Gender, Peace and Terrestrial Futures (2002)

Alternatives to Terrorism and War

Ivana Milojević*

The University of Queensland, Australia

The purpose of this article is to explore alternative discourses and alternative strategies to the present ‘war on terrorism’ as well as to terrorism itself. The article focuses on the question whether conflict resolutions based on military means are successful and argues that any answer inevitably relies on underlying worldview, vision of the future and the temporal (short-term/long-term) framework.

“In order to reduce evil, people may have to invent new social mechanisms and ethical systems” (Wendell Bell, 2000).

“It is remarkable that even the most warlike people can imagine gentle and peaceful ways of living” (Elise Boulding, 1998). 

 “Those for whom peace is no more than a dream are asleep to the future” (Jack DuVall, 2001).

Keywords: international relations, terrorism, world futures, patriarchy

*Direct correspondence to Ivana Milojevic, School of Education, The University of Queensland, Australia, E-mail:

What is wrong with military conflict resolution?  

For the second time in two years, the military might of the USA has led a military campaign that appears to be working. Milosevic is at The Hague, the Taliban has retreated and leaders of the free world seem to be saying that dictators, totalitarian governments or global terrorist networks will no longer be tolerated. Does this mean that the majority of writings on peaceful conflict resolution have somehow become redundant? More specifically, is it possible to argue the relevance of usually long-term oriented efforts towards peaceful conflict resolution in a ‘reordering-and-compression-of-time’ era? What can they offer to feed the ‘hyper-reality’ that is created by a globalised media, given that the effects of these efforts are usually more subtle then dramatic? And most importantly, in our hybrid, relativistic and postmodern times, have we forever lost the argument of a peaceful conflict resolution’s ‘higher moral ground’?

While it is impossible to provide easy and comfortable answers to these difficult questions, it can be argued that they are somewhat focused on the wrong issues. That is, they cannot be tackled before understanding that whether military or peaceful conflict resolution is seen to ‘work’ is predominately a matter of conviction. Or, to put it in more scholarly terms, different understandings of origins of conflicts and how they are to be resolved is a matter of a perspective, paradigm and discourse as well as of a particular history and a worldview. As the debates in the rich field of International Relations demonstrate, at any point in time a diverse range of “alternative, overlapping and competing” (Burchill and Linklater, 1996:8) theoretical positions is on offer, all carrying with them a distinct approach and focus. For realists and neo-liberals, military involvement is successful as it produces concrete evidence of shifts in military and political power relations. For Marxists and critical theorists, war efforts are misplaced: we should be addressing structural inequalities and focus on waging a war against poverty. For pacifists, the gain achieved by military victory is only temporary. They object to violence because, as Gandhi so eloquently put it, even when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary and the evil it does is permanent.

Given that the current global hegemonic discourse is predominantly based on neo-liberal and rationalist theories, it is this worldview that helps form ‘common sense’ notions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’. However, as feminist authors in the field of International Relations such as V. Spike Peterson, Cynthia Enloe, Jan Jindy Pettman, Rebecca Grant, Kathleen Newland and others have shown, a different worldview suggests different solutions to conflicts between and among states. For example, if the impacts on environment and human relatedness are included in the analysis different understanding on whether military solutions work emerges. That is, if environment and human relatedness are protected and enhanced, the solution is successful. On the other hand, if they are damaged then it obviously is not.

The latest military action by the USA has been provoked by a violent and murderous attack which occurred on American soil. There is nothing wrong with people demanding perpetrators brought to justice. Except that those directly involved are already all dead. But it is also justifiable to attempt to bring to justice those that have either organized or in any other ways facilitated these horrible attacks; except that retaliation has brought other grievances and increased the overall death toll. We do not really know what motivated those men to fly airplanes into WTC buildings and Pentagon on September 11th. We can only guess. One possibility is that they sought to damage symbols of American economic and political power because of the damage this power does to others. Another guess is that they were waging some sort of holy war against the Christian West because of the damage it has done to Islam. Yet another guess is that their action was also facilitated by their desire to die as martyrs, achieving a one-way direct ticket to heaven. But what we do know with higher certainty is that they believed that higher goals justify the sacrifice of some human lives. We are also a bit clearer on what motivated the USA to conduct its military campaign in Afghanistan, because their representatives communicate to us through global media. What we are told is that Afghanistan has been bombed because its then government cooperated with and protected terrorists. And we are yet again reminded that sacrifice of some human lives is necessary.

While there are important and crucial differences between these two ‘players’ in the current conflict it seems that both establishments operate from a similar paradigm and a similar worldview. Both accept the category of ‘collateral damage’ when it comes to the lives of those seen and defined as the other. Both seem to worry more about strategic goals rather then the impacts their actions might have on the system as a whole. Both believe that violence is the only language ‘the other’ will understand and consequently promote violent and military solutions to the problem. Both promote violent hypermasculinities, either overtly or covertly, contributing towards the creation, maintenance and further enhancement of global culture of war. And, with their either total exclusion or tokenistic inclusion of women’s and/or feminist’s perspectives, both are deeply patriarchal.

