William M. Timpson, Bob Meroney, Lloyd Thomas, Del Benson, Sharyn and Larry Salmen, Fort Collins Rotary Club

Lindsey Pointer, 2017 Rotary Global Grant Scholarship Recipient

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to promote the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties. See the end of this newsletter for more details about this project and the authors.


Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University.

One of the consequences of war and conflict is the terrible expenditure of national and world wealth on actions that cost far more than is typically ever redeemed by a war’s conflict.  One could ask:  What are the positive advantages of deliberately deciding to avoid war not only in terms of lives and the environment but in terms of alternative use of the financing of war?

Public access to defense department budget information is imperfect and incomplete.  The scale of spending is so large it is hard to grasp.  Understanding is further limited by secrecy, faulty accounting, and the deferral of current costs.[1]  The US General Accounting Office (GAO) has commented about the department of Defense (DOS) budgets that it could not provide a serious audit of the DOD because “serious financial management problems at the DOD that made its financial statements unauditable.”[2]  A comprehensive audit of DOD was attempted in 2018 by

six separate private, third-party accounting consultants, but the audit ended and was deemed incomplete due to deficient accounting practices in the department. [3]

Additionally disturbing is that most of the costs of our wars are based on domestic (60%) and foreign borrowing (40%); hence, our children and grandchildren will be paying for our inability to govern, negotiate, and compromise.

I prepared a spread sheet that looks at statistics (as available) on the costs of war from 2001 – 2019, and what could be done with just the wealth expended on US military infrastructure and war.  In summary, we have effectively spent more than $5.9 trillion up to now on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  This is a cost of about $274 billion/year for 18 years (or cost per American taxpayer of $23,386/year).[4]

What if we had invested this money instead of spending it on very questionable conflicts?  Just to give you an idea of what you could do with $274 billion/year we could do all the following every year:

  • Pay for 50% of all college tuition for 1.9 million college students,
  • Build a 4-lane highway clear across the United States from one coast to the other,
  • Build 750 public schools,
  • Build 125 research grade hospitals (1.5 million sq. ft, 500 beds each), and
  • Build 1000 community libraries throughout the United States.

Now repeat these expenditures 18 times!  Note, this is not the cost for the entire US defense budget/year, just the cost for the active wars being fought!

For just the DOD budget in FY2019 the Pentagon requested $957 billion (this does not include Homeland Security, Veterans Administration, interest on the DOD generated debt, etc.).  Of this $69 billion is for current war funding (overseas contingency operations, OCO), and another $26.1 billion for OCO support.[5]  In total the OCO budget since 2001 has been $2 trillion to pay for the war on terror.[6]  Military spending makes up nearly 16-20% of the entire federal spending and half of discretionary spending.  The United States spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 2.35.32 PM

Let’s keep it simple.  Look at just one item of hardware in the military budget.  The cost of one F-35 military jet is $90 million.  The cost of an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school average $15 million, $30 million, or $45 million, respectively.    Thus, for the price of one disposable jet plane we could have six new elementary schools, three middle schools, or two high schools to improve our children’s education.  Given the purpose of an F-35 military jet is primarily air-to-air combat, and that no nation has fought an extended “dog fight” since 1992, one could argue this expenditure for the F-35 is a waste of money.[7]  Since the 1990s it is estimated that the development of the F-35 alone has cost a total of $1.5 trillion.[8]

Some point to the military-industry complex as an important component of the nation’s economy and wealth.  But military spending is not necessarily the best way to create jobs.  A University of Massachusetts study found $1 billion in defense spending created about 11,000 jobs, but the same $1 billion spent on infrastructure would create nearly 20,000 jobs, or on education would create 27,000 jobs.[9]

Finally, several economic analyses have shown that current military expenditures cannot be sustained, and that the costs endanger the integrity of the American economy. [10],[11]  Military spending is a major component of public debt, and it deprives funds from other important components of the economy like infrastructure, health, education, and climate change.   Military spending burdens negatively affected economic growth in the short run and long run.  If these funds were redirected from the essentially unproductive military sector to productive civilian spending positive national growth would occur.  Sadly, it is clear that over a 20-year period, a 1% increase in military spending will decrease a country’s economic growth by 9%.[12],[13],[14]

