Chapter 1 of Powerful Peace: “Hate”

Are you new to this site? Welcome to our #6weeks campaign to share “Powerful Peace; A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War!” This has become an annual tradition since our publication on the 4th of July, 2012; I’ll hang every chapter in the book, one each day of this campaign, until you see the entire book wrapping up on Christmas Eve. We want to share the concepts—which many readers have called life-changing. I recommend you click in to day one, beginning with the Preface posted on November 10th, so you can read up from the beginning. Again, welcome! -Rob DuBois

SECTION I of Powerful Peace


The Physical


Food before fun

Abraham Maslow taught that if a person lacks satisfaction of basic survival needs, she will be incapable of working at a higher, cooperative level, even if it’s in her own best interests. It is difficult to be gracious when starving, or hurting. Cyclical and escalating conflict over meager resources is one by-product of desperation. Since lashing out produces further hurt and increased desperation, the cycle is very difficult to break—as we are witnessing around the world.

An empty belly has no ears.
Proverb attributed to China, Haiti, Senegal et al



September 11, 2001

The history of violent conflict traces back in many oral traditions to the very first humans. This opening chapter offers a first-hand account of one of the most hate-based and hate-producing events of modern history. Close the book for a moment, and take a second look at the cover. The number in the bottom-right corner of my photo is the original date stamp of that shot, taken while training Arab SEALs at their base in the Middle East. It was exactly seven days before September 11, 2001. And it was exactly seven days after my wife and children flew out of Boston on a flight number that two weeks later would be incinerated and immortalized in fire and blood. Yes, friends…I am familiar with hate.

In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon.
What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.
Mary Renault

RobshootTeammate Shaun Marriott and I perfect the art of force application. (Note brass shell ejecting above scope.)

My American SEAL platoon and our Arab SEAL hosts watched in living color on satellite television as the second plane dissolved into the second of the Twin Towers. It was approaching evening where we were, several months into a deployment to the Persian Gulf. We sat frozen, burning in silent rage, staring as nearly twenty deluded murderers exploited the most advanced technology to carry out the most primitive evil. Having slashed women to death with razor knives, these “men” committed suicide, proving they were brave enough and strong enough to kill thousands of innocents—among them unsuspecting office workers, little old ladies, and infants.

These murderers called themselves “warriors.”

Had those cowardly bastards chosen to face our little international group, man to man, 9/11 would have turned out differently.

We were all naval commandos in that room, some American, others the “local nationals” we had been sent to train. Ironically painful and poignant, we had been teaching our hosts skills that would make them better at killing terrorists. Yet not one of us could lift a finger to prevent what was happening in the United States.

As we sat together in that remote Middle Eastern barracks, each was very much alone with his thoughts. The Americans thought of loved ones and Teammates a world away. My Arab friends thought of…well, I hope to one day share another cup of tea and ask them. (As you may imagine, things got a little busy during the days that followed. Within weeks, I would be conducting reconnaissance for the invasion of Afghanistan.)

There we all were. Nearly twenty Arabs and Americans, living together in those barracks; nearly twenty Arabs, dying together in dispersed teams of terrorist hijackers. Had those cowardly bastards chosen to face our little international group, man to man, 9/11 would have turned out differently. They wouldn’t have had to work so hard to make their way to hell, for one thing. At our hands, hell would have come up roaring to greet them.

And three thousand gentle, innocent souls would still be alive with their families.

Two Tuesdays earlier, my wife and children had flown from Boston to California, just as a plane I had watched disintegrate had been scheduled to do.

Not one word was spoken for hours during the spectacle. If one of the local SEALs had laughed or expressed any satisfaction in what we were witnessing, I believe I would have killed him on the spot. This is not a boast. It’s a confession, a shameful admission. I’m very ashamed it’s true. These were my friends, but we were so choked with hurt; we were so thirsty for revenge.

Here was a bitterly painful sense of helplessness, for some of the most dangerous men on earth. We were supposed to be the protectors of our countrymen. Each December Seventh at the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team in Hawaii, in fact, we swam the five miles around Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island. Commemorating the original Day of Infamy in 1941, this ceremony sent the message that hostile actors were welcome to attack again if they wished…we would be ready this time.