There is no doubt that, at least at the level of litany and obvious, violence ‘works’. In that sense, despite all the efforts not to ‘give in’ to terrorism, terrorist actions do ‘work’. The terrorist action on September 11th produced not only very concrete results in terms of destruction it has created, it has also brought attention to all range of problems – from structural inequalities to American involvement in the Middle East. But terrorist actions were ‘successful’ in other ways too. In fact, one of the strongest impacts terrorist actions have brought with them is their counter-productivity. Destruction of symbols of American (or Western?) economic and political power further hurt the most vulnerable. Those that were on the receiving end of structural violence prior to the attack have suffered even more as a result of it. The exacerbated recession, the redirection of resources towards military and the redirection of aid for victims of retaliatory military campaign have all further hurt those in whose name the terrorist actions were possibly taken. If men who hijacked and crashed the planes thought they were helping Islam, again they could not be more wrong. Governments throughout Islamic world have not been overthrown and replaced by the alleged ‘true’ version of Islamic governance. On the other hand, Muslims were killed not only in the direct attack on WTC but also in its aftermath, e.g. during demonstrations in Pakistan. A Muslim nation, Afghanistan, has suffered immensely. Muslims living in predominately non-Muslim states have also suffered from increased racism and racial hatred. Some have even been killed. How then did the terrorist attack address current world imbalances or challenging existing power hierarchies? The similar question can be asked in relation to American retaliation. That is, how are piece-meal strategies, such as direct military involvement in Afghanistan going to produce real changes, addressing the root causes of terrorism? How is the extensive use of force and demonization of ‘the other’ – the enemy, not going to confirm what the USA is already accused of?   How are ultimatums and strategic alliances based on exercising the existing worldwide power going to help support equitable diplomacy and true international cooperation?

It is of course too early to say what the aftermath of military involvement in Afghanistan might be. But some are already guessing, for example, that further militarisation will negatively impact education, health, quality of child-care, increased authoritarianism and decreased liberties in American society itself. If this is the case, and most likely it is, there is very little doubt that similar developments will occur in other parts of the world. But although there is enough evidence to support these guesses, others argue that military actions are (unfortunately or not so unfortunately) necessary to protect American (and world) citizens in the future. That is, lives of some need to be sacrificed now, to protect the lives of many tomorrow. One problem with this is the incredible hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of whose lives are to be sacrificed. American interventions (e.g. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan) are done in such a way that it is very clear who is the actor dictating solutions to others, asking someone else’s lives to be sacrificed (KLA, Northern Alliance, civilians in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan). The ecological damage is never discussed, not only because of the worldview that guides military interventions, but also because it is ‘less important’ people that will cope the consequences. Although the Taliban and Serbian militia were already brutal, their brutality reached new levels once the pounding from the skies started. Those that get the privilege of ‘saving the lives of many’ by their own deaths, so called ‘collateral damage’ – of course never ask to be ‘sacrificed’ nor are they ever given the choice to safely avoid damage to their own bodies, families, localities. Most could neither escape to neighboring countries nor would they, except for the very few, be given visas to countries such as USA, UK or Australia. From the perspective of those that are brutalized, killed or that have seen members of their families and communities brutalized and killed it is hypocritical to talk about their ‘sacrifice’ as something that ‘saves’ other peoples lives. Rather, it represents the murder, and, as is the case with most murders, it is not only ‘regrettable’ but also committed in vain. And, as Arundhati Roy (20001) passionately argues, it should never be set of against any other list of killed innocents but rather added to that existing list, the list of all people tortured, brutalized, killed.

Murders rarely account for much good and violent actions usually come to haunt people that themselves participated or initiated them. Of course, we cannot know for sure whether the military campaign in Afghanistan is really going to protect USA or other western countries. That is, while it may help ward of some terrorist attacks in the immediate future, it is simultaneously promoting and creating the violent world, in which hardly anyone is safe and secure. But what we do know, because it comes from the past, is that previous American involvement in Afghanistan, the support of fundamentalist Taliban during Soviet invasion, did eventually backfire to the USA themselves. Strategic alliances, support of violent militias and sub-cultures of violence, selling of arms, and so on, may bring some desired outcomes but the price paid in the future may turn out to be much higher. So it seems more logical to argue that the promotion of violence, more often then not, brings with it long-term negative consequences, cycles of retribution, revenge and hate. Even if it does not backfire directly to perpetrators, the energy of internalized terror usually eventually materializes somewhere – one should only look at examples such as Israel/Palestine, former-Yugoslavia or even South Africa, with its current massive crime problem.

