Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V26.2

Ricks’ Fiasco Reviewed by Gail Presbey

Presbey, Gail. ” ‘Fruit of a Poisoned Tree’: Review of Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (Penguin, 2006),” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

This book, found in the Military History section of many bookstores, is an excellent account of the strategic mistakes of the Bush Administration and U.S. military forces in Iraq. Ricks had special access to top military officials, due to his being a longtime war correspondent for the Washington Post. In contrast to muckraker Seymour Hersch, Ricks names all of his informants, who share their descriptions and analyses of what happened in Iraq, what went wrong and why. Many of those he quotes have high positions of responsibility in the military and were directly involved in the Iraq plans and implementation. He is talking to those most ‘in the know,’ which is what makes his book such a valuable source of information. Also, the carefulness of his argument means it cannot easily be struck down by those who want to defend the war and occupation as a ‘success.’

Ricks begins his book by charging that the Bush Administration’s decision to wage war in Iraq, and its mishandling of the occupation, will probably go down in history books as “one of the most profligate actions” of U.S. foreign policy. Ricks minces no words. He is a dire critic of the Bush Administration. But he is no radical. His book criticizes Bush not from the point of view of a leftist, but as one who has confidence in the longer tradition of U.S. military professionalism, which was ignored in this case. For Ricks, the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, which share many tactical errors, are exceptions to a rule of basically sensible military policy. And his critique of the Iraq war is not limited to Bush himself. Ricks explains that it takes more than one person to create a mess as big as Iraq. He points out systemic problems within the military and between the various branches and offices of government, which all played roles in this ‘fiasco.’

From his moderate perspective, Ricks doesn’t raise big questions, such as what should be the goals of U.S. foreign policy, or what American values are most important. He doesn’t explore better alternatives to war. Ricks’ treatment, therefore, is an invaluable ‘piece of the puzzle,’ but his book does not explain everything that needs to be known or discussed about the war. For example, Ricks does not discuss the larger context of U.S. intervention in Iran and Iraq: the U.S. propping-up the Shah of Iran, the U.S. promotion of Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, or the role that the U.S. played in arming Hussein in the first place (even with W.M.D.) The book does not mention the U.S. motivation for the first Gulf War, that is, why the first Bush administration came to the aid of a rich monarch in rescuing Kuwait, but ignored other concurrent foreign occupations of land in the Middle East such as Turkey’s occupation of half of Cyprus, and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. It does not mention that U.S. Forces targeted the water supply of Iraq’s cities during the first Gulf War, a supposedly ‘military’ maneuver that had dire consequences for civilians, or that U.S. use of depleted uranium in that war has led to high cancer rates in Iraq. In other words, an overall critique of U.S. neo-colonialism is missing.

Instead, the book begins with the aftermath of the war. Yet within the narrow focus of Ricks’ book, he does an excellent job. In 1991, U.S. forces repelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, but they did not move further to topple Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government did not see its role as engaging in ‘regime change.’ But the U.S. had thought that checking Hussein’s expansionist project and ejecting Iraqi forces from Kuwait would weaken the Hussein regime and hopefully lead to its downfall. But Ricks thinks that the U.S. made three tactical errors. First, it allowed Hussein’s hated Republican Guard, about 80,000 units, to leave Kuwait and take with them hundreds of tanks, ‘mostly untouched’ back to Iraq. These guards would later attack those trying to rise up against Hussein. Allowing them to leave Kuwait therefore made it more difficult to oust Hussein. But Ricks does not elaborate on what should have been done with these troops instead. He also does not mention the infamous “massacre at Mutla Ridge” where U.S. planes devastated columns of retreating Iraqis (see Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).

Another mistake made after the first Gulf War, according to Ricks, is that U.S. planes dropped flyers encouraging Iraqis to rise up and overthrow Hussein. Shiites and Kurds emboldened by this seeming promise of aid did what the flyers said, but U.S. troops stood by and did not help. In addition, the U.S. had been enforcing the no-fly zone rules, but General Norman Schwarzkopf allowed Hussein an exception to fly his helicopters. These helicopters shot at Shiites and Kurds in their villages and cities. Failing to support Iraqis in their attempts to rid themselves of Hussein led Paul Wolfowitz, then on the scene, to have a feeling of incompletion. Wolfowitz became involved in the supposedly humanitarian effort to help Kurdish refugees fleeing Hussein in the north. To the dismay of Marine Brigadier General Anthony Zinni, operation “Provide Comfort” was, under Wolfowitz’s direction, changed from refugee relief into carving out a section of Iraq not under Hussein’s control,. With this small foothold in Iraq, the U.S. became committed to ensuring Kurdish safety. As we know, Wolfowitz later became a key player in the push to return to Iraq — to finish what had been started.

Then followed the years of containment, with costs of enforcing the ‘no fly’ zone being about one billion U.S. dollars per year. Hussein’s ‘bark’ continued to be defiant, but in fact he did not interfere with the no fly zone, leading some military personnel like Zinni to say that containment was working. Nevertheless, the U.S. did decide to bomb Iraq, first in 1998 with operation “Desert Fox,” in which 415 cruise missiles were fired in four days; then again in February 2001, with air strikes aimed at five Iraqi anti-aircraft sites. Ricks does not mention the economic sanctions, or the argument popular with Kathy Kelly and her group Voices in the Wilderness that U.S. economic sanctions and the restrictive United Nations oil-for-food programs were leading to a shortage of medical supplies, resulting in the deaths of about 500,000 children in Iraq. Secretary of State Madeline Albright commented in 1996 that the deaths of these children were a price that had to be paid to contain Hussein. Critics suggest that the sanctions violated rules of war, which should not target civilians.

Due to frustrations with containment, the Clinton Administration and the subsequent Bush Administration found themselves pressured to invade Iraq. U.S. Troops, stationed in Saudi Arabia to maintain the Iraqi no fly zone, were targeted. The Khobar towers bombing led to the deaths of 19 U.S. service men and wounded 372 others. Bin Ladin’s 1998 “Fatwah” against the U.S. demanded that U.S. troops leave Saudi Arabia, and stop bombing Iraq.

Some thought that ousting Hussein once and for all would be better than the never-ending work of containment. The Project for a New American Century asked Clinton in 1998 to consider invading Iraq. Wolfowitz and exiles led by Ahmed Chalabi were some of the key instigators. In 2001, Judith Miller’s articles for the New York Times, which involved interviews with Iraqi defectors, influenced many to believe that Hussein could be hiding W.M.D. But the urge to invade Iraq pre-dated September 11, 2001, and pre-dated any real concern about W.M.D.

Ricks argues that the decision to go to war with Iraq and oust Hussein was done without any careful planning for the aftermath of the war. Dismantling Hussein’s army after the ‘successful’ U.S.-led invasion created unemployment for tens of thousands of troops and was interpreted as revenge against them for their loyalty to Hussein. This partisanship did not help to build a new, united Iraq. When U.S. forces could not effectively guard weapons caches, the displaced soldiers joined others in arming themselves to take part in the insurgency.

Ricks cites military officers who say that U.S. forces did not understand Iraqi mentality. In the Balkans, U.S. forces were able to quell insurgencies by constant patrolling of the streets. Their mere presence during the patrols would deter insurgents from fighting. But in Iraq, the constant patrols were experienced as humiliating. Americans did not understand Iraqi pride. Americans also hurt Iraqi pride and honor by engaging in house raids in the middle of the night. They rounded up many detainees, but made more enemies. One military officer suspected that many of the roadside bombs aimed at U.S. convoys were actually attacks by Iraqis who felt honor bound to retaliate against U.S. forces that had violated the sanctity of their homes. The fact that so many roadside bombs were able to be placed meant that locals supported them. The attempt to win Iraqi ‘hearts and minds’ was losing.

