Go Yoko: WAR IS OVER (If You Want It)

If we can't hope for peace at Christmas time, then when? In that vein, Yoko Ono has taken out an ad in today's New York Times "from John and Yoko" with the tabloidy upper-case headline: WAR IS OVER! and the fine print, "If You Want It." Many will dismiss it as double fantasy, but not those who have read David Carroll Cochran's thoughtful cover story in the current Commonweal: "A World Without War: Why It's No Fantasy."

After noting how once entrenched attitudes have changed toward slavery and capital punishment, he writes:

The best news from research on armed conflict is how infrequent it has become. War still exists, of course, as news accounts from Syria and Ukraine remind us every day, but there has been a gradual long-term decline in war across the past several centuries, one that has dramatically accelerated in the past sixty years. Whether measured by the number of active wars or the number of battle deaths per capita, we may be living in the most peaceful period in human history. Wars between states, especially those between great powers, have virtually disappeared. In many parts of the world, countries still have disputes but don’t even consider using war to resolve them. The Greek debt crisis, for example, sparked serious conflict within the European Union, but nobody thought Germany was going to invade Greece, even though collecting national debts was once a common reason for war. The thought of the United States going to war in order to resolve various differences with Canada or Mexico over trade or pollution or drug trafficking is now as improbable as the thought of two doctors in Peoria fighting a duel over a medical-ethics complaint.

Today’s wars are almost all civil wars fought within impoverished, frail, or failed states. There is no reason to think that the tools of peacemaking emphasized by Catholic social teaching cannot be effectively used to bring such states into existing zones of peace, where war is simply no longer considered a valid option.

Yoko Ono was in the news earlier this month when she tweeted that more than 1 million people have been killed by guns in the United States since her husband John Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. That war can end too, if we want it.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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