Instead, in September sixty years later, we were on the wrong side of the planet.

We were supposed to be the ones who would sacrifice all so fellow citizens could sleep safe in their beds at night. Yet we would sleep through that night with troubled dreams, safe in our own beds, while thousands of innocents under our protection suffered and died in a crushing, inescapable nightmare.

In addition, within our platoon I had the unique awareness that only two Tuesdays earlier, my wife and children had flown from Boston to California, just as a plane I had watched disintegrate had been scheduled to do. Later, my wife would tell me a strange detail. During the early part of their flight on August 28th, a man of apparent Middle Eastern descent had been roaming the cabin and studying the passenger seating, crew stations, wings and more. He had been carrying an Arabic language newspaper. She wrote it off as unreasonable suspicion on her part, but remained troubled by his intense focus on surveying the airplane…especially the wings. Of course, this may have all been coincidence.

It is no coincidence, however, that I have a personal understanding of hatred. That’s the first thing I want you to understand.

Unlike my loved ones sobbing through a tortured morning rush hour in the United States, I sat among Arab friends and allies in the Middle East and watched 9/11 unfold. Some in my mixed group of highly trained commandos may have empathized with the grievances of the al Qaeda (AQ) terrorists piloting those improvised cruise missiles.

If that last statement strains your comfort level, I’m satisfied. Peacemaking is not the fluffy stuff of rainbows and unicorns. It is not exclusive to well-intentioned activists shouting “Ban War!” Peacemaking is the right—and the burden—of all of us, and it sometimes includes the use of force. Without just war, Hitler’s quest would have destroyed millions more. Genuine conflict reduction requires the capacity and willingness to strike, combined with a determined restraint and the guts to stare straight into the face of hate…and then choose a reasoned response.

Yes, some of my friends did (and do) empathize with the grievances AQ uses to justify hijacking airplanes. Note the careful use of this phrase “empathize with the grievances.” I know none of our Arab partners in that host platoon were radicalized terrorists. If one had been, he would have exploited our trust and killed us while we slept. The symbolic value of slaughtering a few American SEALs would have been irresistible. As demonstrated by the 9/11 hijackers, even sacrificing his own life to accomplish this would have been acceptable to an extremist with an opportunity.

All too often, hatred is so intense that a participant will choose personal suffering over personal peace as the price required to cause his adversary pain.

This may be difficult to reconcile according to our ordinary sense of reality, but we are in extraordinary times. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary effort. If we have the courage to consider the Other’s reality, empathy with grievances is possible and productive.

Here’s one poorly hidden elephant in the room:  Unresolved grievances and the anxieties they compel keep solutions at arm’s length. In many of the countries I’ve visited around the Middle East, the horror of Palestinian children killed in Israeli attacks is advertised widely and discussed passionately. For Israelis, on the other hand, the constant threat of devastating Palestinian rocket and suicide bomber attacks is a deep and chronic pain that can make reasoned negotiation seem unreasonable. Neither side will ever run out of iron-clad reasons to avenge the pain it has suffered; nor will either side ever accept its own marginalization or elimination, so all the struggle and rhetoric in pursuit of dominance for either extreme can only serve to prolong the suffering of innocents within both populations.

Many participants can sense this. Isn’t it time many more admitted it? Isn’t it time both parties, with their thoughts on their children, stared straight into the face of hate and said “Enough?”

As mentioned earlier, actor/director Don Cheadle and humanitarian John Prendergast have done exactly that in another abscess of raging human conflict in another part of the world. You’ll read about their “Enough Project” and book, The Enough Moment, in chapter 25 on Commonality.

Only the absolute cessation of violence allows space to work through underlying issues and pursue stability and reconciliation to benefit both parties. Yet all too often, hatred is so intense that a participant will choose personal suffering over personal peace as the price required to cause his adversary pain.

Until squabbling siblings, barroom brawlers or aggressing armies establish at least a cold truce, until the participants can “cause a pause,” the cycle of retaliatory violence continues to escalate and solutions fly ever further from reality…and more innocents suffer for our folly. At the most basic level there is no such thing as a corporation, an army, a nation, or even the book club where you may be reading this—each of these entities is nothing more than a collection of individual human beings in willing cooperation, backed up in some cases by lists which are also nothing more than shared understandings between individuals.