U.S. reticence to release thousands of suspects led to grave overcrowding of prisons. We all know the Abu Ghraib scandals, involving torture and humiliation of detainees. Ricks argues, conservatively, that while torture tactics were not ordered from above, they were tolerated. Ricks does not get involved in allegations that trace responsibility for mistreatment of prisoners all the way to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (see Charlie Savage, “Documents Link Rumsfeld to Prisoner’s Interrogation,” Boston Globe, 15 April 2006).

Ricks argues that from a military point of view, effective counter-insurgency tactics call for treating prisoners well so as to wean them from the insurgency. U.S. tactics of abuse further alienated Iraqis from the occupation and strengthened the insurgency. Likewise, retaliatory tactics such as those used in Fallujah, after four foreign contract workers were killed there, did not have the hoped-for effect of quelling the insurgency. While the city lay in ruins, the insurgents grew more determined.

In an effective counter-insurgency effort, troops must live with the people and win their trust. Instead, U.S. troops lived apart from the people in bases intended to duplicate U.S. luxuries back home. The continuous need for supplies meant that convoys were targeted by the insurgents. Ricks concludes that the counter-insurgency efforts of the U.S. duplicated many errors of the Vietnam war. In both wars, U.S. forces over-relied on their technological superiority and firepower, and downplayed the need to win popular support.

Near the end of his book, Ricks finally entertains the possibility that the Iraq occupation has been going so badly because it was “fruit of a poisoned tree.” In other words, since the U.S. went to war for the wrong reasons in the first place, the occupation was bound to be difficult. Here the problems of tactics are briefly put into the larger context of wrong goals. But when Ricks looks toward the future, he does not think that withdrawal of U.S. troops is an option. To do so would let Iraq fall to U.S. enemies. His ‘best case’ scenario does not sound very easy. If military advisers take to heart the lessons learned by military strategists regarding defeating an insurgency, and based on those insights, completely change their tactics, then the U.S. could finally win over the insurgency. His ‘cheery’ comparison for the best case is the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. There, after a few initial years of brutal repression, and several more years of careful counter-insurgency work, the U.S. occupation finally led, in about ten years, to a stable government with which the U.S. could work. Following this ‘best case’ scenario, U.S. troops would stay in Iraq another ten years.

Ricks presents two other options, the ‘middling’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios. The middling scenario is that the U.S. role in Iraq could end up like the French in Algeria, their presence resented, fought, and finally ousted as a neo-colonial power. The ‘nightmare’ scenario, according to him, is that in response to U.S. incursions there, a new dynamic leader and strongman — a Saladin — would arise to unify the Arab world. A united Pan-Arab country or empire could use oil money to arm itself with nuclear weapons and be a serious problem to the U.S. In order to avoid this scenario, Ricks advocates his option number one above.

I think that Ricks shows his limitations in his conclusion. His dependence on current military strategies prevents him from seeing other options. While he admits that the U.S. entered Iraq for the wrong reasons, he does not advocate a U.S. public apology. Bush continues to defend the decision to enter Iraq, while shifting the rationale from pursuit of W.M.D. to that of promoting ‘freedom and democracy.’ Any continued U.S. presence that does not admit past mistakes is bound to encourage further resentment. Also, the U.S. has to separate issues of private gain from its continued presence in Iraq. Due to U.S. influence on privatization laws adopted by the Iraqi Governing Council under the stern leadership of L. Paul Bremer, III U.S. motivations cannot easily be interpreted as altruistic. If U.S. forces are to stay, the U.S. government should forswear all claims to oil and reconstruction profits.

Ricks’ ranking of endgame scenarios shows that his own position seeks to continue a position of U.S. Domination in the Middle East. To say that every country and region in the world must be on friendly terms with the U.S. and its current economic agenda, or else the country will be called an enemy of the U.S. and will be undermined diplomatically, economically, or militarily, is certainly an Americo-centric perspective. To say that the U.S. is justified in the continued occupation of a country which it should not have invaded in the first place, merely because to leave would mean that it would then be ruled by U.S. enemies, presumes that the U.S. has the right to do whatever it wants wherever it wants if it thinks it is in the U.S. interest. What gives the U.S. that right? On the other hand, a graceful exit after a profound apology, and a commitment to help in reconstruction by funding Iraqi firms rather than Halliburton or other U.S. corporations, would go a long way to ensuring that a future Iraq government would not become an enemy of the U.S.

Also, those who fear a future powerful Middle Eastern country in possession of nuclear weapons have other ways to avoid that grave scenario. If the existing nuclear non-proliferation treaty were strengthened by existing nuclear nations such as the U.S. taking seriously their obligation to work toward disarmament, as the treaty states, the U.S. could by its example reverse this arms race. The U.S. should also stop engaging in blatant double standards such as turning a blind eye to, or supporting, Israel’s nuclear arsenal; providing expertise to India, while its nuclear arsenal violates the treaty; while working to penalize Iran on the mere suspicion that it would want a weapon in the future. If the U.S. consistently worked for a non-nuclear future, the goal in the Middle East could be achieved, and the ‘nightmare’ scenario Ricks fears could be averted.

I realize that the alternative scenario I propose is not one that is popular in the circles that Ricks frequents. I myself am not a military expert. I have learned a lot about the Iraq war and the debate regarding military strategy and tactics from reading Ricks’ book. As I said at the beginning, Ricks’ book is a crucial piece in the puzzle for understanding the current crisis in Iraq. Those of us looking for an alternative to endless U.S. occupation of Iraq can use Ricks’ careful military analysis to show Bush supporters that Bush’s handling of the Iraq war has been deeply flawed. Then, I think, we have to go beyond Ricks’ proposals to find a solution that is more acceptable than reproducing, a hundred years later, the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. A fuller understanding of our errors should lead to a fuller sense of our possible alternatives.


Gail M. Presbey is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Detroit Mercy. Her areas of expertise are social and political philosophy as well as philosophy of nonviolence and cross-cultural philosophy. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Kenya and India. She has co-edited a textbook, The Philosophical Quest: A Cross-Cultural Reader, now in its second edition with McGraw-Hill; and an anthology, Thought and Practice in African Philosophy (Nairobi: Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 2002).

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Buying Moral Victory by Ruth Lucier

Lucier, Ruth, “Buying Moral Victory: Review of P.W. Singer, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell University Press, 2003),” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

I grew up hearing about the Military Industrial Complex in a home with parents who believed that almost all wars are morally wrong or unnecessary, and that many wrong and unneeded wars have occurred (and continuously occur) because of the financial interests of those who grow rich by producing the weapons. Hence, I was somewhat startled by the author’s opening remark in the preface of Corporate Warriors that prior to 1996 he had not heard of “the phenomenon of private companies offering military services for hire” (p. vii). What, I wondered, did Peter W. Singer (the Brookings scholar, not the Princeton philosopher) think private companies contracting with the US Department of Defense do?