Competing futures, global patriarchy and future scenarios

Actions taken on the September 11th and in the aftermath have also been informed by particular futures images. These images can sometimes be so strong as to override the basic human impulse for self-preservation, as was the case with suicide plane hijackers.  Other powerful imaging included evoking of particular histories, as realistic directions for the future. Examples include Bush’s revoking of Crusades or Wild West, or the Taliban’s revoking of idealized early Islamic societies. But the influence of a particular image of the future is the strongest when it is normalized and naturalized as inevitable. For example, as Francis Fukuyama’s (1992) work testifies, the liberal belief that the main obstacles in the quest towards a peaceful global order are rogue states is partly based on the belief in the inevitability of a particular evolutionary pattern. This common evolutionary pattern for all human society is apparently in the direction of liberal democracy (Fukuyama, 1992; Burchill and Linklater, 1996:28). Such a desired future, that of universally spread liberal capitalism and democratic nation states, incorporates a belief in the “Western forms of government, political economy and political community …[as] .. the ultimate destination which the entire human race will eventually reach” (Burchill and Linklater, 1996:28). The inevitability of such a future is not only accepted within neo-liberal and rationalist discourses but has now become almost ubiquitous. Not surprisingly, the attack on America was quickly renamed to be an attack on civilization. The important distinction between developed states and civilized peoples on one hand, and the rogue states and fundamentalist barbarians on the other, was swiftly made. This shift became incredibly important for justifying not only bombing of Afghanistan but also all previous military campaigns by the USA, including the bombing of Iraq and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. As Jan Oberg (2001) from Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research argues, this important distinction includes the following:

When democracies fight wars and make interventions they know how to legitimate it with reference to highly civilized norms such as peace, human rights, minority protection, democracy or freedom – and they do it as a sacrifice, not out of fear. In contrast, “the others” start wars for lower motives such as money, territory, power, drugs, personal gain, because they have less education, less civil society, less democracy and are intolerant, lack humanity or are downright evil.

In addition, the created military-solution-oriented post September 11th discourse has also become one more example of the dominance of “malestream” patriarchal perspective especially when it comes to conflict analysis and resolution. The masculinist bias could easily be found in predominantly masculinist rhetoric, patriarchal logic and the general invisibility of women. While women have consistently been either invisible or only present as objects of the inquiry (e.g. victimhood of Afghani women), on the other hand, men have been both real and symbolical subjects – movers and shakers of our history and our present. From terrorists to political, military and religious leaders, to heroic fire fighters and rescue workers – the life taker, the decision-maker, the hero, the powerful one has almost always been a man. But most importantly, the patriarchal worldview has the strongest grip on definitional power. For example, the patriarchal discourse has been present in the focus on abstract categories, such as ‘nations’, ‘free-world’, ‘fundamentalists’, etc. It has also been present in the “predominance of strategic discourse of national interest and national security … and inductive reasoning [that has] … effectively removed people as agents embedded in social and historical contexts…” (True, 1996:210). Binary thinking, considered by many feminists to be one of the main characteristics of patriarchal reasoning has also roamed wild. Examples include ‘free-world vs. totalitarian states’ and ‘either with us or against us’ choices on offer. In fact, as feminist authors in the area of international relations have shown, all the key concepts central to how states and the international system currently operate, such as power, sovereignty, security and rationality (True, 1996:225-236) embody a patriarchal worldview. The main problem with this is that the existence of hegemonic patriarchal discourse that cuts through all these categories seriously limits spaces for the emergence of alternative strategies. That is, it can be equally embodied in neo-liberal, rationalist discourses or within the worldview of ‘the terrorists’ but also sometimes even in so called ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ approached. For example, the patriarchal worldview is embodied in Marxist understandings of historical change and view that the violence is somehow the ‘midwife’ of history. It may come as no surprise then that Marxists and neo-Marxists are often sympathetic towards ‘liberation’ movements that too often incorporate violent strategies into their modus operandi. Of course, Marx’s famous statement that the ‘violence is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one’ is one of the better examples of misusing women’s experiences and interpreting them from within a patriarchal worldview.

Contrary to Marx’s metaphor, pregnancy and midwifery theorized from a perspective of female embodiment have instead been associated with peace, caring and love as, for example, among so called ‘maternal feminists’ or ‘maternal peace theorists’. The patriarchal discourse is also dangerous because it erases real people from the picture and replaces them with impersonal actors, such as ‘Americans’ and ‘Afghanis’ for example. These abstract categories are then constituted not only to be the other to us, but also to be simultaneously somehow ‘less’ and a serious ‘threat’.  The deaths of concrete people become either glorified if they are part of ‘us’ (‘our heroes’) or considered to be ‘collateral damage’ if they are part of ‘them’. The anthropocentric character of patriarchal discourse, on the other hand, assures that environmental aspects are never considered and completely erased from the overall project.

But seeing only ‘rogue states’ as a worry seems to be a seriously one-sided approach. Instead, we should ask the question of who has the highest capacity for violence. Surely biological weapons are a huge hazard. But who has accumulated the biggest stockpiles? While concerns were expressed after Soviet Union collapse, in terms of its possession of nuclear weapons, these concerns should be expanded to include other states as well. Possession of nuclear weapons is always a worry but who has actually used them so far, killing thousands of civilians, including children and babies? Similarly, was it ‘developed’ or ‘rogue’ states that have developed their arsenals by exploding nuclear weapons half a way across the globe? Was it rogue states that have been instrumental in creating many horrific and deadly consequences among ‘less important’ people living on the islands of the Pacific, or the ones that pride themselves by their unique and highly ‘developed’ ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’?

