War is not an inevitable fact of life - though it may seem so when we look at the entirety of human history - it is something that we create.
The long build-up to the war on Iraq, the disastrous mess the occupiers have created (and no doubt, eventually, will leave behind) may appear to be just another sorry chapter - a predictable consequence of the global power structures and aspirations of our, predominantly, militarist, capitalist, mode of operating.
Take the big step
However, for those of us - all over the world - who believe that another way is possible, we must not allow the culture of inevitability to dissuade us from continuing our struggle.
While the large number of public protests against the war on Iraq offered a little hope in the strength and ability of people-power to create an unworkable political climate for the warmongers, it was not followed through with the necessary practical action to really put a spanner in the works.
It seems the step between marching in the streets to obstructing the bombs on their way to the planes (or the trains delivering tanks and ammunition, or the boats leaving with military supplies, and so on) is a very big one. Of course, these things also happened - but on a small scale and primarily as the actions of a small number of individuals within the existing peace and anti-militarist movements.
That's not to say that nonviolent direct action in itself will necessarily stop wars (though, this publication believes that, if applied as part of a disciplined, mass movement, then it could indeed stop wars), but that, combined with may other forms of action (letter writing, boycotts, civil disobedience, mass street protests, etc) it is possible for us to change the course of history and to defy the culture of inevitability.
Capture the moment
Perhaps the primary lesson for all of us in the wider “anti-war movement” is that we need to create bigger and better structures for translating our feelings into practical action. We also need to develop strategies for maintaining the energy and momentum of the seemingly short-term blossomings of antiwar sentiment.
The dwindling numbers of people taking part in most forms of anti-war activities around the world after 15 February is an indication that a lot of work needs to be done in this area. After all, on some level, the war continues and no doubt it is only a matter of time before a similar conflict is generated. Meanwhile more than 30 wars continue to rage across the planet and while it may be true that the driving force behind some of these conflicts do not represent quite the same super-power aspirations as the war on Iraq, they still need to be opposed, and the victims and survivors, perpetrators and supporters, are just as deserving of our attention.
Knowing when to say yes (and no)
Many of us would agree that the best way to prevent war is to dismantle our militaristic cultures and ideals, but when it comes to the best way to do that, opinion is certainly divided. One of the things that has stretched the patience of many a good peacenik in recent months will have been working in various coalitions - some more fruitful than others.
Recognising the challenges of coalition working in relation to movement building, Peace News has tried to offer readers some tools and insights into this tricky region. One of the things we can all work on is developing the courage to take risks when working with others and to also recognise when our own deeply-held beliefs must not be compromised.
Back to the coalface
So, after the “war comedown”, many of us will return our energies to the issues that we have been working on for some time: nuclear weapons; logging; alternative energy; roadbuilding; COs; animal rights; alternative economics; refugees; domestic violence; debt; other wars; and so on.
For many activists and campaigners, the war on Iraq has taken them away from their work on these important issues. But we hope that more and more of us will develop our own understanding of the links between all these issues, how many of them support and reinforce each other, and how we can work together - within and across borders - to combat them, nonviolently, together.