Reading on, I found that Singer’s purpose is to help the reader to understand a particular segment of the private military industry based in the United States—a segment that doesn’t just serve up the U.S. government’s weapons; it is given the task of actually deciding when and where to apply them in actual fields of battle. Singer suggests that the reason that so much modern on-the-ground killing and guarding against killing (viz. “security”) has been delegated (and so “privatized”) not only by the U.S. government by other governments as well, are (1) released conflicts, (2) rise of non-state violence, (3) a market flood of weapons, and (4) a decline of local state governance and local military response due to diseases like AIDS (pp. 50-51). Singer also documents the interesting fact that many of today’s heads of state make use of paid foreign security forces to prevent coups and to exercise control over their own indigenous armed forces (pp. 200-201).

Singer is certainly right to identify the rapidly expanding utilization of “troops for hire” as a matter that merits discussion. And he correctly points out that it is the responsibility of citizens of a democracy to know how wars (particularly those that are conducted on their behalf) are being carried out. Otherwise, how can citizens wisely control military activities that occur on or off their country’s terrain? Singer’s attempt to supply information is surely a worthy goal—one that has important ethical implications.

The historical explanations given in the book, however, are less than satisfactory. In Chapter One, for example, Singer appears to accept David Shichor’s suggestion that military products have been and are the business of (and should remain the business of) government in cases were “death and destruction on a considerable scale are inevitable products” (p. 1), hence suggesting that past U.S. wars were exclusively and officially government endeavors. But this is surely not so. The American Governments of the invaders from Europe certainly offered land for those independent settlers who would destroy, by any means, the way of life, if not the actual existence of indigenous peoples. What followed was surely “a century of dishonor” involving numerous broken treaties and non-governmental massacres, as well as the privatized pillaging of natural and cultural resources. The century of war against Native Americans was surely largely a privatized war paid for by the offering of “free” land to the non-official, non-indigenous combatants.

In utilizing history to warn against privatization, Singer, however, looks not to America, but rather to early empires in Europe. For example in Chapter One he suggests that the use of mercenaries in Greece and Rome during these empires’ colonial periods turned military power over to private elements. He argues that this resulted in a kind of instability that, in turn, led to the destruction of democracy. In Chapter Three, Singer suggests that today the activities of private companies, with employees who act as soldiers and actually operate tremendously destructive weapons, may be problematic because their activities might also undermine democratic order. Singer later suggests that another reason for objecting to the transformation of contemporary warfare, from nation-run war to privatized “company operation,” is that the privatized conflicts may induce a “breakdown of warrior’s honor” (p. 64).

But what is it about the fact that such companies “operate as businesses first and foremost” (p. 40) that causes them to be more dangerous to democracy or more likely to create lapses of honor than governmental military institutions? Both kinds of organizations may employ soldiers who are required to fight for exactly the same non-democratic programs of, for example, land-acquisition and genocide.

Singer’s reply is that the company soldiers would be less accountable to moral standards because such soldiers may “simply harbor an open commitment to war as a professional way of life” (p. 41).

But do professional government soldiers (e.g. career officers) do otherwise? Hopefully, most US government soldiers believe the boss (e.g. the U.S. Government) is a government worth fighting for, and a large majority is morally well intentioned. But U.S. Armed Forces career professionals are surely committed to fighting, as directed, by the Country and its Commanders, on the basis of a commitment to do battle no matter what; to do battle, in effect, even if the Government’s cause is wrong.

Still, Singer sees the privatized soldier as morally less desirable for several other reasons. First, Singer believes the commitment of the soldier for hire is likely to be less stable in conflict situations because, as Singer puts it, “They have more independence” (p. 41).

Singer is probably right in suggesting that privatized soldiers who can quit easily may, in that sense, be less committed. But, this ability to quit is surely not always morally unfortunate. If the war the privatized soldier is fighting is unjust, we ought to be glad that the privatized soldier can quit and saddened that the government soldier must remain.

A second reason Singer offers for believing that the government-paid soldier would be more virtuous, is that the government soldier may be fighting for home and country, while the privatized soldier may be fighting merely for pay. But while a government-paid soldier standing at the door of his or her home and actively defending the beloved occupants within, may seem clearly more heroic than the mercenary fighting in foreign territory merely for pay, the sense of virtue collapses when that same government-paid solider is fighting an offensive, aggressive war on foreign turf many miles from home.

To be sure, soldiers fighting aggressive and unjust wars may think they are protecting their own families and exemplifying transcendent virtues; but about these matters government soldiers and hired mercenaries may both be quite equally and quite tragically wrong.

A final concern Singer poses has to do less with democracy or virtue than with the pragmatic responsibility of policing and oversight. Singer observes that if governments allow great amounts of lethal force to find their way into private hands (and particularly into the hands of unidentified persons who are outside the reach of any law), they may create a situation where the use to which these private persons put the weapons cannot be regulated, or their misuse punished. For how can private companies with no clear national base be held accountable to any deliberative body at all?

Of the many points Singer makes against privatization in Corporate Warriors, this point is, I believe, the most forceful. If increasing privatization is a way of getting war done without having anyone accountable for what is done to the victims of the war, the potential for massive injustice is certainly greatly increased.

Singer is right to suggest that democracies need to work intensively to regulate and control all potential sources of violence within their borders. And, of course, he is also right to suggest that weapons of mass destruction should be regulated by global democracies that are accountable to hopefully responsible and informed citizens. Surely, however, we must move beyond Singer’s suggestions and make certain that the possible use of any highly destructive weaponry (in private or public hands) is identified, globally regulated, and ultimately banned. While this is being accomplished, we should carefully examine claims that this or that war is morally justified, and we should work to strengthen the ability of international law to totally prevent predatory and unjust wars.

In spite of the fact that it does not make any conclusive case against privatization, Singer’s book is worth reading, just because it invites us to focus on very real threats to global peace. Nevertheless, while acknowledging the importance of Singer’s inquiries concerning the moral status of privately verses publicly funded bearers of arms, I believe we should direct most of our philosophical energies to resolving questions concerning when and whether (even apart from considerations of funding) war can be moral at all.

Ruth Lucier is Director of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Bennett College, NC. Her recent publications include topics in moral philosophy and education.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Can Peace be Taught? by Greg Moses

Moses, Greg, “A Review of Robert L Holmes and Barry L. Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice, 2nd Ed.(Long Grove, Ill: Waveland Press, 2005),” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

In this much expanded second edition, new co-editor Barry L. Gan joins Robert L. Holmes to produce a collection of 51 readings arranged into six parts. Following is a survey of the first three parts.


Part one, on ‘origins’ is divided into three subparts: Eastern Religions, Abrahamic Religions, and Secular Sources. This part begins with a review of the ethics of Jainism, “the oldest philosophy based on nonviolence.”

For I.C. Sharma, author of “The Ethics of Jainism”, nonviolence is often born from experience with “suffering and death”; and so it was with Jainism’s great reformer, Mahavira, who sought “abrubt renunciation and the strictest possible ascetic life” as a way to break away from the human cycle of misery. Not only abstinence from violence, but from lying, stealing, sex, and possession—such were the strict codes of Jainist liberation.

If the renunciations were strictly followed, the ascetic could aspire to Moksa, a state of “infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite power, and infinite bliss.” For this discipline to work, selfishness must give way to self-realization in which “service and self-sacrifice” would be means for perfecting being. Nonviolence, therefore, would be pursued relentlessly in thought, word, and deed.

In the second reading, these elegant yet rigorous ethical principles are taken up by Lao Tzu and applied to less ascetic pursuits, such as the management of the state. “He who delights in the slaughter of men will not succeed in the empire,” warned the sage in his verses on “Armies”. For Lao Tzu, victory in war is most properly celebrated at funerals (No. 31).