Only those who consciously choose and act can improve conditions for all of us.

The human is the lowest common denominator, from the smallest to the greatest social organization we have ever established. This universal individuality, to be revisited later on in the sections on Heart and Soul, is the reason peace cannot spread except by individual choices and actions…like yours. Understanding and peace don’t come about by some mysterious accident while we squabble over crumbs. Boardroom, bedroom and battlefield are universally populated only by individual human beings, and only those who consciously choose and act can improve conditions for all of us.

The solution lies not at but between the extremes. Only here can balance—and peace for those under your care—be found.


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“Introduction” to Powerful Peace

Life is about distinctions—a single distinction can create a profound impact and ultimately transform how we see the world around us. Go on a journey, through a Navy SEAL’s eyes, as he embraces the greatest distinctions between necessary evils, truths, peace, and the power of human nature. Instead of blame he places the responsibility of peace in everyone’s hands through the responsibility of individual choices. Powerful Peace is a must read for all, but especially those who wish to influence others—“It’s in our decisions that destiny is shaped.”

– Tony Robbins, Peak Performance Strategist

IntroductionDuBois-PowerfulPeace FINAL CVR-SM

Surreal…and so real

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of my fellow SEALs closed a transformative, decade-long chapter of my own life. As you’ll read, my deployed platoon was actively involved in the “Global War on Terror” from the very first minutes of the September 11th attacks. Ten years later, other SEALs closed the book on bin Laden’s hate-filled existence.

We have reached the time for the world to look for, and work for, a better and safer and brighter future together. This future demands new thinking; the vicious cycle of escalating violence is not inevitable, but it can seem to be the default setting for our species. The stakes are rising and we need to get much, much smarter to rewrite our self-destructive second nature and pre-empt the next bin Laden.

Our viewpoint is informed by our experiences, and our experiences are created in part by our decisions.

His life was marked by a cancerous hatred which ultimately left him hiding, isolated in a physical and emotional prison of his own making. Through the persistent corrosion of his choices, he ultimately rendered himself unable to stroll outside the fortress that became his home, unable to run downtown on a simple errand, and unable even to chat with his neighbors in a carefree, life-giving moment of human connection. Such years of non-life should serve as a valuable lesson to those of us who still draw breath and desire lives worth living. Choices matter.

Our viewpoint is informed by our experiences, and our experiences are created in part by our decisions—decisions about where to be, what to learn, and with whom to spend time. Bin Laden was committed to being the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner of strangers worldwide. Although the scale of his destruction was rare in its excess, it reflects a common pattern of human conflict—he became fixed on the righteousness of his beliefs to a tragically absurd extreme that harmed innocents.

His obsession cost the lives of thousands, caused the suffering of hundreds of thousands, fostered animosity and violence toward millions of those he claimed to defend, and irrevocably paved the road to his own final moment—and a bullet in the face.

This larger-than-life founder of a murderous movement finished his days as a washed-up old man hunched in stocking cap and blanket, locked away and peering wistfully at news clips of himself from more significant—more relevant—days.

In “balanced peacemaking” there are occasions for necessary violence.

I feel no pity for the terrorist who died in that compound in Pakistan, but I’m heartbroken for the child he once was…and the man he could have been. In the beginning, even Osama bin Laden was an innocent infant. Through a series of external events and internal decisions he became the monster we remember. Ridiculous and tragic wars between global powers rise and fall on the same variables. At some point along the way he didn’t have to become the “Osama bin Laden” of future history books. With the vast resources he was born to inherit, he could have improved many lives rather than destroy.

Also, and without apology for the unimaginable pain inflicted by this mass murderer, he and his followers did not carry out the attacks of 9/11 in a social or psychological vacuum. You will read about legitimate grievances which have been hijacked for grossly illegitimate purposes.