A recent survey of 170 works on the impact of military expenditure on economic growth finds that most studies since the end of the cold war provide increasingly strong evidence of an overall negative effect of military expenditure on economic growth.  The survey concludes:

“What does seem increasingly clear is that military expenditure does in general come at an economic cost. The lesson might be that if one wants to have any hope of becoming (militarily) strong, one should invest in one’s economy. Once states are economically strong, too much is at stake to risk in war. States may also gain security by becoming important to the world economy, with the major powers protecting them from attack because of the impact any attack would have on the world economy, and thus on them. The best way to security may be through economic growth.”[15]


Most expensive US Military Fighters currently in use:  The following costs do not include total development costs.  For example, the F-35 as the largest and most expensive military program ever is estimated to cost US $1.508 trillion through 2070.

  1. FA-18 Hornet $94 million      1480    $139 billion
  2. EA-18G Growler $102 million    600      $  61 billion
  3. V-22 Osprey $118 million    58        $ 6.8 billion
  4. F-35 Lightning II $122 million    2663    $325 billion
  5. E-2D Adv Hawkeye $232 million    26        $ 6.0 billion
  6. VH-71 Kestrel $241 million    9          $ 2.2 billion
  7. P-8A Poseidon $290 million    106      $  31 billion
  8. C17A Globemaster III $328 million 279      $  92 billion
  9. F-22 Raptor $350 million    187      $ 5.5 billion
  10. B-2 Spirit $737 million    21        5 billion                                                                          Total:   $744 billion just for procurement[16]



Sharyn H. Salmen has been a health care consultant. Larry Salmen has helped support business success with technology and systems integration. The following is an excerpt of a longer essay you can read by contacting Sharyn Salmen ( or Larry Salmen (

Great Britain ruled the whole of Ireland for 632 years 1169-1801. The costs of the violence in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles,” in particular, were unquestionably high. From “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 when fourteen protesters in Derry were killed and seventeen were wounded by British soldiers until 1998 when the Good Friday Peace agreement was signed, more than 3,600 people lost their lives. The costs in normal economic terms were similarly high. Now add in the fear, threats, and intimidation to the destruction of property from the bombing. The “disincentives” for economic development are obvious.

British costs for maintaining their military presence was also enormous. In 1993 those estimates came to more than $592 million. Now factor in the costs for prisons and other detention centers. Between 1974 and 1992 more than 7,000 Irish were detained in the North by British authorities using the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). In the three-year period between 1987 and 1990 more than 86,000 people were “examined” for more than an hour at ports and airport. Consider the loss of productivity!

However, historic hierarchies created by invasion, conquest, war and weapons privileged Protestants and loyalists to the United Kingdom. For example, Catholic men are 2.2 times more likely to be unemployed as Protestant men while the corresponding figure for women is 1.8 times. Northern Ireland Catholic men have the highest unemployment rate of any group in the UK, while Northern Ireland’s Protestants have the second lowest.

The conflict in Northern Ireland period damaged its economy generally and, more specifically,

its ship-building and linen industries which found cheaper labor and fewer regulations in other parts of the world, primarily southeast Asia. In Northern Ireland, over 30% of the workforce is directly employed in the public sector, compared with under 20% in Britain or the Republic. The Northern regional government is heavily subsidized by London, another often overlooked cost of war and conquest. For example, Northern Ireland is heavily dependent on direct British subsidy for its employment, with an extraordinarily high proportion of jobs being in security fields like prisons, probation, the police etc. One in ten Protestant men now works in these fields. In truth, this economic subsidy is much more of a drain on the UK Treasury than the cost of keeping the Army there. The total cost of the military presence was £405.6 million ($592.2 million) in 1993 – just 1.7% of the total UK defense budget.

In summary, then, we can see the range of costs for the violence in Northern Ireland, from loss of life to over 50,000 injured and the medical care required for treating them, from reduced productivity because of the fear and violence to the negative impacts that stem from widespread discrimination against the Irish, from the costs of maintaining a military presence to the subsidies required to keep the economy afloat, from the costs of incarceration for those detained as well as for those who work as police and prison guards. 