Deep love, frugality, humility; a wise contentment with small things; and attention to our own strange habits rather than to faults of others—these are the counsels of the legendary author of the TaoDeChing. But why would he encourage such things if they were already the norm? Behind the peace he bids with verse, we hear background commotions from his time and ours.

From the Buddha, reading number three brings excerpts from the Dhammapada on violence, justice, and the Brahmin. A brief introduction explains the law of karma, where every little thing tends in one direction or another and “little by little” every small thing we think, say, or do may begin to trace a path of great reversal. Of the Brahmin, says Buddha: “He neither kills nor helps others to kill”.

Gandhi’s beloved Bhagavad-Gita receives brief treatment in reading four. “It is pre-eminently a description of the duel that goes on in our own hearts,” said Gandhi about the long dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. In the end, suggests Doris Hunter, the ethical lesson of the text is deontological: we must perform our duty, because that is the only control we know.

Turning to the Middle East, the second subpart revisits nonviolence in the great traditions of the Abrahamic religions whose one God–Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah—initiated a remarkable worldly career by adopting a native-born son of Iraq.

Reuven Kimelman glosses nonviolence in the Talmud, where ancient records of Palestinian Rabbis quote Rabbi Simeon ben Abba’s take on what in Christendom goes by the name of the ‘Old Law’: “Not only he who returns evil for good, but even he who returns evil for evil, ‘evil will not depart from his house’”–which leaves no room but to do good, period.

As a practical illustration for ordinary affairs, this same source teaches that even if you see your enemy frustrated by a sitting donkey, you are obliged to help pick up “the ass of one who hates you.” Thus spake Rabbi Alexandri.

Writes Kimelman, “the Midrash offers a two-point program for reconciliation. First, control your urge to hate. Second, act in such a manner that your enemy will become your friend.” In further sections of the reading, Kimelman reviews killing and self-suffering in more detail, with reference also to modern-day sources such as Richard B. Gregg’s concept of nonviolence as “moral jiu-jitsu” and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s, concept of “cosmic companionship.”

How did early Christianity conquer the Roman Empire? In reading number six, Lawrence S. Apsey reminds us that nonviolence was the way. “During this period, Christians refused to serve in the army; and there is no direct evidence that they ever used force against the bloodthirsty persecutors to which they were subjected.” Apparently, these early Christians lived in close encounter with the example set by the founder of the sect when he was faced with the onslaught of empire close up.

As for Islam, Wasim Siddiqui argues that the concept of peace derives from “the unity of all existence: inanimate, plant, and animal.” Complete surrender to Allah is thus a kind of declaration of peace will all things, but most especially with that one called self. “Islam promotes peace in society by emphasizing to individuals their roles as recipients of God’s grace and custodians of the earth.” We are each “individual expressions of God created from one Soul.”

For secular classics, the editors present Plato and Thoreau. For Socrates, whose alleged secularism proved to be a fatal charge in his day, “fear of death is pretense of wisdom”; even in the face of evil coming, ‘tis better to suffer evil than to do it; and if we respect the structure of law, we submit ourselves dutifully to verdicts of juries.

“But when friction comes to have its machine,” writes Thoreau, “and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.” To a state more concerned with “commerce and agriculture” than with “humanity” Thoreau says the time comes when we must tend to justice, “cost what it may”.

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations,” argues Thoreau; “it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.”

Such are the classic texts of the origins of nonviolence, presented from sources in India, Iraq, Jerusalem, Athens, and Concord.


Part Two transports us from Thoreau to three of his great disciples–Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King. As the editors note, these three great philosophers of nonviolence draw upon religious commitments that compel distinctive forms of action.

For Tolstoy, the Christian sensibility is founded upon recognition that life belongs not to the receiver, but to the giver–and who is able to give themselves life? The living individual therefore owes everything to life-giving and does nothing contrary to this simple but all-consuming principle (from which each living thing has emerged).

Tolstoy was Garrisonian in his commitment to “non-resistance to evil” as his references to the Massachusetts abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison attest (although Garrison is not collected here). Should a Christian kill a criminal who is about to kill a child? Indeed, in an effort to save that child, a Christian may sacrifice herself, but in a world ordered by God, nobody should entitle themselves to make judgments about killing.

As Tolstoy sees it, the example of a robber attacking a child has wide appeal, because it is widely appealing to legitimize violence as reflex. “Therefore Christ taught us to disbelieve in any excuse for violence, and (contrary to what had been taught by them of old times) never to use violence.”

From Gandhi, the editors have selected writings on “satyagraha”, a term that originates from a South African naming contest organized in 1908 to seek a suitable replacement for the term “passive resistance”. “The movement in South Africa was not passive but active,” asserts Gandhi. How many times have nonviolent activists had to repeat the claim that what they do counts as activity? How many times have pacifists nevertheless been charged with do-nothingism? After nearly a century has gone by since the 1908 re-branding effort, what is not getting through?

The London-trained lawyer who selected the term satyagraha as most apt to describe the general strategy of his fellow strugglers argues that the moral right to civil disobedience against “certain laws in well-defined circumstances” can arise only out of profound moral allegiance to the laws of society in general. Only a sacred commitment to the laws can produce a sacred obligation to construct them justly.

“Satyagraha is pure soul-force. Truth is the very substance of the soul. That is why this force is called satyagraha. The soul is informed with knowledge. In it burns the flame of love. If someone gives us pain through ignorance, we shall win him through love. ‘Nonviolence is the supreme Dharma’ is the proof of this power of love. Nonviolence is a dormant state. In the waking state, it is love. Ruled by love, the world goes on. In English there is a saying, ‘Might is Right’. Then there is the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. Both these ideas are contradictory to the above principle.”

From Joan Bondurant’s 1958 classic, Conquest of Violence (Richard B. Gregg’s earlier book is not excerpted in this collection) we find notes for the 1924-25 campaign in India to allow untouchables the right to walk open roads in front of Hindu temples.

Here the expectations of the nonviolence formula are met by the beatings that Brahmins give untouchables during a protest march, by police arrests, by barricades erected to prevent further access to untouchables, and by negotiations with state authorities that result in the removal of the barricades. But the formula takes a surprising turn when in the absence of barriers the untouchables refuse to take the streets until the Brahmins have been convinced to allow them. The untouchable movement asserts the priority of love over power precisely at the point where power could be exercised prior to love. Satyagraha is something more than another word for passive resistance or civil disobedience.

The love centeredness of nonviolence is a virtue stressed in the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a brief account of that movement, Lawrence S. Apsey reminds us that upon returning to the buses of Montgomery, Black citizens were advised to “evidence love and good will at all times.” On the other hand, the love ethic of nonviolence or satyagraha has been distinguished from passive resistance and therefore is not shy about activating confrontation when necessary.

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” writes King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. “My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension’. I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”


Part Three of six focuses on Women and Nonviolence, a topic that the editors present as one portion of a crucial systemwide revaluation of women taking place among knowledge professionals of the contemporary academy. The late David Daube, renowned scholar of Hebrew law and scripture, opens this revaluation with a 1972 review of women in the Bible and Greece.

For Daube, the refusal of Hebrew midwives to obey Pharaoh’s genocidal order to kill newborn males (expemplified by the hiding of baby Moses among the bullrushes of Egypt) counts as the oldest act of organized civil disobedience preserved on record. In their resistance to this command of state, Hebrew women appealed to a higher law than Pharaoh’s.

