Eliminating War: Alan F. Kay’s Offering of Peace
Executive director, Ethical Markets Media
September 21, 2009
To mark International Peace Day, September 21, 2009, Ethical Markets had the privilege of interviewing Alan F. Kay, co-author of Eliminating War. Kay and co-author Colonel Dan Smith, Ret., write, “It is hard to find anybody who is not for peace. Even the military, the politicians, and the industrialists who supply the military industry will say they want peace.”
While this preference may be true, Kay and Smith acknowledge the opposite truth that “If probed a bit, military industrialists will add a qualifier like, ‘Well, yes peace is what we want, but we do have to be ready to defend ourselves. There are a lot of threatening countries and bad guys out there.’”
In the face of this default to planning for aggression rather than peace, Kay writes that “the central purpose of this book, often omitted among the enormous numbers of good books available on war, is to offer proposals that make a tight, comprehensive presentation of specific ways that ultimately could eliminate war, in some cases within a year or two.”
Kay served in World War II with a tour in occupied Tokyo. He earned a bachelors degree at MIT and later a PhD in mathematics from Harvard. Kay founded two successful businesses, sometimes working with military contracts. In 1978, he became a donor and board member of public policy organizations and an investor and advisor to start-up companies pioneering energy efficiency and anti-pollution technologies. His non-profit ATI developed the methodology for public-interest polling. He is a board member of the World Security Institute, a non-partisan think-tank in Washington, DC.
To order a copy of Eliminating War, go to www.alanfkay.com where you can also find information on Kay’s other books Locating Consensus for Democracy – a Ten Year US Experiment, Spot the Spin: the Fun Way to Keep Democracy Alive and Elections Honest and Militarist, Millionaire, Peacenik – Memoir of a Serial Entrepreneur.
Ethical Markets: What motivated you to write Eliminating War?
Kay: I’m a World War II veteran, conscripted at 18, with a year in the infantry, followed by military police and Japanese interpreter duties in the army of occupation. Over the next six decades, I and my companies observed US military growth fighting disastrous wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and potentially others. I had to write a book showing how the US could avoid the quagmires and make the world a better place.
Ethical Markets: What is the most important lesson you hope readers will take away?
Kay: A key lesson is that each succeeding major war became ever more costly, risky, lengthy, lethal — and less successful.
Ethical Markets: How do you propose the world eliminate war?
Kay: Military weapons and wars are irrelevant. Issues and problems are increasingly global, not satisfactorily resolvable by individual nations. The real security threats to nations and humanity include: global warming, water shortages, epidemics that cross national boundaries, massive pollution sometimes carried by air and oceans around the world, piracy that can only be stopped by organized multi-national action, disintegrating economies, food shortages, and increased poverty. None of these problems can be solved by any nation alone; all require cooperation, conservation, sharing, mediation and diplomacy. War only exacerbates the problems and retards the most promising and necessary change. All of these problems mean that the wealthier people on the planet, for their own benefit, must not turn their backs to the increasing social and environmental needs of the less wealthy.
Ethical Markets: What strides toward peace have you seen emerge?
On a positive note, there are at least three developments that make it more likely that war will be eliminated than is generally known. (1) Many new actors are now involved in diplomacy and peace making. Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), new agencies, and the entry of empowered citizens aided by new communications (internet, cell-phones, etc.) now organize the kind of million plus anti-war protests seen in London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Sydney in 2002-2003 before Bush launched his war on Iraq. (2) The establishment of the UN International Criminal Court (now ratified by most countries, but not the United States) serves as a very visible warning that would-be war-mongering politicians are subject to prosecution. (3) The “war paradigm” is becoming obsolete as more and more flag-rank and even field grade military officials now concede that there are many situations, e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan, not susceptible to successful military actions alone and agree that the primary obstacles of ending those wars are political not military.
Ethical Markets: Of these “new actors,” which peace organizations do you find the most effective and why?
Kay: I’ve supported over a hundred peace organizations (world-wide there are thousands), beginning with the very successful nuclear freeze movement as I chronicle in Militarist, Millionaire, Peacenik. WAND (Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (now “in New Directions”) has effectively enlarged its scope and programs. Dedicated managers of non-profit organizations are leery of fat-cat donors having too much control.
Ethical Markets: What can an individual do to promote the cause of peace?
Kay: Google will give you the websites of peace organizations that seek members, staff, interns, and donors. Join the one (or perhaps a couple) that suits and impresses you the most. Start as an intern, work on it and likely you’ll soon be on the staff, ultimately management (why not?), and in time, if that’s what you want, number one.