Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 9 No. 2 | Summer 1987 (Portland) /// Issue 34 of 41 /// Master# 34 of 73

found himself ultimately accelerating it. Only those social forces independent of such temptations and pressures can hope to sustain the will to ensure the enactment of genuine disarmament. The Freeze and What it Teaches Fortunately, there are numerous precedents for such an indep nd nt a broadly based initiative movement, though not yet of the diversity and scale that will likely prove necessary. The nuclear freeze proposal (“ a bilateral halt to the testing, production, and deployment of all nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles” ) was developed five or six years ago by a group of associates for whom one highly determined woman, Randy Forsberg, became the principal formulator. The idea was framed as an initiative presented in public referenda throughout Western Massachusetts during 1981-82. It was, of course, no longer quite the habit of a New England town meeting to consider issues of global import. But they had been enough disturbed by recent events that they decided to state their views in any case. First one, then another passed the freeze resolution, and by mid-1982 more than 400 town meetings in the region had debated and passed the initiative. The emergence of the freeze coincided with the rise of peace advocacy organizations among lawyers, realtors, artists and others, which, clearly inspired by the example of the stout New England villagers and Helen Caldicott’s energetic resuscitation of Physicians for Social Responsibility, asserted their right and authority to speak out on The tangible nature of the term “ freeze” provided a reference point in ordinary human experience for many who had never found anything remotely real about discussions of nuclear issues. issues of global import. By autumn of that year it had been brought before voters in ten states and several dozen major cities, comprising more than a third of the total U.S. electorate. It had also passed the House of Representatives as a non-binding resolution. The United Nations, the Soviet Union and a plethora of other citizen organizations and political bodies also endorsed the concept. In short, the freeze had been placed on the global political agenda. The most striking aspect of the freeze “ phenomenon” is that the idea came from altogether outside and beyond the boundaries of traditional political discourse. It was neither the lead campaign proposal for an aspiring politician nor the favored strategy of a political party. Far more adventurous a concept than any politician was yet willing to risk advocating, the freeze was a phenomenon in which politicians found themselves chasing after the bandwagon. They were only able to associate themselves with the idea because an awakened public had already cleared a space for it in the realm of mainstream political discourse. The freeze was remarkably well-timed for success. Reagan Administration statements about the acceptability of limited nuclear war and its systematic preparations for “ protracted global conflict” provoked such intense anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic that popular feeling positively ached for expression. In its startling simplicity, the freeze provided an apparently commonsense concept that even those unschooled in the intricacies of nuclear negotiation could readily grasp. It was like saying, “ Stop it already! Enough is enough!” The tangible nature of the term “ freeze” provided a reference point in ordinary human experience for many who had never found anything remotely real about discussions of nuclear issues. Indeed, it was this very simplicity that critics ultimately held against the freeze: it's not simple, they said, but simplistic. In its heady early days the freeze was a profoundly empowering experience for those who participated in one of its myriad campaigns. The organization, if so it could be called, was entirely decentralized and selfresponsible; the main office was known as a “ clearinghouse,” as if to emphasize its non-executive nature. This dispersal of authority left local organizations free to establish their own ways and. means of promoting the initiative and thus accorded them the respect due independent and self-reliant institutions. Yet the freeze appeared to melt. One must first credit the adroitness of the Reagan Administration in derailing the momentum by a variety of shrewd diversions. Surely its most imaginative entertainment has been the selling of Star Wars as a “ defensive measure,” a superbly crafted inversion of the truth which in addition restakes its claim to the moral high ground. In addition, the freeze may have been damaged by its own success. Americans are well-known to be susceptible to fads—this week the freeze, next week Cabbage Patch dolls. By the time it reached a vote in the House of Representatives, the media had decided the freeze had already “ lost” the attention of most voters, even though freeze coordinators successfully raised record numbers of citizen lobbyists to pressure the politicians to approve it. indeed, the initiative had already been voted on in so many places and by so many people that a few benighted souls must have assumed the freeze had already been enacted. The melting of the freeze at the public policy level cannot be attributed entirely to the perplexity of the American voting public. Their ambivalence reflects American’s twin concerns—nuclear weapons might kill them but the Russians might also. Their reluctance to step into the vast unknown territory beyond nuclear deterrence demonstrates the incompleteness of the freeze as an alternative to the present system of international relations. The freeze says, "Stop right there! Don't move another inch!” It does not, however, say, “Go this way instead. It’s much safer.” Of course, this one initiative was never intended to answer all questions; it was intended, rather, as a way to begin asking them. But in the absence of a comprehensive design for an alternative structure of relations between East and West, this or any other single initiative seems more like a protest than a plan, a first step in a direction where we cannot see the next. Freeze theorists are fully aware of this problem and have been working hard to provide an itinerary for the journey of which the freeze is but the first stride. Defining