Likewise with Antigone. When she disobeyed the order of King Creon, and buried her brother, Antigone told the King that that he could not contravene the “the immutable, unwritten laws of heaven.” “That both cases involve heroines is not accidental,” writes the law professor, “and if this has hitherto been neglected, it proves only that the male, scholarly world had no eyes for it. Women are largely outside the power structure; indeed, on the whole they belong to the oppressed ones of the earth.”

Margaret Hope Bacon acknowledges that roots of nonviolence and feminism run deep into antiquity, but “the specific social activism” that attaches to these terms only begins in 19th Century New England, with both movements animated by a vortex of abolitionism. The exemplary figure for Bacon is Lucretia Mott, “a small Quaker minister with a mighty spiritual stature” who synthesizes feminism, nonviolence, and abolitionism (Mott’s writing is not collected in these pages).

The Quaker doctrine of an ‘inner light’ within each human had already prepared a philosophical path for women’s equality by the time Lucretia Coffin was born on Nantucket Island. At the age of 18, Lucretia married a fellow schoolteacher and settled into the life of Philadelphia. “Although she was soon busy with a family of six children, she was independent and active, teaching school for some years after she was married, struggling against the increasing conservatism in the Religious Society of Friends, and pushing the movement against the use of the products of slavery, an early form of boycott.”

For Barbara Deming in the 20th Century, the revolutionary practice of nonviolence is a way of staying in control of oneself and one’s movement. “It is my stubborn faith, argues Deming, “that if, as revolutionaries, we will wage battle without violence, we can remain very much more in control—of our own selves, of the responses to us which our adversaries make, of the battle as it proceeds, and of the future we hope will issue from it.”

In the turbulent aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, Deming replies to the arguments of Frantz Fanon and other voices disenchanted with the power of nonviolence. “If people doubt that there is power in nonviolence,” writes Deming, “I am afraid that it is due in part to the fact that those of us who believe in it have yet to find for ourselves an adequate vocabulary. The leaflets we pass out tend to speak too easily about love and truth—and suggest that we hope to move men solely by being loving and truthful.”

For Molly Rush, the symbols of nonviolence would be hammers and blood. Her objective was to disable as many nuclear warheads as possible, and to mark them with blood as a sign of their essential function. As she was escorted away from the General Electric building with her Plowshares Eight companions, she looked back to see: “the dented gold and the scratched black cones, the dribbled blood, all vivid under the bright industrial lighting in the large, blank room.” And she was pleased.

Feminist philosopher Sara Ruddick considers nonviolence in the context of mothering. From one point of view, it appears that a mother’s nonviolence would serve as another mark of her powerlessness against men and their systems of domination. But from another point of view, mothers also exemplify nonviolence in situations where they enjoy obvious power—in relationships with children.

“I can think of no other situation,” writes Ruddick, “in which someone subject to resentments at her social powerlessness, under enormous pressures of time and anger, faces a recalcitrant but helpless combatant with so much restraint. This is the nonviolence of the powerful.”

As selections from the first half of this expanded edition demonstrate, whether peace can be taught or not, humans have produced ample resources for anyone who would learn.

Greg Moses is editor of the CPP Newsletter. He teaches philosophy in Austin, Texas.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V24

Hedges and Gilligan Reviewed by Duane Cady

Cady, Duane (Hamline Univ., MN). “America at War: A Review of Chris Hedges; War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning; New York: Public Affairs, 2002; and James Gilligan; Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic; New York: Vintage Books, 1996.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Chris Hedges, long time war correspondent for the New York Times, has written a best seller about war. War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning is engaging, insightful, and informative on US military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere. The book is also deeply flawed.

Hedges is trying to understand our cultural – and his own – fascination with war. He writes very well and has had amazing and harrowing experiences as he has traveled, war by war, in Central America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He manages to weave his classical education beautifully with his lived experience, giving a historical and literary context to his sense of our predicament.

The book is at its best when Hedges is exposing the myth of war, i.e., the heroic ideal that war is right, good, likely to solve problems, and that it’s worth the sacrifices it entails. He exposes the myth by showing war for what it is: organized murder, usually racist, manipulative, cruel, and dishonest. He ridicules the “plague of nationalism,” shows the inevitable destruction of wider culture, and rejects the causes offered as disingenuous.

Hedges’ thesis is that war remains a central part of human life because it fills a spiritual void that we don’t know how else to fill. He says, with Freud, that we are caught between love and death, between an instinct for life and an instinct for destruction, and that, failing to love, we find a sense of purpose, of calling, in sacrifice for others through war. The problem with this is that while rejecting the cultural glorifications of war, Hedges contributes to them in his opening pages when he tells us he’s not a pacifist, that war is sometimes necessary. With this he undercuts his own brilliant critique of war and opens the door to the “necessary” violence his own arguments ridicule.

The problem is that once one takes in the critique of war offered by Hedges one can no longer find credible his notion that the absurdity of war can fill our spiritual void and give us meaning. War doesn’t provide meaning for those who understand it. Hedges undercuts his own position.

A much more difficult – and more rewarding – read is in store for those who take up James Gilligan’s Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. Gilligan is a prison psychiatrist who spent years working with violent criminals in an effort to understand and change their behaviors. His interest is not in moralizing about violence but in preventing it.

Gilligan sees America as obsessed with revenge, what is euphemistically called retributive justice. It’s easier to condemn and punish violence than understand and prevent it, so we take the easy way. We may as well condemn cancer or a tornado.

Gilligan prefers a medical model: prevention is better than cure. He wants to know why the US murder rate is five to twenty times the rate in any other industrial society. Based on his work with violent criminals, he develops a germ theory of violence, namely, that violence is contagious, and he comes to the realization that violence is caused by shame, humiliation, disrespect and ridicule, and it is manifest when there are no nonviolent means to rid oneself of the shame and no emotional inhibitors (love, guilt, or fear).

Since prisons continue the humiliation and shame that led to the violence that landed criminals in prison, our current prison policies increase violence, as does legislation to “get tough on crime.” The only way to stop violence is to stop shaming. Guilt ethics, shame ethics, contribute to violence rather than address it or intervene in the cycle. The violence of violent criminals forces others to care for them. Folks who are cared for have no need to act out violently to gain care.

For Gilligan, crime is illegal individual violence while punishment (beyond what is necessary for restraint) is legal collective violence. Punishment is the mirror of crime, crime the mirror of punishment.

Not content with cursing the darkness, James Gilligan sheds light on our national epidemic of violence. His insights are grounded deeply in longstanding experience and success in helping violent criminals find their way to less violent lives despite the policies, practices, and politics of revenge common to our country. His is an important book that deserves a wide readership.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V24

Santoni’s Sartre on Violence by Ruth Lucier

Lucier, Ruth (Bennett College, NC) “Violence of Ambiguity: A Review of Ronald E. Santoni; Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent”; The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Today, those who are concerned to promote peace are bombarded with paradoxical views of violence. One and the same act may be regarded (1) as an immoral attack on a nation state or its citizens, (2) as the legitimate expression of rage and desperation, and (3) as a tool for bringing about positive social change.

In this context, the deep probing of John Paul Sartre’s thinking about violence, undertaken by Ronald Santoni in his most recent book, is highly relevant and instructive. As Santoni points out, Sartre’s own struggle with questions about violence encourages us “to rethink carefully and systematically the question of violence and its alleged justifications…”(xv). Moreover, by reflecting on the evolution of Sartre’s thought we are drawn into considering the related issue of whether the use of Terror “could be justified in behalf of a better society or world”(155).