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns.

When we are not combatants in an active war, we usually think that the only “costs” of war are monetary, injury or “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD). If we haven’t been directly involved in a war, we rarely consider the many other mental, emotional and social consequences that are a direct result such violent conflict.

In The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Con. Daryl J. Callahan writes: “More US military service members have been deployed since 9/11 than in the previous 40 years. A greater number of these deployed service members are surviving, which has increased the incidence of combat-related mental health disorders among veterans of ‘The Long War.’ The societal cost of caring for veterans with such disorders is expected to surpass that of the Global War on Terror, which is estimated at $600 billion. Because the prospect of stopping all deployment is remote, standardized prevention and treatment methods must be used to eliminate these ‘invisible wounds of war.’”

Con. Callahan goes on to write: “Ironically, it is only since the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the DSM-III in 1980 (2) that the field of traumatic stress has blossomed and been subsequently underpinned by a major body of neuroscience and clinical research.  Despite the slow development of interest into the long-term consequences of the traumatic stress of war, many of the developments in mental health care in the 20th century emerged from the innovations demanded by the need to deal more effectively with the flood of mental casualties amongst the combatants of World Wars I and II. The model of community psychiatry was adapted from the model of forward psychiatry developed by the military to deal with acute combat stress reactions; this model was underpinned by the principles of the provision of early treatment close to the battle front with the expectancy of recovery and return to service (1). Crisis intervention, group therapy and therapeutic communities were innovations that evolved out of the military medical corps (8).

Some recent quotations from the media depict the impact of war on mental health: “We are living in a state of constant fear” (in Iraq); “War takes a toll on Iraqi mental health”; “War trauma leaves physical mark”; “War is hell… it has an impact on the people who take part that never heals”; “War is terrible and beyond the understanding and experience of most people”; “A generation has grown up knowing only war” (7).

The often-unconscious and enduring impact of war is one of the driving forces of history. Yet these terrible costs and the lessons learned by psychiatry tend to be forgotten.  Wars have had an important part in psychiatric history in a number of ways. It was the psychological impact of the world wars in the form of shell shock that supported the effectiveness of psychological interventions during the first half of the 20th century. It was the recognition of a proportion of the population not suitable for army recruitment during the Second World War that spurred the setting up of the National Institute of Mental Health in USA.

We know however, war adversely affects combatants and non-combatants alike.  Some of the psychological and social “side effects” of a war include: early death; lifelong disability; stress-related illnesses; depression and anxiety experienced by friends and loved ones (including children); extended rehabilitation; increased suicide rates; homelessness; domestic and sexual violence; addiction to drugs/alcohol; malnutrition, joblessness; death of relatives or caregivers, economic hardships, geographic displacement, and continuous disruptions of daily living…to name a few. Clearly, the terror and horror spread by the violence of war disrupts lives and severs relationships and families, leaving individuals and communities mentally, physically and emotionally distressed.  Tragically, it is these psychological costs that can lead to cycles of violence, both within the communities that have been at war and between nations seeking revenge and reparation.

Recently many studies of the impact that war has not only on the soldiers, but also on non-combatants as well.  Examples of such studies include:

“Disasters and mental health” World Psychiatry (WPA). 2015 Oct; 14: 351–353. (1); the World Bank report “Mental health and conflicts – Conceptual framework and approaches” (2); the United Nations (UN) book “Trauma interventions in war and peace: prevention, practice and policy” (3); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) document “The state of the world’s children – Childhood under threat” (4); the book “Trauma and the role of mental health in post conflict recovery” (5) and a chapter on “War and mental health in Africa” in the WPA book “Essentials of clinical psychiatry for sub-Saharan Africa” (6).