I’m no stranger to conflict, hate and violence, as you will read in Powerful Peace. And you may be surprised to accept that in “balanced peacemaking” there are occasions for necessary violence. But this isn’t about me. It’s not about bin Laden. It’s about all of us. In stories from our lifetimes at war you can read stories of yourself and your loved ones. We all have a great deal in common, and that’s the key to balanced peacemaking. In fact, I’ll ask you to express more of your own story as we go along, in your ongoing personal commitment to make peace wherever you stand. You might even help write future books on Powerful Peace, which is really just the first of many stories in making the world a little safer for all.

The universal principle of balancing courage with compassion applies in the boardroom, in the bedroom, and on the battlefield.

Here you’ll read about men, women, and children who have suffered, and who will suffer. You’ll read about interpersonal and international conflict, its origins, and some important alternatives to repeating the same, sad mistakes. Wherever you find yourself on the use-of-force continuum, you’ll understand that force is sometimes essential. Try to imagine your limited options if a suicide bomber were to approach your family, or a vicious man were brutalizing your small child. Immediate action—force if available—would not only be appropriate, but necessary. Necessary violence has its place. Yet the use of force without discretion, without a sort of “ruthless restraint,” sows seeds that yield unintended, undesirable, and painful future situations for our loved ones and ourselves. The universal principle of balancing courage with compassion applies in the boardroom, in the bedroom, and on the battlefield.

In service to innocent victims of conflict worldwide, I’ll shamelessly drop names of friends of Powerful Peace from the military, government, academia and the private sector. You’ll recognize some from today’s headlines. This cornucopia of talent demonstrates that there need not be any limits to our efforts to ensure security. Solutions spring from creative thinking, and humanity’s imagination is unlimited. Look at what Steve Jobs did to the universe of computing with just silicon and an insistence that it be simpler. Can we not do the same and more with the universal raw materials of heart and mind?

We can choose fearless and civil discourse at this critical juncture in history.

This book is for young men and women stepping out into the world; for good people interested in helping their neighborhoods; for the yet-untested and the veterans of war and other foreign service; and for leaders of armies and governments across the globe…perhaps especially for this last group. It is for believers from any faith, and for those who believe in none. It is also for citizens of nations about whom much is assumed, but little is understood; and for nations, like the United States, to whom much has been given and from whom much is justifiably expected. This book is intended to offer a voice to all, to open a dialogue for clarity that can contribute to peace and teach us the lessons of balanced peacemaking. We can no longer disregard balance with so much on the line.

We can choose fearless and civil discourse at this critical juncture in history. The alternative is to sit by while technological strides and ideological divides rip the world apart.

You’ll focus on real, tangible, attainable peace.

In these pages you’ll witness the tragic and absurd losses from conflict in the bloody, muddy sand of war and in generations of wounding wrought by chronic social feuds. You’ll increase your capacity and desire to undermine conflict. You’ll focus on real, tangible, attainable peace. And you’ll recognize the reactive and sometimes unnecessary roots of hate, and understand that those roots strangle all involved.

A brief example: during my early Navy years a friend once walked through a crowded bar carrying a full pitcher of beer in each hand. Partway back to the table, a young woman spun to face him and loudly accused him of having groped her. Looking left and right between his firmly-held pitchers, he was even more amazed to be confronted by her angry boyfriend asking, “Did you grab her butt?” My impatient, imprudent and somewhat inebriated shipmate then did the only thing that made sense to him in the moment. He hit the boyfriend in the face with a pitcher of beer.

Each participant in this spectacle disregarded the obvious. The girlfriend could have noticed two full pitchers and the impossibility of groping. The boyfriend, likewise. My friend could have thought of the potentially tragic consequences of shattering a glass pitcher in a man’s face (which, fortunately, didn’t happen—he was drenched in beer, but not in blood).  Each could have, but instead chose this Dance of Fools—a dance of compounding deficits of good judgment.  The price that accompanies this dance among national powers is significantly higher.

Fighting carries many costs, both obvious and hidden.

Because of pride and fear, it is difficult to admit—or even recognize—one’s role in the Dance of Fools. Every error and subsequent rationalization of wrong behavior squeezes a participant ever more tightly into a defensive posture.  This dynamic renders us nearly incapable of accomplishing that simplest of steps for conflict resolution: Just Stop Fighting…I call it “Cause a Pause,” or CAP. This is similar to that delightful expression used in gang warfare, “bust a cap.” Between rival gangs in the United States, this is a euphemism for shooting somebody. In the realm of peacemaking, I urge that we learn to “bust a CAP” to undermine conflict before anybody needs to get shot.