Santoni emphasizes that Sartre’s position is ambivalent, pointing out that, in Sartre’s view, “In circumstances of oppression, or what Sartre calls ‘pure violence,’ revolutionary violence and terror, because they are ‘necessary’ and inevitable are permissible and just, but they are bound by limits…”(155). This is because “in dialectical synthesis with the goal of ‘integral humanity,’ violence and terror must not violate the goal of pure revolutionary praxis (i.e. autonomous humanity) or denigrate the human“(155). To make sense of this ambivalence, Santoni suggests that we understand Sartre as construing Terror, “as a ‘stage of dialectic’ or ‘understandable product of totalizing Praxis’” and that we see Sartre as formulating “conditions beyond which Terror cannot be morally legitimized”(156).

Intriguing distinctions are discussed throughout the book. Memorable among them is Sartre’s distinction between “force” and “violence,” where force is construed as legitimate pressure in accordance with natural ends, and violence is identified as “the destruction of an entity’s nature in a way that obliterates its appropriate role and use”(22). Provocative footnotes are included in the work, among them a response to Sartre’s suggestion that “no gentleness can eradicate the ‘marks of violence’; only violence can do that.” Santoni points out (note 29, p. 27) that Martin Luther King, Jr. “turned this around,” claiming instead that nothing but non-violence could “put an end to violence.”

Santoni presents, and to some extent argues for, the idea that, in Sartre’s view, the unacceptable conditions for violence do not make violence immoral. Presumably the converse would also be true – which would allow the possibility of there being acceptable conditions for violence even when the violence is immoral. Perhaps this could occur in cases where supervening moral conditions or situations came into play.

Acknowledging that Sartre’s Perspective accommodates such an apparently “amoral” dichotomy (one in which something is deemed “acceptable” yet still morally suspect), Santoni suggests (rightly, I believe) that a critic could read this accommodation as transforming “a philosophy of human liberation into that of violence”(45). I would certainly have liked to see Santoni deal in a more detailed way with this issue. It seems to me that a plausible case could be made for saying that even understandable violence of the “eye for an eye” sort might eventually leave everyone blind.

As we struggle with the question of the acceptability of retaliatory violence as Terror, my suggestion is that we approach the question from “inside,” by analyzing what is happening in the acting subject’s consciousness. Perhaps as some Middle Easterners have been arguing of late, authentic (moral) persons can be pushed by their victimization to a kind of breaking point, a point that may make even self-destructive Terror the only truly free choice—the only choice that has a chance of changing the status quo in ways that eliminate oppression. One may in such cases strongly object to the act of Terror, and yet still view the act as understandably human.

An interesting observation Santoni makes about Sartre’s position on Terror (in the Rome lecture at least) is that Sartre regards it “in certain circumstances justified [in order] to overcome oppression,” but still not justified in cases where it itself establishes “a system of terror”(151). If Santoni is correct, Sartre embraces a kind of consequentialism where even the violence we despise may be said (by Sartre) to be sometimes necessary and sometimes odious, depending on its ultimate effect.

If the reader asks herself, “What is the final position on violence that Santoni wants us to accept as the one that Sartre ultimately takes?,” and looks for the answer, she will be disappointed. For one distinctive (and, I believe, intriguing) aspect of Santoni’s book is that it continually draws us unto the process of questioning, never allowing us to rest with fixed answers. Rather than discovering final answers, we are drawn into a circle of discourse among Sartre-like and Sartre-disputing voices—drawn, in effect, into the phenomena of open-ended deliberation.

But the open-endedness offered is certainly not purposeless; it is of the kind that reminds us that we must focus clearly on the actual life situations of the perpetrators of Terror and violence. And this approach may well be crucial to acting and arguing persuasively for some self-imposed, disciplined, sacrificial limits on even authentic and absurd expressions-–limits compatible with, and crucial to, the kind of open conversation through which humankind may eventually win the peace.

For the purpose of moving us into creative dialogue about the moral limits of violence and why its use must always (or nearly always) be protested, Sartre on Violence has an important and provocative role to play. As a book full of moral challenges, it can serve as a extraordinarily valuable “instructor” in these troubled times.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V23

Weigart and Crews’ Teaching for Justice by Gail Presbey

Presbey, Gail (Univ. of Detroit – Mercy). “Just Education: A Review of Kathleen Maas Weigert and Robin J. Crews, eds. Teaching for Justice: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Peace Studies. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1999.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

This book is filled with good practical advice on how to use service learning to help students gain a deeper understanding of the field of peace and justice studies. In what follows, I will highlight the key ideas that it conveys and conclude with an evaluation. As Weigart explains in the introduction, the goal of a peace and justice course is not just to master certain materials, but to help students become committed to action that will make the world a better place (9).

The service-learning placements make students cross over from theory into practice, possibly starting a lifelong good habit. Peace and Justice studies is not a “value free” discipline; rather, it is in favor of peace, justice, equality, and the meeting of people’s basic needs (12). Weigart cautions that the term “service” sometimes carries the connotation of “noblesse oblige” (16).

So Elise Boulding begins with an important clarification in the preface: she argues that service learning should be an experience of partnering with communities, not a case of do-gooders who go out and give and expect to receive nothing in return. Michael Schratz and Rob Walker argue that “People learn from the experience of being placed in unfamiliar settings,” especially when they are expected to become competent at some task. Disrupting students’ lives can cause learning to happen more rapidly. People are “polyphasic” in their learning, which means that they learn more than one thing at a time. Asking someone to leave the comfort of their own social setting and encounter a new culture or micro-culture amounts to encouraging them to become ethnographic researchers of sorts.

While their “plunge” into the new context can never be complete, since they will always be seen as outsiders at the margins of the culture, they can still take the role of “legitimate peripheral participation” just as ethnographers do. They will notice many small things that are different in the new context in which they have placed themselves. They will have to read people’s facial and body gestures to try to grasp power dynamics between the people they meet and work with. But, upon first exposure, students may not always correctly grasp these things.

Like travelers, they may not know when they have acted inappropriately, been misunderstood, or transgressed defined boundaries, until after it happens. Being put into a new context also challenges our own self-identity, as we notice different things about ourselves than we otherwise would. Students might feel forlorn as they long for more familiar surroundings, but despite their temporary discomfort, real learning can begin to take place.

Schratz and Walker argue that people learn more in “critical incidents”; which are situations that happen to themselves, often connected to loss, and requiring readjustment; than they do under the conditions of their normal routines. While this sounds painful, it can also have a transforming effect, since it requires that people rethink issues central to their lives (33-38). Schratz and Walker explain that students start out service learning from the position of incompetence, unconsciously or consciously. They will hopefully move to competence in the new setting, but likewise, their competence may be conscious (as they struggle to find a way in which to fit in and work), or unconscious (if they just happen to fit in without being quite aware of how).

The authors suggest that service learning should become a collaborative effort between students rather than an individual one. Students need each other to keep one another from tumbling from the heights of idealism and sinking into cynicism. Their attempts at service might lead them to confront the, “emotional warfare, naked ambition, and exploitation found in some volunteer agencies dedicated to radical change” (42). Students naively entering into service work may not be prepared for such possibilities. It is important for students to process these insights together. They need to publicly question the institutions they are working within, themselves, and their teachers. Encouraging them to do so requires that teachers also take risks, but according to the authors, there is no shortcut to learning.