  1. Lopez-Ibor JJ, Christodoulou G, Maj M, et al., editors. Disasters and mental health.Chichester: Wiley; 2005.
  2. Baingana F. Fannon I. Thomas R. Mental health and conflicts – Conceptual framework and approaches.Washington: World Bank; 2005.
  3. Green BL, Friedman MJ, de Jong JTVM, et al., editors. Trauma interventions in war and peace: prevention, practice and policy.New York: Kluwer/Plenum; 2003.
  4. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) The state of the world’s children – Childhood under threat.New York: UNICEF; 2005.
  5. Mollica RF. Guerra R. Bhasin R, et al. Trauma and the role of mental health in the post-conflict recovery. Book of best practices.Boston: Harvard Programme in Refugee Trauma; 2004.
  6. Musisi S. War and mental health in Africa. In: Njenga F, Acuda W, Patel V, editors. Essentials of clinical psychiatry for sub-Saharan Africa.Milan: Masson; 2005. pp. 216–220.
  7. Ghosh N. Mohit A. Murthy SR. Mental health promotion in post-conflict countries. J Roy Soc Promot Health. 2004;124:268–270.
  8. Kroll J. Posttraumatic symptoms and the complexity of response to trauma. JAMA. 2003;290:667–670.



William M. Timpson, Ph.D. is a professor at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. What follows is adapted from his 2009 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, co-authored with an international group of peace scholars that included Ed Brantmeier, Nat Kees, Tom Cavanagh, Claire McGlynn and Elavie Ndura (Madison, WI: Atwood).

The costs of war as summarized by Meroney above, challenge us to think differently about peace, to consider all those aspects that would lessen the threats of war and promote other ways to resolve conflicts. Linda Groff (2002), for example, positions the need for “peace thinking” on multiple, interdependent levels in order to actualize a peaceful world. This model includes Galtung’s (1969, 1988) distinction of negative and positive peace. It also adds the level of integrated peace—holistic and systemic conceptions of what peace could look like among cultural groups, between the human and non-human world, and peace that holistically integrates outer forms of peace and inner forms of peace.

The benefit of using Groff’s conceptual model for thinking about peace is that it adds the more complex “integrated peace” dimension and it includes vital foci on feminist, intercultural, planetary, and inner peace.

Groff’s model (2002) delineates seven central concepts in peace thinking:

  1. War Prevention (Negative Peace)
    1. Peace as Absence of War
    2. Peace as Balance of Forces in the International System
  1. Structural Conditions for Peace (Positive Peace)
    1. Peace as no war and no structural violence on macro levels
    2. Peace as no war and no structural violence on micro levels (Community, Family, Feminist Peace)
  1. Peace Thinking that Stresses Holistic, Complex Systems (Integrated Peace)
    1. Intercultural Peace (peace among cultural groups)
    2. Holistic Gaia Peace (Peace within the human world and with the environment).
    3. Holistic Inner and Outer Peace (Includes all 6 types of peace and adds inner peace as essential condition) (7-8).

Rotary International has now partnered with the Institute for Economics and Peace “to help address the root causes of conflict and create conditions that foster peace.” With the title of the Rotary Positive Peace Academy, a free online learning platform has been created that “includes modules and interactive tools to teach users how to apply new peacebuilding methods and mobilize communities to address the underlying causes of conflict.” The costs of war and the benefits of investing in education and other human services are central to these analyses.

For more information see:

The Institute Institute for Economics and Peace has developed “an innovative methodology to calculate the economic impact of violence to the economy. It does this by calculating 13 different types of violence related spending at the national level, and applying a multiplier effect to account for the lingering influence of violence and fear. There are immediate and obvious examples of the impact of violence to the economy, like hospital fees, or security costs, and there are also more subtle long term impacts, such as a shift to more defensive spending by individuals, businesses and governments.”

For more information see:


Del Benson, Ph.D. Dr. Benson is Professor at Colorado State University.  He learned about management of people and nature in Canada, Africa, Australia, Europe, South America, and the US now offering 6 Online graduate courses about policy, communications, management, and sustainability.  Awards were received from The Wildlife Society (5), Rocky Mountain Center on the Environment, Colorado Wildlife Federation, CSU Extension and Service Learning, International Hunter Education Association, and Rotary for programs, presentations, publications, and citizen-based organizational activities including The Wildlife Society Writing Award in 2019 for his essays about the environment and peace building.

Environments and humans are similar: they are never the same; they are dynamic; they have times of disturbance and times of healing; outcomes are not repeated exactly. The age of dinosaurs ended with no more dinosaurs; after the ice age there are no more mammoths and cave bears; human settlements beyond the original 13 colonies in the US left no passenger pigeons, and bison are relegated to specially protected areas.

