Below is a longer version of a letter I mailed this week to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives. –John Horgan
From: John Horgan, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J.
To: The Honorable Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
I am a professor and science journalist who blogs for Scientific American. Like many Americans, I’m heartened by your election to the U.S. Congress. There’s hope for our democracy!
Your call for a “Peace Economy”—and the video of you dancing to the classic lyric “War, what is it good for?”--inspired me to send you this letter, along with my book The End of War. I wrote the book because nine out of ten people (according to my surveys) think war is a permanent part of the human condition. I reject this fatalism, and I hope you do too.
Shortly before his death President John Kennedy urged Americans to see peace not as a utopian dream but as a practical goal. “World peace,” Kennedy said, “like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.”
I keep waiting for a bold politician to recognize the vast potential of a movement aimed at ending war once and for all. I hoped Barack Obama, especially after his Nobel Prize, might lead a global peace movement, but that was not to be. You have the courage, charisma and eloquence to become a peace leader.
As you emphasized during your campaign, our gigantic military budget is a drain on the economy, and our violent interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere have done more harm than good. “This continued action,” you stated, “damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity.” As antiwar activist David Swanson points out, few progressives have spoken out so forcefully against U.S. militarism.
The goal of ending war, if presented in a non-partisan way, should have enormous appeal. It should attract Americans on the left and right, liberals and fiscal conservatives, business folk and people of faith. Given recent protests at Google and other companies, I bet many technology workers would support an antiwar movement. And imagine what would happen if those for whom the Bible serves as sacred text started taking its prohibition against killing seriously!
Even the most just wars are immoral, because they invariably kill the innocent, including children. Wars are also terribly wasteful. If we cut the U.S. military budget in half, it would still be bigger than that of Russia and China combined. And think of the resources freed for addressing problems like health care, criminal justice, education and climate change! As other activists point out, defense cutbacks could help pay for the Green New Deal, your exciting program for countering global warming and other threats to the environment.
The U.S., in coordination with allies and rivals alike, can surely scale back its military empire in ways that boost rather than diminish global security. This step would take us closer to a world in which war between nations becomes inconceivable, a relic of our primitive past. We can end war, just as we ended slavery and other oppressive practices, if we have the will to do so.
I hope this letter, at the very least, gets you thinking about these possibilities. Thanks for giving me a hearing.
Sincerely, John Horgan