So if Western civilization is in general promoted as the evolutionary improvement for others, why shouldn’t others also follow the western pattern of militarisation, development of chemical and biological weapons, or nuclear experimentation? Unfortunately both the sheer magnitude of acquired weaponry as well as ideological willingness to use it by so-called developed states makes them equally if not more dangerous. Just one look at the military involvement after WWII of current ‘only-remaining-super-power’, the ‘leading-democracy-in-the-word-today’ is shocking. As Roy (2001) and Galtung (2001) remind us this is the list of countries that USA has been at war with and/or bombed since 1945: China (1945-46, 1950-1953), Korea (1950-1953), Guatemala (1954, 1960, 1967-1969), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-1961), the Belgian Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam (1961-1973), Cambodia (1969-1970), Grenada (1983), Lebanon-Syria (1983-84), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Iran (1987), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-), Kuwait (1991), Somalia (1993), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2001). Galtung (2001) also recalls William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower which describes in detail “Global Interventions from 1945” and gives list of 67 such interventions. The list includes non-military interventions and much indirect, US supported violence. These include assassinations, attempted or successful, of leaders including heads of state (tried in 35 cases), assistance in torture (in 11 countries), and interference with a democratic election processes (a list of 23 countries). Galtung (2001) then concludes that US interventions from 1945 account for 35 (assassinations) + 11 (torture) + 25 (bombings) + 67 (global interventions) + 23 (perverting elections) equaling for total of 161 cases of political violence.

While the USA represents only 5 per cent of the worlds population it spends 280 billion dollars per year on its military operation (well over five times the amount now spent by Russia, the second highest single-country spender) (Sivard, 1996: 21, 40). USA also sustains the largest number of foreign military bases. It continues to be the largest military spender in the world, accounting for 41 percent of global defense outlays in 1995 (Sivard, 1996:40). In addition, since the Persian Gulf war, the USA has become the world’s top arms exporter, well exceeding “the total arms exports of all 52 other exporting countries combined” (Sivard, 1996:41).

  Directing everyone else’s futures towards this particular model of statesmanship is neither feasible nor desirable. Neo-liberal and capitalist patriarchy project for the future, guided by the hegemonic imperialism of the USA government, is therefore unsustainable and dangerous. Therefore, different, including non-patriarchal futures need to be imagined and developed.

But so far that has not been the case with two most obvious scenarios for the immediate, post-terror future. As Inayatullah (2001) argued in the aftermath of September 11th, these are ‘Fortress USA/OECD’ and ‘Cowboy War – Vengeance Forever’.  In the Fortress scenario, OECD nations close the gates to outsiders, focus on national security concerns, and employ increased surveillance technologies. The nationalist discourse is secured. The Islamic world strengthens its feudal structure, becoming even more mullahist. In the “Cowboy War – Vengeance Forever” attacks and counter attacks begin the slow but inexorable drift to fascism – the clash of civilizations becomes a truism. Both these scenarios epitomize patriarchy by depending on dominator narrative and by excluding women’s perspectives and ways of knowing. Both depend on strong military, on domination, force and strong masculinist engagement. The fortress scenario as a desired future cannot succeed if you – the leaders of the state and citizens – develop any sign of ‘weakness’ or empathy towards the other. It depends on othering, on categorizing people into us and them. The long-term success of fortress scenario will largely depend on the magnitude of pressures from outside rather then measures taken from inside. Unfortunately to those that do not believe in ‘sharing’, the future might became more and more problematic. As Udayakumar writes, in the future where “two-thirds are poor and deprived of basics and promise, there will not be any peace and security” (Udayakumar, 1995: 47). According to him, the safety of the rich (and poor in rich countries) relies on justice for the (world’s) poor as much as the well-being of the poor demands on the cooperation of the rich (Udayakumar, 1995: 347).

Vengeance Forever is also a scenario that will not help global security much. The stability created by (im)balance of power will only be temporary, until the next challenge. This scenario depends on the further militarisation of all, including ‘developed’ societies. In turn, militarisation has always brought disastrous consequences for women. The Vengeance Forever scenario will see the spill over of general anxieties which will result in an increase of violence against women, children, nature. The brutalizing effects of war and militarisation on women (and men) have been well documented.

If the “Vengeance Forever” scenario materializes, women will increasingly be seen as birthing machines, a permanent reserve labor force, menders of men’s physical and psychological wounds, and so on. Militaristic and war-oriented societies usually see women mostly in terms of ability to give birth to future warriors, or in terms of support they provide at the ‘home front’. Both the Fortress and Vengeance Forever scenario represent the extension of Global Patriarchy, further enforcing rather than challenging its dominator elements.  The enforcement of the Global Patriarchy scenario is problematic because it will help put women’s liberation on permanent hold, as there will always be more important causes to work towards. It will also put women’s priorities at the furthest end and place stress to the maximum on education, health-care, parenting and family life in general. As these priorities are also important not only to women but also to everybody, Global Patriarchy scenario will therefore help further deteriorate rather then improve living conditions for most people.

