opportunity to walk our talk. It was our greatest opportunity to help ourselves.
Again I affirm, for what seems the millionth time: violent conflict is an expression of grievance. Somebody’s mad about something. It may be a perceived wrong, a perceived inequity, or a perceived neglect. The perception may be completely inaccurate, or it may be 100% correct. Getting to the root of fighting means getting to the root of grievance, the only level at which true change can occur. Until that elephant in the room called ‘grievance’ has been acknowledged—most especially by the perceived wrongdoer—we can only expect to escalate in strike and counter-strike.
Those who most strongly oppose the United States and other Western nations see only a partial picture. Like great salesmen, they actively highlight our occasional abuse of power where we’re not needed, and our neglect of power where we are, as proof that we are bad.
Within counterterrorism circles, it is a common observation that Indonesia has the world’s largest national Muslim population. It is also noted that the hostile, anti-U.S. segment of that huge Muslim population is small, per capita. (In fact, four out of five Indonesians polled have reported having an improved opinion of the United States because of earlier tsunami relief efforts.) It makes sense to focus our energy on this massive, influential and receptive-to-influence group in need. Is there a better population, or a better time, to demonstrate our commitment to make the world better? Is there a better way to hamstring Muslim extremist claims that America wishes to wage war on Islam?
I hypothesized: “Somewhere, right now as you read this—not tomorrow; not when we get our act together and mobilize in a few days—a little girl is trapped, terrified, and suffering under the rubble of the building where disaster claimed her. She’s alive…right now. If she is rescued because of our immediate action, the ripples of goodwill and gratitude from her family will flow to our very shores, and splash on anti-Western sentiments in distant lands. If instead of just one, we assist in recovering thousands of endangered men, women and children, the celebration of her story will be magnified thousands of times over.
“If on the other hand we do nothing, or reserve our full capacity in favor of a token gesture…well, her grieving family’s tale may be incorporated into our enemies’ deep reservoir of anecdotal rhetoric that America is a heartless giant.”
This argument urged that we “strike the real enemies: ignorance and misunderstanding.” We should un-cloud the vision of a skeptical world regarding what we know to be America’s genuine golden character.
The argument appropriately addressed Secretary of State Clinton, who had used the expression “smart power” ten times during her confirmation hearing speech. We ought to turn our vast resources against such urgent challenges, beginning the process of healing that begins with broken limbs and extends to international relations and evolved counterterrorism. The ripple effects of our visibly acting in the best interests of global need flow through generations.
I addressed Secretary of Defense Gates as well, saying that we don’t have to have the entire army ready to go, in order to start. “A few are ready now—let’s send them. As recovery efforts grow and more responders are prepared, we can send them. We can establish an adaptive, modular command and control (C2) process to layer in progressive coordination over time.”
Is there risk in such a scenario? I guarantee it. Indonesia has organic terrorist groups. (I use the term “terrorist” carefully, because all too many media outlets do not. We aren’t talking about outgunned resistance forces using IEDs to attack military units. These are actual terrorists, including those in al Qaeda, who actively seek the death and mutilation of harmless families. They use the IED against peaceful markets and houses of worship.
Yes, the risk is significant to our response teams from the U.S. and other nations. In my Red Team work, acting as a terrorist cell to reinforce security programs, I have personally exploited the high emotional value of executing spectacular attacks against unprepared populations. Even if the only victims are a handful of children or medical staff, the subsequent withdrawal of a damaged organization is rewarding and provides excellent propaganda material. Witness the claims of AQ to “defeating” the United States when soldiers are killed. Witness the dramatic shift and retreat from Iraq of Spanish forces following the Madrid train bombings, and the jubilation among the supporters of those murderers. In these cases the IED is a weapon of strategic, not only tactical influence.
Such groups, more focused on perverted ideologies than on the desperate human need of their countrymen, are likely to consider this an opportunity of another sort—to make a name for their movements of corrupted thinking.
Yes, risk is inevitable, but the likelihood of being attacked is low. By virtue of strength in numbers, the broader our rescue mission, the “safer” each responder is individually. Indonesia at that moment represented a macro version of the “bad neighborhood” many cops prefer to avoid…the better cops enter anyway. They answer the call to serve and protect, and in so doing they hold back the spread of chaos and suffering.
I ended that (unheeded) appeal for applying smart power with a challenge: “Are we ready to be the America of this world’s dreams? That little girl’s waiting.”
This chapter, because of the opening quote, will probably upset a lot of people. Some will be supporters of Reverend Pat Robertson, and they will justify anything he says simply by virtue of their admiration of this living icon. Others, like me, will take exception to the content of his comment as quoted below. In any case, I hope this will stimulate a meaningful conversation and personal examination.
Words as hands
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Bull. Words hurt just as easily as sticks and stones, and the wounds can persist and spread for generations.
They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said,
‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’
True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’
…But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.
