|Old tree at Kehl Lake|
“Stopping” [fighting] does not mean ending conflict altogether. Conflict is a natural part of life. It brings about change In the form of business competition, it helps create prosperity. It lies at the heart of the democratic process. The best decisions result not from a superficial consensus, but from surfacing different points of view and searching for creative solutions. Few injustices, moreover, are addressed without serious conflict. We need more conflict, not less.
It is easier, in fact, to imagine cooperation than coercion. If one person tries to coerce another in a simple, nomadic society, the victim can simply pick up his or her few possessions and go join kin elsewhere. Or the victim can recruit allies. A bully may be more powerful than any one person [echo of Hobbes], but not more than a group. The use of force would, moreover, undermine the valuable cooperative ties that sustain the bully along with everyone else [my emphasis added].
In the sheer magnitude and complexity of the challenge, the struggle for peace, ironically enough, most closely resembles nothing so much as war itself. Think of how much work goes into preparing for and engaging in wars. Consider how many men and women serve in the armed forces. Weigh how much treasure, talent, and blood is poured into this gigantic venture. Reflect on the around-the-clock vigilance required for huge numbers of individuals. No less effort will be required for the sake of peace. Think too about the virtues required for the successful conduct of wars. Courage? Peace demands just as much; facing up to force nonviolently calls for perhaps even more bravery and self-control than fighting. Cooperation and discipline? Solidarity and altruism? All these ingredients are needed to transform treacherous conflicts. Ironically, in the end, war may have served as a great training ground for peace. For peace is harder than war.