Between armed groups, or in a war of words between lovers, there can be no solution before the striking stops. Pause. More often than not, mistakes and assumptions represent a greater enemy than the human opposing us. This is why I highlight the role of misunderstanding as the insidious root of so much conflict.

I have many enemies, but few that walk and talk. Instead of “Ivan” and “Omar,” they have names like Rape as a weapon of war; Abuse of innocent children; Mistrust among cultures…Hatreds founded on misunderstanding.

Every side can agree on the worst of all losses: the broken or crippled bodies or hearts of the youngest among us, caught in the crossfire of hate in action. Fighting carries many other costs as well, both obvious and hidden. What about the incredible price of defending against imagined threats?

Disentangling conflict begins with the self.

Each of us can make a difference if we first accept some uncomfortable truths. We can begin by examining our own worldviews and our impact on others. Anything less is theoretical playtime. We also have to examine the news and views that are set before us. The true stories and examples in Powerful Peace will help you develop a greater capacity to see into and disrupt the heart of hate. Disentangling conflict begins with the self.

The book is divided into four sections, named after the four elements of balanced human life: Body, Mind, Heart and Soul. We are more than just walking lumps of animal instinct. This balanced arrangement corresponds with the “rational, compassionate and moral human guidance” previously described, seeking a broader understanding of our common ground. Ideas progress through the book’s evolving chapters, laying out critical themes like Humility, Dignity, Respect, Courage and Accountability. Because we share one world, I’ll pull references from across the planet and across society.

As the late, greatly irreverent George Carlin so eloquently demonstrated, reality is a very funny place. Popular culture on TV and film reflects our complex existence in tidy 30- or 90-minute bites with just the right amounts of drama, romance, and humor. So I’ll begin this cultural exploration by urging you to watch the movie Crash (Lion’s Gate, 2004), which is both superbly illustrative of tragic human destruction and superbly titled for our subject. The story involves families, from very different cultures, crashing together on the stage of daily life around Los Angeles. True to life, there are startlingly unexpected and unnecessary turns in its violent course. One of the stars of Crash is Don Cheadle, who played the lead in a true story of genocide in Hotel Rwanda (MGM/United Artists, 2004). That role educated him on the catastrophe of ethnic cleansing in Africa and, as you will read, motivated him to take an active role in preventing genocide and other forms of violence.

Besides the hidden or apparent wisdom in these books and films, I’ll give you some of my favorite quotes from others; sometimes profound, sometimes coarse, always edifying. Please give each a moment’s thought.

The time has come to un-think much of what we currently take for granted.

As we journey together, we’ll encounter some true-to-life “elephants in the room” that nobody wants to talk about. I’ll walk you straight up to examine those elephants. Like a little boy in a fable, I’ll raise my voice and point directly at the emperor with no clothes. His foolishness is no longer a simple embarrassment; now it costs the lives and limbs of children.

During years of advising military commanders and policy makers, I’ve observed unrealized potential for peacemaking. We live in a generation of unprecedented openness between societies and groups, with equally unprecedented accessibility to information. We have the opportunity to establish an entirely new understanding of differences, disputes, defenses and destructive powers. Heads of state and schoolteachers can dialogue via Twitter with hardened opponents and champions of jihad. We have the opportunity to learn about others, from others. And we have the opportunity to harness the incredible talent and critical thinking of a great generation of future global leaders; we need only reach out and begin.

Powerful Peace is not so much a one-time prescription as it is preventive medicine; a way of looking at the world. It represents a conversational path toward transformation. The time has come to change our minds—our way of thinking—across the planet, and to un-think much of what we currently take for granted; things like who hates who, why, and the supposed inevitability of destructive conflict. Our future is not yet written. Daily, we are scratching out and doodling in our very best efforts to script a future and dismantle outdated systems that today cause more insecurity than they prevent.

In the end, I’ll ask that you not keep this book. I’ll ask you to give it away.