Experience, and group reflection on the experience, is necessary to learning (39-44). David Whitten Smith and Michael Hasl continue in this line of pedagogical thinking by drawing upon Paulo Freire, whose idea of “revolutionary praxis” involves: 1) Changing your world view, 2) Broadening narrow frameworks, and 3) Recognizing people are active agents in history, and becoming one yourself! (55)

They describe the dialectical “circle of praxis” as having four stages. First, there is the personal experience of inserting oneself into a situation of poverty, violence, or injustice. The authors note that students must share with each other their experiences of those who are marginalized, to ensure that such experiences do not simply reinforce stereotypes. Studetns are asked to write out their expectations ahead of time, and then to check their current experiences against their original expectations.

Secondly, they engage in the descriptive analysis of how the culture of the host organization historically and currently operates in its social, economic and political context. This could include the questions: “Who is making the decisions here? Who is benefitting from the decisions? Who is paying the cost?” Students could also ask, “Why does such poverty exist?.Why can’t we organize our society to meet everyone’s basic needs? Is there some larger flaw in our systems that defeats our efforts to organize,” for instance, jobs for all who need them?

Thirdly, they work out a normative analysis of the situation, which identifies the moral values at stake, and imagines how the situation could be changed to be more morally satisfying. The authors suggest assigning students to write a Utopia. They argue that “Utopias help people break out of the ordinary, recognize the damage caused by structures normally taken for granted, and see new possibilities.” After that assignment, students are then asked to write a “Possitopia,” which is a realistically achievable improvement of current reality.

Fourthly, they develop an action plan, which involves identifying the skills, strategies, and policies needed to make the desired transformation. Students should do something constructive to help ameliorate the situation in which they were placed (57-61). Sue Marullo, Mark Lance, and Henry Schwarz argue that service learning is especially important at Jesuit universities.

In 1995, the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus insisted that every Jesuit ministry, including universities, support social justice. This can be done in several ways: “a) direct service and accompaniment of the poor; b) developing an awareness of the demands of justice and the sense of social responsibility necessary to achieve it; and c) participating in social mobilization for the creation of a more just social order.” (48) The Jesuit approach emphasizes how peace and justice depend upon each other.

Positive peace (not just temporary cessation of hostilities) requires social structures that are fundamentally just. Service learning can help students gain insights into the underlying causes of social problems – problems which, when magnified, often lead to war and violence.

Teaching for Justice is filled with practical advice about how to create guidelines, assignments, and evaluations of service learning. Faculty from Georgetown University explain that their senior theses projects in service learning include empirical research, normative reflection, action programs, and conceptual analyses (50).

Robin Crews outlines basic procedural guidelines for his courses in nonviolence and these seem like they would be effective in any course that relies heavily on discussion. Firstly, we must respect each other and therefore agree to disagree. Secondly, we must listen carefully to what others in the class say. (Perhaps the counseling strategy of paraphrasing what we think the other person said, and asking them about our accuracy before responding to their remarks, could help us to be sure that we really did understand the other person’s point). Thirdly, we must seek to understand each other and therefore check our immediate impulse to prove others wrong and ourselves right. Fourthly, we agree not to interrupt others (30).

What can peace studies accomplish? Robin Crews shares his experience as founding executive director of the Peace Studies Association. He admits with seeming dejection that Peace Studies has not even sufficiently affected academia, let alone the world. Financial constraints and reactionary downsizing have resulted in dwindling support for such programs (24-5). His concerns were echoed throughout the book.

Faculty at Georgetown University note that they constantly face the problem of limited resources and challenges to the academic legitimacy of their programs (52). Faculty at Roehampton Institute note that colleagues often think of service learning as “lightweight, soft-headed, or escapist” (103). With these kinds of financial and ideological attacks leveled against Peace Studies, it is a wonder that we still have opportunities to teach Peace Studies. And, yet, the need for courses such as these has not diminished.

The expansion of the military budget and increase in interventionary wars is rather an indication that peaceful alternatives are being neglected, and that they are now more needed than ever. With the increase in the military budget comes a decrease in funds for programs to help our nation’s poor, and hence, also, a need for more volunteers. As poverty increases there are more opportunities for students to witness first-hand the suffering of others and to be of service to them, while simultaneously reflecting on the social conditions which foster such disparities in distribution of wealth.

Peace Studies courses, tailored as service learning courses, are therefore especially imperative at this point. The authors of this collection have charted helpful road maps, and the strength of these essays lies in the careful attention given to the stages of emotion and insight through which students pass during their service learning experiences. The guidelines provided on how teachers can shape assignments so as to avoid common pitfalls are also particularly valuable to the beginning teacher.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V23

Orizio’s Talk of the Devil by John Kultgen

Kultgen, John (Univ. of Missouri – Columbia). “Harder the Fall?: A Review of Ricardo Orizio’s Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators. Trans. Avril Bardoni. NY: Walker & Co., 2003.”; CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

Interviews with seven deposed autocrats are the substance of this work. “I deliberately chose those [tyrants] who had fallen from power in disgrace,” writes author Ricardo Orizio, “because those who fall on their feet tend not to examine their own conscience.” In his introduction he asks, “What goes through the mind of someone who has had everything, lost everything and has time to start again? How does a one-time dictator, whom the history books describe as ruthless, immoral and power-crazed, grow old? What does he tell his children and grandchildren about himself? What does he tell himself?”

Unfortunately, the responses of the interviewees are sketchy and do not answer either these questions, or many others, that we would have liked Orizio to ask. The accidental nature of the sample he has put together makes it risky to draw lessons from it, and he avoids doing so. He simply provides the cases and lets the reader learn from them. In what follows, I will suggest, however, that a few generalizations might be drawn from this work. They would, however, need to be tested by reflection on further examples of modern autocratic rule before they could be accepted.

First, here’s a list of the dictators with whom Orizio spoke:

Idi Amin Dada, Uganda (I971-1979), was deposed by Tanzania after a failed invasion of that country. He was given refuge as a Muslim by Gaddafi in Libya and then granted permission to stay Saudi Arabia on an “extended pilgrimage.” He lived comfortably with his family in Jeddah on a stipend provided by the Saudi government until his death in August 2003. At the time of the interview he was still dreaming of a return to power — and this even though he is accused of killing up to 300,000 people during his reign and committing acts of personal barbarism such as presiding over the execution of enemies and eating their flesh.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic (1966-1979), was first installed and then deposed by the French. He is accused of killing up to 100,000 of his subjects and, like Amin, engaging in acts of barbarism and cannibalism. He was prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned and condemned to death and subsequently pardoned by new government of Central Africa. He continued to live in the capitol city Bangui until his death in 1996. Although he was a Muslim, he claimed that the pope had anointed him as the Thirteenth Apostle during his reign. He evidently wore the white robes of a saint for his interview with Orizio.

Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland (1981-1990), who, as premier of his country, declared martial law and attempted to suppress Solidarity, claiming that these measures were necessary to prevent Soviet intervention during collapse of the Eastern bloc. He was voted out of office in a free election. He lives in Warsaw on a government pension as former head of state. He has successfully defended himself against prosecution on a charge that he ordered troops to fire on demonstrators during a time of unrest.

Enver and Nexhmije Hoxha, Albania (1944-1984), ruled over a tightly regimented closed society for four decades until Enver retired due to ill health. He died in 1985. The pair ruthlessly suppressed opposition and kept Albania isolated from the world, including other communist countries. Nexhmije now lives modestly in Tirana, sternly guarding the memory of her husband and their reign together.