The Circle of Life will be one theme for this essay because it is often used to describe nature and was popularized in The Lion King movies, plays, and music. Unfortunately, the Lion King soundtrack left us with a catchy phrase, Hakuna Matata, that neither nature nor humans can live up to, so that is the second theme. Hakuna Matata lyrics read: “It means no worries. For the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy-Hakuna Matata!”

I enjoyed the songs, movies, plays, and sentiments but environments and people are not problem free, and the circle of life is a convenient phrase that lacks accuracy. People and environments evolved over time by adaptive genetic and behavioral survival mechanisms to overcome the many problems and opportunities faced on a changing planet. Circles are better than straight lines to show interactions, interventions, and outcomes with nature and humans; but circles, humans, and environments are not clean drawings with neat outcomes. Visualize circles as scratchy spheres with lines drawn out and in around the circle, representing variability and change.

With humans, locating one spot on the circle at one point in time might represent minimal conflict, peace, utopia, and perhaps even Hakuna Matata. Another location on the circle is the battle royal with dynamic changes over time and costly outcomes to humans and enviornments because peoples decided that they wanted to get into or out of their situations. Likely, after battles, positions on the circle can be found that represent peace-building and civility again, but not for long perhaps.

Persons in the US are friends with England now after fighting battles against them to gain national independence. After World War II the US helped to rebuild Western Europe and Japan who we battled. Viet Nam is now a place for US tourism and business after a time of war. We find that conflicts can be minimized and new friends can be made amongst persons who were taught earlier to dislike their enemies.

Some lines of variability on the circle are deep with positive or negative vectors showing that peace or war persists over time while other sites have short periods of constant behaviors. If we want the outcome of peace and are opposed to war, then we need to focus on building and maintaining effective strategies, coalitions, and training for peaceful coexistence. Forming the United Nations did not stop war. Diplomats, state departments, peace and reconciliation commissions, world banks, and Rotarians have not stopped conflicts from happening; but knowing that, humans must try, and to try even harder.

Stopping war seems too onerous for mere humans when institutions have failed; however, if our personal impacts are all that we can influence, then well done and that is not insignificant. Cooperating to induce civil engagements, agreements and positive behaviors are causes worthy of more attention and will be where this essay ends and where future words must begin.

Rather than disputing battles, focus on civil human behaviors that will lead to fewer battles starting with self, home, family, friends, school, work, and society! Civility means being polite, courteous, reasonable, respectful, kind, and mannerly. Using civility means the application of empathy, care, and respect; having positive codes of conduct and fostering positive attributes in others. If problem free and mannerly is our philosophy, then Hakuna Matata might result.

But then, life is not problem free, so it needs our added energy…Hakuna Matata!


Lindsey Pointer is a PhD Candidate in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington and is a past recipient of the Rotary Global Grant Scholarship. She works as a restorative justice facilitator, trainer and researcher.

Incarceration is expensive, both in terms of tax payer dollars, and also in terms of the vast potential that is lost in an individual’s life when we put them behind bars. Over the holidays, a police officer who referred a restorative justice case I facilitated several years ago sent me the message below from the offender (Tyler[17]). In the years since his process, Tyler has fulfilled his goal of becoming a Physician Assistant and has had a child. All of the progress in his life and the ways he has been able to give back to the community would have been lost if he had been put behind bars.

Hi Officer Peters,

Just was thinking back on the last couple years and wanted to reach out and say thank you again for how you handled my case with restorative justice. I realize things could have been much much different and I am very thankful this holiday season for the vote of confidence and grace that you extended to me. Lesson learned, and all has been on the up and up since then.

I hope the holidays find you and your family well, and thanks again for being such a great example of service in our community.

Best, Tyler

Tyler’s story offers a powerful example of how a felony-level offence can be handled effectively through restorative justice alone, removing the costs and negative impact of incarceration. You can read the entire case study here. Below is an excerpt that demonstrates the different restorative justice made in the life of this one man.