I hope you won’t agree with everything in this book. If you did, I’d worry that one of us is trying too hard to please the other. But I have confidence much of it will ring true for you as it has for thousands of others…and for thousands of years. I’ve invented nothing. The Golden Rule and concepts of consequences are not new material in the scope of human history. This may just be the latest reminder of some things we’ve forgotten about ourselves.

In the end, I’ll ask that you not keep this book. I’ll ask 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. And I’ll ask international readers to take this opportunity to make themselves heard in a global forum we build together. I’ll ask you to share these ideas, so my own children can be safer when we all grow up.

In any case, I hope this process of humanization will increase you. I wish you peace. A balanced, powerful peace.


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or want to get your signed gift copies for the holidays?
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Special Veterans’ Day “Letter to Veterans” from the pages of Powerful Peace

EyesToday you’ll read an unusual piece never normally seen outside the physical pages of Powerful Peace; A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War—I’m going to share the very personal “Letter to veterans and recruits” I placed in the book ahead of the Intro, ahead of all chapters…a page also never seen in books before my own. My publisher understood.

And my book has been understood variously, by various readers. Some in government and military leadership see the national security value of it. Aid workers see my urging for us to maintain robust aid as a national security imperative. Private citizens read their own strengths and weaknesses in Powerful Peace, and resolve to live better. One friend wrote to me and said simply, “You saved our marriage.”

But the scarred….

The scarred see some of the most happy, most ridiculous, most horrifying, most meaningful, and most agonizing moments of their lives. Some of the scarred see context for their combat that was never apparent before. Many have described Powerful Peace as a powerful therapeutic device for making sense of the senseless that rips them from their dreams. One SEAL, in particular, has become one of my fastest and fiercest friends because of the relief he felt from this context, and our shared pain of losing Brothers in the same terrible moment.

On this day, more than most days, we remember those who have fought for us and survived and live with scars. As we see from the tragically high number “22” (the number of veterans who commit suicide EVERY DAY in our country), there is a serious need for solutions. These are elusive, despite the many committed citizens working to reduce this rate of loss.

Suffice it to say, awareness is the first step. So I publicly offer this personal letter, written from the scarred to the scarred, in hopes everyone will become more aware. If you are so moved, please lend your imagination to our mission. May “22” one day equal “Zero.”


Powerful Peace dedication:

“In memory of my friends Mike Murphy, Dan Healy and James Suh, who fell during Operation Redwing and whose sacrifices are captured by our friend, Marcus Luttrell, in Lone Survivor. Your spirits live on. By your example we will continue to fight when it’s right.”


A personal letter to veterans and recruits

Before we get into a book about making peace for your neighborhood and your nation, I want to take a moment to speak to a very special class of people in every land. Those who have served, do serve and will serve the rest of us deserve to be acknowledged specially in any discussion of war and peace. Following years of complex, sometimes-ambiguous, violent conflicts around the globe, many have been wounded in obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

Ours is a noble calling: the honor and privilege of ensuring the safety of others. Try not to doubt that, whether you have seen, or will see, events that trouble you during your service. I’m proud of you, and I beg every protected citizen to stand up and humbly thank you.

Your body, your mind, your heart and your soul have been scarred, or will be scarred, by your transformation into a warrior. This is the price of duty. It has built, or will build, your character and strength.

You may be in pain, struggling with a lost limb, lost peace of mind…or a lost friend. Talk about it. Talk about it. Find the courage to trust someone else, perhaps a professional, and talk about it. Believe me; I know how scary it can be to open up. Express your fears of weakness in a trusted relationship. It will make you stronger.

Yes, big boys and big girls do cry. It’s only the incomplete woman, the frightened man, who cannot release that most basic human expression. Whether a pilot, a grunt, a SEAL or a cook, there is no place for robots in our business. It’s only through teamwork that you have become, or will become, a soldier. And it’s only through teamwork that you honor your comrades and live up to your full potential. I pray your life will be deeply fulfilled, and your healing complete.