Terrestrial Futures  

The alternatives to previously described dominating futures images are far stretched but it is precisely their long-term orientation that gives them legitimacy. A globalized world is increasingly making short-term solutions problematic. Short-term solutions are, of course, necessary, and day-to-day actions are the only ones that in fact could be taken. But hourly and daily actions have to be informed by what are their most likely consequences, tomorrow and the year after. The likely consequences of violence and wars are well documented and they rarely bring much good. This is why the belief that there is only one choice to be made: between violence and non-violence, is inaccurate. In fact, violence should be seen as no choice at all, and various non-violent approaches debated and considered. That means that various non-violent strategies for creation of world security are necessary, not just one. While a case can be made for the legitimate use of force by some international security/police force, this can only be done in a context where such force is truly international rather then simply serving the needs of the strongest and most powerful. Resorting to physical force as a defense strategy should also, of course, be the very last option. But the problem with this is that once it is accepted that violence is justified in “some cases” and “only as a last resort” it almost always gets stretched to include “most cases” and inevitably becomes either a first or a second resort! Therefore, violence should not be considered to be an option, but rather, implemented extremely rarely, and only in a situation when it certainly prevents a concrete act of direct violence that is evidently about to be committed. As Johan Galtung (2001) argues, “the choice of discourse matters”. This is because:  

Discourse and the course of action influence each other, the discourse serving as action directive, and as rationalization of the actions taken. (Galtung, 2001)  

The particular vision for the future also matters, because of its power to influence actions taken today.  


The alternative image of the future that I evoke here is that of an independent and sustainable but yet interconnected, interdependent and interrelated world (e.g. Boulding). Ideas of the planet as a single place can be traced back many centuries (Scholte, 2000:62) but have especially increased in popularity over the last several decades. The focus here is on centrality of human relatedness, complex interrelations within a society that are all further fundamentally embedded in ecological relationships. The image of ecologically and economically sustainable future also compels us to take seriously the interests of the non-human community and future generations of people and other living beings.

According to Reardon (1993:149) conceptions of global security and of a world at peace should incorporate four basic visions:

(1) “The birthright vision” images a world in which the basic human needs of the Earth’s people are met; (2) “the vision of women as equal partners” centers on the full equality of women and men in the public and the private spheres; (3) “the transcendence of violence vision” projects a world free of war and the physical abuse of women; and (4)  “the vision of an ecological community” perceives a world built on common interests and sharing, and respect and care for planet Earth.

It is not only a different vision for the future but also a different view of time that needs to underline alternative strategies. By expanding our sense of time and history, argues Boulding (1990), we can develop a better understanding of where we are now and where we should be going. This expansion means thinking about ‘now’ in terms of ‘200 years present’, present that is not only defined as a fleeting moment but that rather incorporates five generations before and after us. Many INGO’s (International Nongovernmental Organizations) already incorporated such expanded sense of time and history, continues Boulding (1990). Because of their transnational identities they are “able to hold the world public interest above national interest in ways that neither the nation-states nor even the UN itself can do” (Boulding, 1990:53). Not surprisingly, INGOs operate with longer-term horizons than nation states which influences “a better historical memory for issues …substantial expertise on pressing global problems … and provide opportunities for action as an antidote to despair” (Boulding, 1990:53-54). Globalized, interconnected and ecologically unified world can no longer afford ad-hoc strategies based on individual interests of nation states.

What is required most of all is careful balancing of national, regional and religious identities with terrestrial one. In more concrete terms, building of terrestrial futures includes the work on Global Ethics, Earth Charter, global governance and strengthening of local communities, creating not only Gaia of civilizations but also a Gaia of balanced localities in interconnected and interrelated world (Boulding, 1990). The “Terrestrial future” scenario is impossible without some sort of economic justice, Hazel Henderson’s ‘win-win world’, and the existence of multiple economies versus one dominant such as in global capitalism. The definition of progress as movement towards open-market democracies presents the attempt of universalizing the particular historical experience and imposing it onto the others. Current, male-dominated formal economy is based on both the exploitation of women’s productive and reproductive labor as well as on degradation of the planet (Hazel Henderson, 1991). Economic globalization is forcing societies to universally adopt a system which is basically unsustainable as well as based on global injustices. Ideologies that promote economic globalization also present the example of binary thinking in terms of open-market democracies equation with progress and everything else with either stagnation or regress. But in a highly diverse world multiple strategies towards variously defined and seen ‘progress’ and ‘development’ are much more realistic. Alternatives to consumerism and global ‘Casino’ capitalism are already currently developed everywhere, from individual actions to local self-sustaining communities, to global ‘fair-trade’ movements. These should be further encouraged and supported, especially when they focus on more sustainable and life oriented economic practices. Economical rationales have so far significantly supported militarisation and direct state as well as structural violence. It is about the time that economical rationales start exclusively supporting peace, justice, security and life.

The Terrestrial futures scenario also requires gender justice and balance, as in Boulding’s gentle, androgynous society or Eisler’s partnership society/gylany. Boulding’s (1977:230) ‘gentle society’ demands dialogic teaching-learning process between women and men that will enhance the human potentials of both. This is to be achieved by:

…institutionalizing opportunities for the education, training, and participation of women in every sector of society at every level of decision-making in every dimension of human activity, and extending to men the procreation-oriented education we now direct exclusively to women. (Boulding, 1977:230)

For Eisler (1987, 1996, 2001), in this nuclear/electronic/biochemical age, transformation towards a partnership society is absolutely crucial for the survival of our species. Eisler (2001) convincingly argues that the real challenge in front of us is not in terms of old categories such as left versus right or communism versus capitalism but between partnership and dominator alternatives for human relations. Which means that the real dilemma is not whether we should give our allegiance to the “American way of life” or to those that are currently disadvantaged by the system. The real dilemma is how to address dominator elements in all our societies, communities and within ourselves. It is therefore not Islam and Christianity (nor ‘the West’) that are the enemy per se, but dominator elements within both. Elise Boulding (1998) further supports such perspective by maintaining that:

Each society contains in itself resources that can help to shift the balance from a preoccupation with violence toward peaceful problem-solving behavior. These include a perennial, utopian longing for peace, both secular and faith-based peace movements, environmental and alternative-development movements, and women’s culture.