Criminal Charges Pending: Felony Possession and Forgery

Factual Synopsis: A 26-year-old male working at a medical clinic wrote prescriptions for himself for oxycodone, forging a doctor’s signature and prescription number. He wrote and filled prescriptions for oxycodone for about 8 months.

An Excerpt from Tyler’s Story….

In the weeks following the confession, Tyler had hired a lawyer. He did so at the advice of a friend who told him, “It isn’t a question of if you’ll go to prison, it is for how long. And it isn’t a question of if you’ll be in financial ruin from fines, it is how bad of ruin it will be.” Feeling scared, Tyler hired a lawyer. After Tyler confessed to Dr. Hay and Madeline what he had done, both Dr. Hay and Madeline called and texted Tyler most days to see how he was doing. They expressed that they were worried about him and wanted to make sure he knew they cared about him and was getting the help he needed. After Tyler hired the lawyer, he was advised to no longer communicate with Dr. Hay or Madeline, so he stopped returning texts and calls. Madeline and Dr. Hay both shared that the lack of communication was one of the most hurtful parts of the entire encounter. When they learned that Tyler had hired a lawyer, they began to feel defensive. Dr. Hay and Amy expressed that they were worried because Dr. Hay’s physician prescription number and signature had been used, and they weren’t sure if this could be turned against them. Madeline also worried that somehow this could be turned against the clinic, and also felt hurt that her care was not reciprocated. When Dr. Hay, Amy and Madeline had the chance to express these feelings in the Restorative Justice conference, Tyler apologized repeatedly and shared that he had only been thinking about his fear and not about how hiring a lawyer would come across to them.

The conflict and hurt around the hiring of a lawyer sheds light on how this case might have turned out if it was sent to the traditional court system. Tyler would have done everything in his power to minimize the amount of time he would be spending in prison and the financial impact on him and his wife. This would have been battled out in court, with the two sides instructed not to speak to each other, with attempts to shift the blame. Would his relationship with his wife have survived the courts, fines, and prison time? In the fight, would he be able to find the network of supportive relationships he needs to overcome his struggle with addiction? Would he have the freedom to prioritize treatment? Would court, prison, and labels change the way Tyler sees himself?

When we came to the assets portion of the Restorative Justice conference, when the co-facilitator shared strengths and passions Tyler has that can help him to repair the harms from the incident, Madeline, Dr. Hay, and Amy all had their own strengths and positive qualities to add. The message was clear: the circle of people cared about and supported Tyler, they saw him for the good person he is, and were there to help him make things right.

For Tyler’s contract to repair the harms, he will be spending hours volunteering at the free clinic for the uninsured and underinsured that Dr. Hay and Amy run two days every week. At Officer Peter’s suggestion, Tyler will also spend some time volunteering at the local Youth Center, doing outdoor activities with youth who often face their own struggles coping in a positive way with family trauma. Tyler will also be helping Madeline with a couple projects for the clinic that he can complete remotely in order to take something off her plate. Finally, Tyler has committed to pursuing counseling for addiction and to forming a treatment plan that will help him recognize addiction as a life-long struggle and form strategies for using his network of support when times are difficult.

To read the entire case study, visit:


In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to promote the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties. The Rotary Foundation has six priority areas: (1) Promoting peace; (2) Fighting disease; (3) Providing clean water; (4) Saving mothers and children; (5) Supporting education; and (6) Growing local economies. It has been argued by staff at Rotary International (RI) that long with promoting peace, “sustainability” is another cross-cutting priority that connects with all the others. RI has directed efforts in these six areas to enhance local and global impact and staff indicate that their most successful and sustainable projects and activities tend to fall within these areas: See the RI website:

If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation!  If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit Future issues are looking at the following: October—Costs of war? Lost Alternatives in Lives, Families, Wealth and the Environment due to War and Conflicts? November—Educating for Peace at Every Level: Cooperation, Communication, Critical and Creative Thinking?

[1] S. Aftergood, The Costs of War: Obstacles to Public Understanding, November 14, 2018, Cost of War Project, Brown University, 7 pp.

[2] GAO press release, U.S. Governments 2013 Financial Report Reflects Continuing Financial Management and Fiscal Challenges, Washington D.C., February 27, 2014.