For 24/7 veterans’ crisis support, or to just begin opening up, call 1-800-273-TALK.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.
Khalil Gibran


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Preface to “Powerful Peace; A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War”

Welcome to our seasonal #6weeks, once-through-the-book online sharing of Powerful Peace;
A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War
! Drop by each morning through Christmas Eve (weekends included), and you can read all 50 quick chapters in this book Tony Robbins calls “A must-read for everyone, but especially for those who wish to influence others.”

We’ll begin at the beginning, with the Preface:

——————————————-At Baghdad Palace Cropped


Cultural shift

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Ben Franklin

When I began my U.S. Navy career in the mid-1980s, female service members competed in striptease contests at the base club on Saturday nights. Male service members in the audience howled, stomped and shouted obscenities at their “equal partners” up on stage.

On Monday mornings, we all suited up and worked side-by-side in our government offices. Back in the workplace, a man who had openly leered at a woman’s most intimate areas was prohibited from voicing rude observations about her figure. Sexual harassment was against military law. On Saturday nights, however, it was a social imperative.

Is this hypocritical disconnect incomprehensible today? If so, that’s because a deep cultural shift has made it so. Today’s military culture remains necessarily rougher than that of the civilian sector, yet it’s light years ahead of those earlier days when we would compartmentalize periodic degradation away from the mandated “equality” of duty hours.

Some of the assumptions we’ve grown up with are flawed.

Conflict, whether interpersonal or international, is ripe for a similar cultural shift in understanding, educating and behavior. Some of the assumptions we’ve grown up with are flawed. There simply are not as many intractable or inevitable conflicts between cultures and groups as we may have been taught. Such hardened beliefs on conflict—much like the obsolete military dichotomy between office behavior and social misbehavior—are the legacy of once-useful protectionist thinking.

Us-and-Them thinking served an important purpose when primitive tribes barely survived on scarce resources, and the appearance of a stranger presented a likely challenge to that survival. Unfortunately, as mankind’s capacity to produce necessities and offset scarcity has increased, our underlying tendency for suspicion has not diminished. We are still captives of “zero-sum” thinking—one side must lose for the other to win—and not looking hard enough at the magnifying power of sober cooperation. Worse, the fear of Others can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of my most dangerous colleagues share my frustration that military operations do not yet adequately address the needs of local national civilians in preventing further causes for conflict.

Powerful Peace will challenge every reader at some point along the way, but take comfort that only you will know which areas sting most.

On the other hand, force is still sometimes the most appropriate course, whether during paralyzed negotiations or in specific threat circumstances. I’ll prove that to you shortly. Enraged or deranged individuals do sometimes present an immediate danger to innocents, children included. Groups can send fanatical suicide bombers to kill indiscriminately. In that terrible moment, violence is often the only course to prevent annihilation. I invite my pacifist friends to skip ahead to chapter four to read about my Marine commando friend Sean and his split-second choice for force—violence—that saved dozens of lives.

This dual reality, or duality, on the use of force is the bedrock for our concept of “balanced peacemaking.”

I would also invite my proud and/or arrogant friends (pacifist, belligerent or in-between) to skip ahead to chapters twenty and twenty-one, titled “Pride” and “Arrogance” respectively. As you’ll read in the Introduction, these themes repeat throughout the book alongside Transparency, Sacrifice, Humanity and other essential ingredients of balanced peacemaking. Forgive me in advance; Powerful Peace will challenge every reader at some point along the way, but take comfort that only you will know which areas sting most. By way of example I’ll admit: I am convicted that Humility is absolutely necessary in cutting away roots of conflict, yet even in my own life its maintenance is a daily struggle.

History is replete with examples of thinking that has outlived its usefulness. In earlier days it was acceptable to buy and sell human beings as property, with all the rights of ownership that reduced humans to thinking, feeling livestock. (In parts of the world today, as you will read, this practice continues…and there is something you can do about it.) In various places and times this has included the right to end a slave’s life on a whim.

Our choices today affect many tomorrows; not only for friends and enemies but for total strangers on the other side of this increasingly interconnected world.

Yes, some of what seems deeply repugnant today was once commonplace. In the first half of the 20th century in some parts of the United States, a dominant race of men freely beat, framed for crimes and even hanged members of a less empowered group of American citizens. And as described, during the latter half of that century, we rewarded public degradation of active duty women in the military services.