This implies that ‘the blame’ for each and every conflict is not necessarily and automatically projected and allocated onto the other. The main action to be taken is towards reduction of violence whenever it takes place, whether in our own societies, our own families or in our minds (desire for retaliation and revenge). When it comes to societies that are in some ways ‘foreign’ to us or we are ‘foreign’ to them, the main strategy should be the offer of support for peace-building, peace-making and peacekeeping strategies. The most important point here is that such support should not be provided in terms of external expertise but by utilizing and supporting local initiatives. The main impetus for a support is both in pure altruism and idealism but also in pragmatism and the realization that expending localized peace initiatives is the necessary step towards achieving ‘one planetary zone of peace’ (Boulding, 1998).

The move toward terrestrial futures is also the move towards better recognition of the demands of local communities. No sustainable global society, information or otherwise, can exist without economic and gender justice. Until we move towards the futures in which women’s strength in their local environments are followed by the strength of local environments themselves as equal partners within the regional and world system, feminine energies will continue to be suppressed and the symbols/parts of world and other centralized systems attacked. Another important requirement is the respect for all our differences. As long as the needs for cultural identity and desire for autonomy are not respected, minorities will be threatened by any global vision that is exclusionary. In turn, they will resist by creating essentialist, primordial identities that are also exclusive, and maintain a picture of a polarized world that is too simplistic. As long as the global vision of the future  remain exclusive of our many differences and represent the desired of dominant social groups as the only way forward, the marginal groups will continue to resist. They will resist any attempts to unify into the One as long as the One refuses to embraces the Other by loving Many. As Seyla Benhabib (1992) argues, we need to move towards a more concrete and actualized version of universalism, that proceeds more from the ground up, and:

…does not deny our embodied and embedded identity, but aims at developing moral attitudes and encouraging political transformations that can yield a point of view acceptable to all. Universality is not the ideal consensus of fictitiously defined selves, but the concrete process in politics and morals of the struggle of concrete, embodied selves….

This “interactive universalism” is significantly different to “substitutionalist” universalism of which liberalism provides one good example. While the starting point for substitutionalist universalism is expansion of a particular body of rights that has, in fact, been historically enjoyed by only a privileged minority, the starting point for an interactive universalism is in a concrete recognition of our differences (Moynagh, 1997). Interactive universalism therefore bases its moral claims not on some abstract categories but on a commonality among all, while simultaneously acknowledging unique situations of diverse social groups (Moynagh, 1997). One such commonality is the existence of a ‘holy peace culture’ (Boulding, 1998) and secular peace movements among most, if not all, historical and present societies. Peace culture rather then ‘holy war culture’ and ‘warism’[i], is the place where ‘creative balance among bonding, community closeness, and the need for separate spaces’ is maintained (Boulding, 1998).

Some desired events could be understood as both the future vision and a list of measures/strategies needed to achieve a world at peace. This is the case with desiring a world without weapons, general disarmament, expansion of nuclear-free zones, prohibiting the making and use of nuclear and biological weapons and destruction of all existing stocks, stopping of nuclear tests and setting up of international control for all these measures (Reardon, 1993; Brock-Utne, 1985; Boulding, 1990). Or, the prevention of arms-trade, non-cooperation with existing military security order, replacement of national armed forces with nonviolent civilian defense forces trained in passive resistance and the defense, general reduction of national armed forces and their replacement by mediation forces and United Nations standing peacekeeping (Boulding, 1990).  


Practical interventions and strategies are predominately needed in four main areas: definitional/ conceptual, social/ cultural and economic.

Conceptual and theoretical strategies work on redefining the way the events are understood and explained. Recalling divisions, creating abstract categories of ‘enemies’, and then embodying them in a particular group or person are problematized. This is because such conceptualizing does not enhance communication but only creates circles of revenge and retaliation. Rather, the main focus ought to be on understanding exactly ‘who’ and exactly ‘why’ did such horrific acts of violence. The analysis of the technicalities of the attack would be equally important but not the only discourse used. There would be refusal to categorize some people as quintessentially evil, although there would be a demand that they answer about their evil actions and behaviors. If terrorism is basically about ‘lawlessness’, arbitrary use of military might needs to be prevented, because it only confirms that ‘the might is right’ and that ‘violence is the only language that they understand’. The focus should rather be on bringing those responsible for criminal actions to the International Justice Court, which would have its quarters in several locations in various world regions. Civilizational and cultural differences would not have equally strong ground in discounting courts and justice processes themselves if they were seen as fair and balanced. Certainly, Islamic countries are not incapable of enforcing ‘the rule of law’. In circumstances where atrocity is allegedly made ‘in the name of Islam’ it should be Islamic cultures and societies that could most successfully address fundamentalists ‘cultures of war’ that steam from their own tradition as well as be more successful in bringing the perpetrators to justice. International Courts based in various regions of the world would enhance ‘holy peace’ culture from within which would be seen as less threatening for the people of the region. Fundamentalists doctrines would therefore loose some of their raison’s d’être, some of the appeal that streams from addressing genuine inequalities and grievances.  