Pastor Robertson made few friends in the Caribbean with his comment that 100,000 Haitian men, women and children died by earthquake and disease, and millions more were ruined…explicitly because the country sold its soul to the devil in the 18th Century. Of course, it’s likely his response to this would be that he doesn’t care whether he makes friends while doing the Lord’s work, because God tells him directly what to do, and “feel-good” is not a motivating factor. I hear that destructive dismissal from some of the holiest rollers in every religion.
It does strike me as very odd that God would create billions of people, then give all truth and wisdom to a few hundred, few thousand, or few hundred thousand. Does God want us to fight and mutilate one another? As Star Trek’s token Vulcan, Mr. Spock (who probably never believed in any deity anyway) would say, this is “illogical.”
I just wish Pastor Robertson would reference his sources. It’s a pretty specific accusation, with apparently non-specific sourcing. Did he witness this discussion with Satan first-hand? Or did some old guy who’d never been to Haiti tell him what he himself had once been told by some other old guy who’d never been there? My guess is it’s the latter. As for being “liked,” I agree that following one’s mission shouldn’t be driven by its popularity. Some of my own friends have asked to be removed from announcements about this blog, so I know as well as anyone that you can’t please all the people all the time. But if the good preacher wants to serve in this world as directed by the Master described in the scripture we both follow, he should probably try out a little more open-heartedness to offset an apparent predisposition for casual condemnation. Nobody can do much good who sounds like a Pharisee/Church Lady.
You may remember the fury around the opening quote while public revulsion was still pulsating. I’m not digging it up for cheap drama, but to establish a premise. The “words can never hurt me” adage seems as bogus to me today as it did when I was a child, and for one inescapable reason: words can most definitely hurt. Granted, they may not break my bones like those pesky sticks and stones…but on the other hand, sticks don’t cut like a knife.
Pastor Robertson’s comment could be described as a “slap in the face” to merciful, compassionate humans everywhere. I suspect that to Haitians, his words feel more like a kick in the nuts.
It’s interesting to note how many of our expressions relate words to physical effects. I can “lift you up” with the right words, or I can “smack you down.” All without actually lifting a finger! My wife reminds me that words can “comfort” a child, just as if we held him. With a few well-chosen words I can close your eyes for slumber, or I can shake you awake.
Words play a big part in applying smart power. What we say to or about one another creates a perception as real as the physical monuments we raise with our hands. Words fashion an impression, and impressions flow into action.
When I hear such thoughtless obscenities as, “We should just bomb the Middle East into a glass parking lot,” I sometimes ask if the speaker would be willing to travel back there with me so he can pick out the first little girl to die under the first bomb. This rhetorical question often turns out to be a conversation killer.
In my various professional and extracurricular roles I’ve been physically struck many times. None of those blows, however, had the same effect as the (mercifully few) times when words have “floored” me like “a punch in the gut.” I’ve never been knocked out by getting slugged, but I have occasionally been “staggered” at hearing horrible news.
The right words can make the strongest man cry like a baby. My wife also points out that words can have a “crushing” effect or “break” a heart. Many professionals will recall having been “stabbed in the back” by an ill-intentioned colleague.
I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical about Pastor Robertson’s declaration that our all-merciful God mutilated thousands of babies because of a deal made by their government two centuries ago. I’d like to ask: would he be so eager to rationalize the infernos, tornados, earthquakes and other “acts of God” that periodically wrack our own country in the United States?
Since I understand he likes to teach from one book above all others—and since I happen to keep that same book right on my nightstand—I decided to crack it open and see what it says about caring for suffering people. I came upon the 12th verse of Colossians 3: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Those words ring a little truer, I think, than a glib pronouncement that an entire nation is under murderous judgment. Pastor Robertson’s comment sounded more like Pastor Phelps than Jesus Christ. I can imagine the 12th verse of Colossians inspiring the tireless work of many hands, carrying hope instead of damnation to the hurting Haitian people. But I can only imagine our introductory quote (that all Haitians had it coming because of a discussion from generations before their births) leading to a paralyzing apathy about inconceivable human agony. I speculate that the Westboro Baptist Church people would cheerfully line up behind this message…but is that really the cheering section he wants to have?
I’d like to share one final group of words, extracted verbatim from an online forum discussing this unloving comment that a nation of men, women and children deserved to be destroyed for an ancient, probably mythological conversation by their government:
“I’m 13 and I use 2 go 2 church until my parents saw this. They panicked and didnt want me to end up like that….”
Is the loss of this lamb a success in the eyes of the shepherd who caused it?
When we get ourselves all in a lather about the superiority of our faith tradition–in other words, when we become violently sure that we understand God better than anyone else can–the next logical step is to raise our fists and “prove” how right we are. We assume the right to punish and even brutalize and even murder others in this right to prove.
I’m sorry for what we’ve done to ourselves
Following a particularly productive engagement with a local Coalition leader at Camp Victory in Baghdad one day, I set out for a tranquil, cool-sunny afternoon stroll back to my office at the al-Faw (also known as “Victory”) Palace. Walking alongside the shimmering palace lake, I felt drawn to stop by a mosque I’d noticed earlier en route. According to custom—and military law of protocol—I did not enter the facility (I have been accompanied into others by Muslim friends), but I did poke my nose in from the outside. My buoyant mood was transformed into an anchor.