[3] Inspector General, U.S. Dept. of Defense, Understanding the Results of the Audit of the DoD FY 2018 Financial Statements, January 8, 2019.

[4] N.C. Crawford, US Budgetary Costs of the Post 9-11 Wars through FY2019, November 14, 2018, Costs of War Project, Brown University, 13 pp.

[5] K. Amadeo, US Military Budget, Its Components, Challenges and Growth, The Balance, April 22, 2019.

[6] A trillion is a million million.  If you go back a trillion seconds, it would be about 30,000 BC.  $1 trillion would pay for a $1 million salary a day for nearly 3000 years.

[7] Dogfight, Wikipedia

[8] Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, Wikipedia

[9] R. Pollin & H. Garrett-Peltier (2011), The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 12 pp.

[10] K. Amadeo, Militarism, Its History, and Its Impact on the Economy, The Balance, August 30, 2019.

[11] Paul Kennedy (1989), The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, argues that great nations tend to steadily overextend themselves with repeated conflicts and become militarily top-heavy for a weakening economic base.


[12] P. Hiller, The Effects of Military Spending on Economic Growth, Peace Science Digest,

[13] d’Agostino, G., Dunne, J. P., & Pieroni, L. (2017). Does military spending matter for long-run growth?. Defence and Peace Economics, 1-8.

[14] M.A. Khalid, et. al, (2015) The Impact of Military Spending on Economic Growth:  Evidence from the US Economy, Res J. Finance and Accounting, Vol. 6, NO.7, 9 pp.

[15] J.P. Dunne & N. Tian (2013), Military expenditure and economic growth:  A survey, The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 5-11.

[16] Research Development Test & Evaluation (RDT&E), Military Construction (MILCON), and operations and sustainment is likely to multiply this number by 5, or a total of $3.72 trillion.

[17] All names and some identifying detains have been chanced.

Spirituality and Healing

William M. Timpson, Lloyd Thomas and Del Benson, Fort Collins Rotary Club

Lindsey Pointer, 2017 Rotary Global Grant Scholarship Recipient

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to promote the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties.


William M. Timpson, Ph.D. is a professor at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. What follows is adapted from his 2009 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, co-authored with an international group of peace scholars that included Ed Brantmeier, Nat Kees, Tom Cavanagh, Claire McGlynn and
Elavie Ndura (Madison, WI: Atwood).


Above: Father Apollinaire Bangayimbaga, Ph.D. is a priest and the Rector of the University of Ngzoi. He has played a leadership role in our peacebuilding efforts for many years, insisting that “emotions have much to do with violence and war. We must learn to think clearly and not just react.”

In Burundi, East Africa, my experience with our Global Grant on promoting sustainable peace and reconciliation is that leaders in the community and church deserve much credit for helping to keep the peace during the civil war that ravaged this small impoverished nation of eleven million after independence in 1962. The legacy of colonization had weighed heavily in triggering tribal conflicts as first the Germans and then the Belgians enshrined the minority Tutsi as rulers of the majority Hutu, some 85% of the population.


A civil war was predictable when the European overlords and their military firepower left. Our Rotary supported efforts in Burundi follow sociologist Elise Boulding’s 2000 call for the study of peace in her book, Cultures of Peace (Syracuse University Press).


Achieving a sustainable peace and some reconciliation for old wounds means much more than the cessation of violence. It demands serious study. For example, those studying to become counselors and teachers are in need of understanding their own world views and cultural perspectives as well as those of their clients and students. Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices are important aspects of this cultural perspective taking. In a course developed at Colorado State University, Nathalie Kees created an environment where counselors and teachers can experience a variety of contemplative practices from many of the major world religions and spiritual traditions.

The experiential nature of this course is helpful in two ways. Students are able to experience, in a non-threatening way, some of the beliefs and practices of religious and spiritual traditions that may be very different from their own. Secondly, students can choose to incorporate various practices in their own lives and professions in whichever ways seem appropriate. Examples might include; practicing mindfulness meditation as a way of staying centered and present focused when working with clients or students, individually or in groups. Experiencing mindfulness meditations such as Buddhist Tonglen, Hindu Yoga Nidra, and Christian Centering Prayer, helps students see the universality of some of the practices and beliefs of major world religions. Mental health practitioners and teachers from various spiritual traditions serve as guest presenters and allow students to ask questions in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere. Transferring new awareness and understanding to their personal and professional lives is done through discussions, papers, and projects; drawing upon literature in the fields of counseling, teaching, religion, and spirituality.