The conceptual shift would also include refocusing from power-over in the direction of power-for, power-to, power-with, power-within and power-toward. This means a shift from coercive power to the approach that focuses on empowerment, on enabling power to create positive change. It also means questioning both the validity but also the efficacy of power-over as ‘the mechanism for organizing world politics or solving world problems’ (Peterson and Runyan, 1999:216). This redefinition is crucial because, as Peterson and Runyan (1999:216) explain:  

If this model is used, world order looks less like a pyramid, where few are on the top and many are on the bottom, and more like a rotating circle in which no one is always at the top and no one is always at the bottom. Instead, all participate in complex webs of interdependence. Interests, rather than being defined in opposition to each other, are developed through relationships with others. Conflicts are resolved not by force or its threat but in nonviolent interaction and mutual learning. 

Another conceptual shift is from ‘reactive to relational autonomy’. When players in the world politics are seen in terms of ‘reactive autonomy’ (values independence and order, promotes separateness and independence that is a reaction against others, assumes that cooperative relations are virtually impossible without coercion) expectations of hostile and competitive behavior are reproduced. (Peterson and Runyan, 1999). This in turn generates uncooperative and defensive responses. On the other hand, relational autonomy values interdependence and justice, basing identity within the context of relationships rather than in opposition to them. It also assumes that cooperation typifies human relations when they are relatively equal and that cooperation is destroyed in the presence of inequality and coercion (Hirschmann, 1989, Sylvester, 1993, Peterson and Runyan, 1999). Seeing the world in terms of its interconnectedness implies a commitment towards equality, as an obligation. So far, the commitment to international conventions and institutions has been on voluntary basis only and too often seen as some sort of ‘harassment’ to individualized and individualistic sovereign states. Terrorists, for their part, also obviously define power as power-over that is based on reactive autonomy, with the main goal of reaching the top of the pyramid rather then questioning the structure that reproduces such hierarchies.

Underlining views on reactive vs. relational autonomy are different understandings of conflicts and consequently how are conflicts to be resolved. For example, conflicts are usually presented in terms of human nature seen in negative terms (competition, capacity for aggression and violence). According to Eisler (2000) such a presentation streams from the dominator cultural paradigm, which represents only part of the picture of what it means to be human. Both the capacity for violence and capacity for peace are evolutionary features of human ‘nature’. The dominator discourse represents only negative aspects of human nature as ‘realistic’, forgetting about equally valid positive human characteristics such as capacity for sharing, altruism, non-violence, peaceful conflict resolution, cooperation, caring, negotiation and communication. (Eisler, 2000). More gender-balanced narratives on evolution and history provide examples of not only warfare but also of long periods of peace (Eisler, 2000, Boulding, 1990).

Other fundamental concepts, such as sovereignty and strength are also defined differently if we step away from dominant worldview. For example, an ecological perspective sees the sovereignty of the Earth as preceding and still superceding human sovereignties (Patricia Mische, 1989). This means that the sovereignty to nation states needs to be balanced with subnational and supranational entities – both with lived local communities and the world as a whole. The nation-state is then simultaneously ‘too big and too small’ to effectively co-ordinate effective responses that would address direct and structural violence. But in other ways it is also ‘just right’ because actions are necessary at all and the every level of human organization. The redefinition of what constitutes strength prevents current seesaw of one-sided ultimatums and shortsighted stubbornness as a response. Because, to be willing to negotiate with the opponents would not be seen as the sight of weakness but rather as that of strength. This would also be the case with attempts to reconcile, continuously communicate, provide concessions, cooperate and accept mediation. Unfortunately, current diplomacy is based predominantly on the strength of weapons which dictates terms of engagement, priorities and issues rather then on true desire to resolve grievances to common satisfaction of all stakeholders and parties involved.

Of course, when security is understood in terms of both direct violence, such as war, as well as the structural violence, it is believed that actions need to be taken not only in the realm of the ‘political’ but also in the realm of social and economical. As authors such as Jan Jindy Pettman (1996) have shown security from women’s perspective is more likely to be defined as security of employment, education, health and security from domestic violence rather then in terms of a protection from an external threat to a nation-state. Therefore, global security is also to be defined differently. It is only logical that this means neither acquiring huge arsenals of weapons of mass-destruction nor their frequent use. But the hegemony of patriarchal discourse assures that these alternative readings are rarely taken seriously.  