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, Haiti (1971-1986), was installed as President for Life at age 19 by his ailing father, Papa Doc. He was ill-suited to rule, even dictatorially, and during his time in power was dominated by his wife Michele and her associates. With the assistance of Tonton Macoute, they continued the Papa Doc’s practices of suppressing opposition and looting the country, and were eventually ousted by the mulatto elite of Haiti with help from US. Duvalier now lives comfortably in southern France on what is left of his fortune and has a new wife. He trusts that either exiled supporters, or voodoo gods, will return him to power.

Mengistu Haile-Mariam, Ethiopia (1974-1991) came to power in a military coup. He is rumored to have personally strangled Haile Selasse, and attempted, with the assistance of the USSR, to put an end to feudal tribalism and create a rigorous socialist state. Unwise wars with Eritrea and Somalia and failure to provide relief during a catastrophic drought led to death of hundreds of thousands. These were the result of over-extending his powers and of mismanagement, rather than of a genuine effort to suppress opposition, though he attempted that as well. He was deposed by another coup when USSR collapsed, and since he had not amassed a personal fortune, he now lives modestly in exile in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Slobadan Milosevic and Mira Markovic, Yugoslavia/Serbia, (1989-2000). Slobadan was a banker who was pushed into politics by his professor wife Mira, a dogmatic Marxist sociologist. It is not clear whether the couple was motivated more by ideology, power, or the desire to enrich themselves. He was deposed by the Serbs themselves after the NATO response to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo and is being tried for crimes against humanity in The Hague. Mira continues to be politically active in Belgrade.

In each of the chapters of the work, Orizio first describes his efforts to arrange the interviews, then reviews some of the details of the dictator’s reign, summarizes the interviews themselves, and reports the testimony of others connected with the subjects. The portion of the narratives devoted to each of these varies. Large portions of the chapters on Idi Amin and Mira Markovic are devoted to the author’s difficulty in catching up with his subjects. In the case of Hoxha and Milosevic, Orizio had to settle for interviews with the wives rather than the front men, though the wives had been deeply involved in their husbands’ activities and were plausible surrogates.

The interviews themselves occupy only a few pages and most are not very informative, even when the subjects (e.g. Bokassa, Mengitsu) happened to be garrulous. Amin could not be brought to talk about his atrocities or even his grandiose gestures when in power, though he displayed a hearty and jovial personality and seemed well thought of by those in Saudi Arabia who knew him. Bokassa appeared to Orizio to be mentally ill, while Jaruzelski, Hoxha, and Markovic gave the impression of being austere and defensive, but still willing to debate ideology, at least on a superficial level. Mengitsu was evidently somewhat more loquacious, but still neither particularly revealing nor penitent in any way. Finally, Duvalier’s present wife, Veronique, seems to have dominated the conversation which Orizio had with him, and hence relatively little important information seems to have been revealed in this case as well.

As far as any sort of examination of conscience goes, it is hardly surprising that most of the deposed autocrats deny they did anything wrong. Not only do they not indulge much in self-examination or critical reflections about their pasts, but they claim that, if they used harsh measures, it was for the good of their country, and also that they lost power not because they abused it, but because they were betrayed by disloyal friends, overwhelmed by circumstances, or defeated by unscrupulous enemies. Several were still under the illusion that they would be returned to power by loyal supporters – and, among these, Amin and Duvalier expected that such a change in their circumstances was imminent.

Naturally, deposed despots are not happy with their present circumstances. But they consistently deny that the course they chose when they ruled was responsible for their condition. They only remember the joys of absolute power and want it back, and express no regrets, but only anger at the tides of fortune and the perfidy of their enemies. Plato’s contention that absolute tyrants are made miserable by their insatiable appetites and lack of reliable friends appears, at first read, to be confirmed by testimony of these individuals – until one reflects on the fact that they are thoroughly deluded about their current life circumstances, the causes of their being deposed, and their ability to regain a hold on the power they once had. They enjoyed power and the wealth it brings and now they miss it – once again, the matter seems entirely straightforward until the reader realizes the level of self-deception and delusion that colors their present states of mind. And, unfortunately, it is this question that Orizio has not addressed — either in the context of his interviews with these people, or independently of them. It is perhaps equally unsettling to think that many of the rest of us might feel and act in a similarly unreflective fashion given the opportunity – and Orizio also does not, unfortunately, extract from his conversations with these “devils” any relevant lessons on this, either.

The talents of self-deception, pretense and rationalization seem to be as strong in deposed dictators as they are in those still in power. In fact, the acts of self-deception and deceiving others, respectively, seem to be interrelated in a sort of vicious cycle leading to ever greater perversity. In other words, the practice of self-deception further enhances the skills these people already possess with regard to deceiving others. Once they had control of the instruments of propaganda, all of them enjoyed ardent support of privileged groups under their rule and at least the passive acquiescence, if not loyal support of the public. Only the European tyrants (in Poland, Albania, and Yugoslavia) were deposed by anything like a popular uprising — and this only after a systemic collapse had occurred elsewhere (in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc). In Africa and Haiti, they were deposed either by neighbors (in Uganda, by Tanzania) or internal factions with the aid of outsiders (in Central Africa, by the French; in Haiti, by the Americans).

One thing which the author did which may be questionable was to lump those dictators driven by ideology, or at least those using it as a cover (Jaruzelski, Hoxha, Mengistu, and to a lesser degree Milosevic) together with brutal thugs interested only in power, wealth, self-indulgence, megalomania, and cruelty (Amin, Bokassa, Duvalier). It was particularly inappropriate to include Jaruzelski with the rest. He makes a good case that he did the best he could for his nation under impossible conditions, and claims that if he made mistakes, they were indeed mistakes, not cynical maneuvers for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. Mengistu might claim this for himself, as might Hoxha and Milosevic, much less persuasively; whereas, the most Amin, Bokassa and Duvalier could claim is that their countries are not significantly better off now than when they were under their rule.

The thought that these addicts of power were all deposed, some sooner, some later, provides little consolation for the horrors they inflicted. In fact, several of them were replaced by others like them and many parts of the world are still under the rule of their peers.

If there is a lesson to be draws from Orizio’s work, it is that merely deposing dictators does not institute democracy, law and order, or even a modicum of justice. In those countries where there is a tradition of citizen detachment from the political process, the instruments of power will simply be passed on to individuals who are equally diabolical – and they will continue to use them to suppress rivals by brutal means and ensure that they control a protection racket with which to exploit the populace.

Orizio’s work also reveals that it makes a great deal of difference whether those who acquire rule are hired guns (Amin, Bokassa, Mengitsu), heirs to power (Duvalier), or products of the bureaucracy and its ideology (Hoxha, to an extent Milosevic and Jaruzelski). In other words, their origins seem to affect both the way they rule and how they are deposed. But, once again, there is, unfortunately, not enough in the author’s accounts of these individuals to justify further comment on these important matters.

The work is an easy read and can be absorbed over a weekend. Its loose organization makes for variety and also adds an element of spontaneity and depth. The narratives give a sense of what it is like to be a journalist in pursuit of elusive quarries — and then to have to determine how exactly to deal with them once one has caught up with them.

The author is sometimes sketchy with dates, so one has to consult other sources to determine the exact chronology of the events he is describing. The various chapters of the book seem to be arranged in the sequence in which the interviews took place.

Talk of the Devil is anecdotal rather than analytical or philosophical. However, it provides some substance for reflection on the uses and abuses of power, and is therefore devoting some time to.