a Middle Way We can begin to draw a few provisional conclusions about how n initiative strategy would need to be conceived. Initiatives can only succeed if leaders and followers both lend their support. The issue is now on the political agenda of the entire planet. Whether it is finally kept wilt depend on our will to persist to “ the last full measure.” Initiatives must be balanced in what they ask of the parties to the conflict, making equal demands of equal powers. Both the test ban and the freeze were balanced in this respect, requiring identical conditions of both superpowers, and neither could have gained public acceptance without that perceived balance. Any initiatives arising from independent sources must demonstrate this sense of basic fairness if they are to stand a chance of gaining broad public acceptance. Individual initiatives should delineate a comprehensive design for an alternative system of peace and security to replace the war system in which we are now entrapped. Although libraries have been written about both arms control and disarmament, only passing references have been made to the nature and operation of an integrated peace system. A peace system would need to remain independent of the war system it seeks to replace. We must first conceive and imagine it in all its variegated complexity, a task of considerable magnitude in itself. Our inventions must be based not simply on abstract logic or wishful thinking but on the disenchanting lessons of actual experience. We must make a careful reading of history and a shrewd judgment of human motivations and the personalities of the parties in conflict. And finally, initiatives should be, whenever possible, visible to and verifiable by a global viewing public. Initiatives should be framed in such a way as to require nations to perform tangible acts, acts that cannot easily be neglected or left undone. To most of the planet’s residents, the arms race is a non-event: it can neither be watched nor heard, only heard about. Its invisibility effectively shields it from public scrutiny. One aim of the initiative process must be to give disarmament the high profile it deserves, to give us events we can actually witness: “ Disarmament by deeds instead of words.” One could imagine, in the manner of Admiral Noel Gayler’s innovative “ deep cuts” proposal, a series of warhead-dismantling ceremonies, held on neutral ground between East and West (perhaps in Austria or Switzerland), open to inspection by all interested observers and televised (at least in the early events) to a much vaster global public. One could equally well imagine an individual superpower undertakirig a series of public dismantling events, inviting friends, foes, and all between, and using the ceremonies as a means of pressing for tangible reciprocation by its adversary. Either crisis or concerted public pressure might sufficiently warm the atmosphere for such a development. Evidence of a spontaneous initiative movement has been emerging these past several years in a hundred forms and a thousand environments. Besides those already discussed, its larger and more visible manifestations have been the awakening of mainstream churches (including the debate arising from the Catholic bishops’ A self-aware independent movement, global in scope, pluralistic in background and belief, and widely varied in its chosen actions, could introduce into the highly partisan debate between East and West an entire alternative agenda for peace. pastoral letter on nuclear war), the Five Continents Peace Initiative, the proliferation of peace camps and direct actions at weapons facilities, the nuclear free zone movement and its recent triumphs in New Zealand and Australia. Then there is the Western European peace movement, emerging first in the Netherlands, and spreading across the Continent and the Channel, and its faint, brave echoes to the East, the "independent peace movements” in Hungary, the East German Lutheran churches, and even (very briefly) in the Soviet Union itself. All have sought to open a space to stand between the superpowers, beholden to neither, insisting on a settlement of equal benefit to all parties. Nor should we forget the original and still most significant precedent for independence from the superpower argument: the Non- Aligned Movement. Though beset by internal frictions, it has nevertheless likely prevented a bad argument from growing a great deal worse. By opting out of the contest, the nations in the Non-Aligned Movement have sought to remove themselves as fuel for the fire. Being a spontaneous phenomenon, this initiative movement is unlikely ever to coalesce into a few identifiable institutions. Let us hope not, in any case. The world does not need yet another ideology for which to slaughter the innocent. But it would no doubt bolster our manifold efforts if we were to recognize and build upon their commonality. A self-aware independent movement, global in scope, pluralistic in background and belief, and widely varied in its chosen actions, could introduce into the highly partisan debate between East and West an entire alternative agenda for peace. This independence is not to be mistaken for neutrality. Working from its own understanding of peace and its own varied strategies for achieving it, an independent initiative movement could provide the sustaining impulse and the mediating presence that have always been utterly absent from traditional arms control negotiations. An independent middle way would by its very existence and process serve to democratize the debate. Like the marvelously crafted system of checks and balances that has more than once saved American democracy from incipient tyrannies, an independent middle way could serve as a counterpoise to the abuse of authority on both (and all) sides of the nuclear contest. As increasing numbers of citizens and governments opt out of the argument between East and West, they migrate to that high middle ground between the contestants, and there establish an “ everyman's land” hospitable to innocents of all sides. Cultivating that common ground is an essential task in the years to come. Co-Authors Mark Sommer and Gordon Feller live in the Bay Area, where both have spent years consulting on issues of global security. Artist Robert Williamson lives in Seattle. This is his third illustration for CSQ. 10 Clinton St. Quarterly—Summer, 1987