Social and economic strategies require radical transformation and restructuring of societies and economies. This means working towards the objectives of equality, development and peace by improving employment, health and education (The Beijing Platform for Action, The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, in Peterson, Runyan, 1999:218). Approximately 3,000 deaths from terrorist attack on Unites States are 3,000 deaths too many. But so are estimated 24,000 deaths of people who died of hunger on the same day, 6,000 children killed by diarrhea and 2,700 children killed by measles on the 11 September 2001 (New Internationalist, 2001:18-19). If we become aware that the number of malnourished children in developing countries is about 149 million, the number of women who die each year of pregnancy and childbirth about 500,000 and number of illiterate adults 875 million it is clear that where priorities should be. Preventing terrorism by policing is crucial but so is ‘the holy war’ against injustice, structural and cultural violence, poverty. These problems are, as is terrorism, global problems. The understanding of ‘security’ predominately in terms of national security or the security of the state is becoming obsolete by the day. Although the USA did not in any way ‘deserve’ the attacks that occurred on the 11th September, we should still become aware that all violence (in the international, national or family realms) is interconnected (Tickner, 1993:58). Which means that there is an intimate connection between both direct, structural and cultural violence, as well as domestic and international violence. Thus, any serious attempt to end war must involve significant alterations in local, national, and global hierarchies (Peterson and Runyan, 1999:228). This includes addressing sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and gendered nationalism which have all been vital to sustaining militarism and the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality that goes along with it (Peterson and Runyan, 1999:228),

One of the most important strategy, connected to socio-economic trasformations is  demilitarization. Availability of weapons may not be sufficient factor for war and terrorism but certainly it is necessary. Particular cultural cognitive maps determine how are technologies to be used. Still, the general production, availability and the trade of weapons directly support various wars as well as terrorism. Unfortunately, the direction taken after 11th September has been further militarisation, because the new ‘reasons’ for further militarisation have been activated. The logical response should instead had been redirection of resources from the military towards civilian needs and requirements. This would include a redirection of resources towards development of international courts system, towards initiatives that work on inter-cultural understandings, communication and alliances. The overall problem of course is that the patriarchal worldview determines that life-taking activities are better funded than life-giving ones. For example, worldwide, over half the nations of the world still provide higher budgets for the military than for their countries’ health needs. In the USA alone, the Pentagon received $17 billion more than it requested in both 1996 and 1997 (“The Ohio story”, quoted in Peterson and Runyan, 1999:125). The awaited ‘peace dividend’ after the end of the cold war has not materialized because 6 years later the Pentagon in the USA still receives 5 times what is spend on education, housing, job training and the environment combined  (“The Ohio Story”, in Peterson and Runyan, 1999:120).  

Demands for de-militarisation are underlined by the more acute awareness that peace is not a state but a process. The focus is on peace-building, peace-making and peace-keeping, contesting the belief that peace is “a kind of condition or state which is achieved or simply occurs” (Boudling, 1990:141). Or as something that happens only after the military intervention is over. The awareness that “peace never exists as a condition, only as a process” (Boulding, 1990:146) means that military involvement – or ‘doing war’ – is seen as directly opposite from ‘doing peace’, that is, from various peace-making activities. The patriarchal worldview implies that waging wars is sometimes necessary to maintain the peace. Alternative perspectives to this worldview imply that peace cannot be defined only as the absence of war and that both direct and structural forms of violence need to be addressed. Therefore, peace does not merely depends on the absence of war, but rather on constant efforts to achieve equality of rights, equal participation in decision making processes and equal participation in distribution of the resources that sustain society (Borelli in Brock-Utne, 1989:2). In that sense, peace either happens now, as well as yesterday and tomorrow, or it does not. Its temporal and geographical locations almost entirely depend on peace activities and result from active practicing of peace promoting activities. ‘Doing war’ is therefore, not a necessary condition for achieving reconciliation, but directly opposite condition that can best be defined as the absence of peace, and peace promoting activities.

The list of previously mentioned strategies is by no means exclusive, but it is an example of how different visions for the future as well as a different worldview bring different understanding of how conflicts are to be understood and resolved. Current and traditional means of resolving conflicts have resulted in a well-documented violent history. If future histories are to be changed, traditional, neo-liberal, ‘realists’ and patriarchal discourses, with their trademark short-term orientation, need to be abandoned. They could be replaced with alternatives that provide an expanded sense of time and long-term orientation as well as a more balanced views on war/violence, human nature, history, conflict, power, sovereignty, security, strength, identity, peace and future. This means that it is those alternatives that are, in effect, more ‘pragmatic’, ‘realistic’ and viable. The emerging global order requires constant negotiations and building of alliances between all our diversities. It requires global justice and fairness rather then the ‘might is right’ approach currently practiced by individualistically oriented and self-centered nation states. In our globalized, ‘compressed’, ‘hyperreal’ and ‘hybrid’ world the alternatives that aim to develop both unified and diversified terrestrial futures have not become less, but rather more urgently needed and necessary. Consequently, they could potentially be one important path that can be taken in order to, epistemologically and strategically, support the efforts and struggles toward global peace and global security.


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[i] Warism is understood as the view, a cultural predisposition, that war is both morally justifiable in principle and often morally justified in fact (Cady, 1989). Alternatively, ‘warists’ or ‘war realists’ consider morality to be irrelevant, inapplicable, or ineffective in relation to war (Cady, 1989)