What about tomorrow’s “today?” Some of what we think and do right now will seem similarly out of place, in retrospect. Yet as the clock ticks toward the next conflict, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for glacial societal change to update our thinking. The few, whether defenders or hostile actors, can now impact the many as never before in history. Those who protect have to act with greater urgency. The good news is that through improved understanding, we can make conflict prevention a sort of second nature. Our choices today affect many tomorrows; not only for friends and enemies but for total strangers on the other side of this increasingly interconnected world.

We must adapt. Just during the year it took to write Powerful Peace, the human race crossed the historic threshold of seven billion members. If unprecedented technological advances are allowed to run ahead of rational, compassionate, and moral human guidance, the consequences will be devastating. We have become like antagonistic passengers on a planet-sized vessel; like it or not, we need to work together to stay afloat. This all begins with an examination of assumptions about our shipmates, our ship and our seas. And it gives us the insight to pick the best course.


Join us right here, tomorrow morning, to read the next chapter of Powerful Peace!

Putting this Congressional concept in context

A strong contender for Worst Sermon Choice Ever happened one Mother’s Day many years ago, when our preacher spoke on the evils of male infidelity…Cindy was pissed! All the ladies got hugs and roses at the front door. Then we heard this tragically mistimed lecture on a topic that stirred up old wounds for some women, and instilled fear and mistrust in all the others.

Why the hell do I even mention this? Because cutting deeply into the promised lifelong medical benefits for tens of thousands of disabled veterans, precisely in the ending days of two bloody wars that crippled them, would be even more outrageous.

It would be morally reprehensible, and I have always before thought that my government was better than that.

Crazy Time: Possible Congressional action could degrade disabled combat veterans’ access to health care

Veterans and U.S. military supporters, heed!

The Powerful Peace Blog has for years been a place for nice stories about healthy human interactions and the occasional condemnation of toxic behavior (Westboro Baptist “Church”) and philosophies (global jihad). But things are going to change abruptly now, as I and SEAL of Peace Consulting have gone through a transformation of our own in recent months…and I will no longer distribute my energies over a wide range of interests. I’m going to focus on areas that need real attention—like this one:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has some disturbing findings and a de facto proposal that would harm combat veterans and many other young military retirees. This study was requested by Representative Paul Ryan and proposes that “working age veterans” be barred from eligibility to TRICARE Prime, in addition to further constraints to medical insurance that was assured to each of these service members when they were asked to sign the “blank check” up to and including their lives.

I almost never comment on these issues but this one has the potential to harm hundreds of thousands of those citizens who have risked the most for our country’s security. In fact there are thousands more who WOULD be affected, but they are already dead…having been killed answering the same Congress’ plea to defend the nation.

Let me ask one exquisitely important question: who comprises by far the greatest number of disabled retirees of “working age?” Oh, that’s right…the hundreds of thousands of new or pending young combat veterans who had been in the service a few years before the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the way, we older vets have far fewer amputations, cases of blindness, major body burns, explosive tissue damage and PTSD / Traumatic Brain Injury than the thousands of young wounded warriors who have defended this very same Congress…which now proposes to cut the heroes free.

The most disgusting phrase is this:

“…would reduce DoD’s spending significantly, primarily by encouraging people to leave TRICARE [promised benefits lost] in favor of other providers [the same expensive services available to everyone who never stepped in front of bullets and bombs].

*** Pay very, very, very close attention to this final quote: ***

“It also would encourage those who continued to participate in TRICARE to use fewer services.”

*** In other words, disabled veteran military retirees, we your “leaders” will discourage you with penalties for using all the medical services that are appropriate for you. We seek to make it PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE for you to get all the medical services you need……because we can’t pull our heads out of our asses to find non-harmful ways to balance the budget we ourselves destroyed. ***


Minimalist Reconstruction

New year…new everything.





I’m stripping off all the old layers of Powerful Peace. Many of these icons have been with me and us for a very long time, and they have served honorably.




But now SEAL of Peace has sprung forth from Powerful Peace, and everything is going to be cleaner, and leaner, and quicker, and sharper.





Watch this space as we improve