There is not a single offense which does not, directly or indirectly,
affect many others besides the actual offender.
Hence, whether an individual is good or bad is not merely
of his own concern but really the concern of the whole community,
nay, of the whole world.
I have always wandered, and I am always saddened to discover abandoned houses of worship for any religion in my wanderings. These are centers of community and hope that just aren’t doing their important work anymore. Each represents a place in which crime, poverty, or in this case war, have diminished a local population’s ability to satisfy its needs to assemble and develop their faith in that Something greater than us all.
Each of these places has seen its former occupants of self-sacrifice and generosity replaced by dust and bird droppings. Most, of course, are not physically scarred by the wounds of violence as this one was. I can’t know which “side” is responsible for slamming high caliber rounds into a wall of this building and blowing out some of its handcrafted windows. Probably both sides. In Afghanistan, entire neighborhoods have been leveled by heavy weapons; 95% of that ordnance was fired by Afghans of one group or another. Despite the physical devastation of these communities, the people still live there…it’s all they’ve had, and it’s all they have.
I’m reminded that our shared loss is not limited to this formerly-beautiful building, or to this type of damage. Isolated American soldiers displaying very poor judgment have shot bullets through the Qur’an, or otherwise mistreated it, for provocative effect on Muslim detainees. Some have made deliberately abusive comments about Islam’s most-revered prophet, Mohammed. (FYI for the uninformed, Muslims also revere as prophets Moses/Musa, David/Dawud and Jesus/Isa.)
Nor is the loss limited to Islam at the hands of non-Muslims. Self-described Muslims have pointedly massacred Christian and Jewish men, women, and children. They’ve done the same to the “other” kind of Muslim (e.g., Sunni on Shi’a or vice-versa). In a seemingly insane hypocrisy to male and female purity, some have even brutally raped women of their own “kind” of Islam in the name of Godly discipline. In Northern Ireland, under the same cross, Protestants and Catholics killed each other for many years in a faith-divided political struggle.
And, of course, the loss is not limited to faith on faith. Some individuals take great pleasure in attacking beliefs not to their liking, such as Andres Serrano’s photo of a crucifix in a glass of urine entitled Piss Christ. (No, I won’t show that particular piece of “art” in this book. You’ll have to Google it yourself.) Self-described Christians have murdered abortion doctors and innocent bystanders at public gatherings. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the “Westboro Baptist Church” is one particularly fringe Christian group whose members verbally abuse mourners at military funerals. Also as mentioned, I’ve corresponded directly with them in hopes of discovering/defusing some of their destructive motivation. I was told, “7 billion people hate our words,” and, “You can huff and puff until God takes the last breath from you, and stops your beating heart which he holds in his hands, with the most high-minded rhetoric you can drum up—and hate us with all your being—and bad mouth us all over the world—and that changes nothing. We. Aren’t. Going. To. Have. This. Nation’s. Blood. On. Our. Hands. We, like Noah and all the brethren in the Scriptures, are going to obey God, and warn our fellow man that the proud institutionalized sins of this nation are taking this nation to ruin.”
Frankly, such a self-righteous sense of entitlement to rampant cruelty is more frightening to me than any number of well-ordered military divisions. At least with a military, there’s some hope for a rational solution.
In what author Reza Aslan calls “cosmic war,” there is no hope for a rational solution. In Beyond Fundamentalism; Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization (Random House, 2009) he wrote:
“The events of 9/11 by no means inaugurated the debate over religion and violence in the modern world, but they did render the issue unavoidable. It is easy to blame religion for acts of violence carried out in religion’s name, easier still to comb through scripture for bits of savagery and assume a simple causality between the text and the deed. But no religion is inherently violent or peaceful; people are violent or peaceful….
“A cosmic war partitions the world into black and white, good and evil, us and them. In such a war, there is no middle ground; everyone must choose a side. Soldier and civilian, combatant and noncombatant, aggressor and bystander—all the traditional divisions that serve as markers in a real war break down in cosmic wars. It is a simple equation: if you are not us, you must be them. If you are them, you are the enemy and must be destroyed.
“Such uncompromising bifurcation not only dehumanizes the enemy, it demonizes the enemy, so that the battle is waged not against opposing nations or their soldiers or even their citizens but against Satan and his evil minions. After all, if we are on the side of good, they must be on the side of evil. And so the ultimate goal of a cosmic war is not to defeat an earthly force but to vanquish evil itself, which ensures that a cosmic war remains an absolute, eternal, unending, and ultimately unwinnable conflict.”
Personal attacks on others’ personal beliefs hurt the offended…and ultimately, they hurt the offender, too. Whether at the local level of damning differing beliefs as cultish, or actively participating in hatred at the level of cosmic war, this is just one more form of sowing seeds of discord. They bloom as thorns of destruction for everyone involved. In a way, this is sort of like punching a window in anger. The destructive power may feel good at first…but you’re likely to end up with some very nasty—and unnecessary—cuts.