Of course there are counter examples where religious practices in Europe and the language of peace were spun toward a military defense of the church with “just war” theories. In the Americas Spanish priests often operated in parallel with soldiers to recruit, control, exploit and convert Native peoples. In other parts of the world religious schools have indoctrinated some who then are willing to be used as suicide bombers.

For those who want to argue that humans are hard-wired for aggression, that violence is part of their DNA, we note the powerful role for learning among humans, that the “savage beasts” that cannot be trusted to lay down with the lamb can also be interpreted as a Biblical call for a peacebuilding curriculum that can tame that savage beast into a humbler, more sensitive and caring individual. In other words, what some refer to as “toxic masculinity” can be learned and unlearned.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns.

Religious and spiritual beliefs are central in the contemporary resurgence of alternative healing.  Meditation courses are being taught to healthcare professionals.  Medical schools are teaching courses in spirituality, religion and healing.  Harvard Medical School offers a course called, “Spirituality and Healing in Medicine.”  Beth-Israel hospital offers nursing courses in Buddhist meditation and other eastern spiritual techniques to help “ease their patients’ mental pain of suffering and death.”  The American Psychological Association published three books in three years dealing with how religion and spirituality can be integrated into behavioral medicine and psychotherapy.  The publication, “The National Psychologist” reports that it is now becoming widely accepted “that the many forms of spirituality and religion form core belief systems that cannot be separated from individual therapy.”

As far back as January, 1999 the professional journal, “Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine,” there appeared the following statement: “During the last 25 years there has also been a significant increase in people adopting spiritual practices including meditation, the martial arts, t’ai chi, chanting, yoga, sweat lodges, and goddess circles, all of which often induce intense spiritual experiences.  Based on these trends, one might predict that patients will report an increasing role for religious and spiritual experiences in coping with pain, illness, death, grief, recovery from substance and sexual abuse, and many other areas.”

Perhaps you and I, as well as healthcare providers, need to be aware of the effective value of spirituality in the healing of our lives.  Perhaps we need to unite behind a more understandable and universal spirituality.  Naomi Remen, in her article, “On Defining Spirit,” describes this kind of spirituality.  She writes, “The spiritual is inclusive…perhaps one might say that the spiritual is that realm of human experience which religion attempts to connect us to through religion and dogma.  Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails.  Religion is a bridge to the spiritual, but the spiritual lies beyond religion.”

Why is spiritual awareness and practice so important in healing?  Philosopher Tielhard deChardin once said, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience.  Rather we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”  In order to heal ourselves more effectively and powerfully, we need to begin addressing our basic nature as human beings.  I believe that nature is fundamentally spiritual.

What helps me to arrive at this conclusion are a few hard, scientific facts.  Our bodies are mostly liquid…not solid.  On an lower level, they are mostly empty space.  If it were not so, x-rays would not be able to pass through them to create images on a photographic plate.  There are elaborate “systems” operating all the time inside our skin, about which we have little or no awareness, but which are crucial to our being alive: a digestive system; a nerve-system; a healing system; an immune system; a communication system; a vascular system; an energy system; and several others.  All of these systems usually function in an integrated and coordinated fashion.  Who’s in charge of them?  Who controls the coordination and balance of all these systems?  If not us, who?  Just because we don’t know how to operate all these systems doesn’t mean we don’t do it.  If we don’t digest our food, who does?  If we don’t fight off disease, who does?  Clearly, as living human beings, there is a lot more going on inside us than we are consciously aware of.  But we’re “doing it,” whether or not we are aware of it.  Almost all of the processes we call “life” are controlled by informational energy being transformed and used to initiate and control bodily processes.  So it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that we are each a powerful “spirit” that is in control of all the inner activities going on every second of every day.  Chardin was probably correct!

If we are essentially human spirits, it becomes no wonder that we heal best by beginning the process of increasing our spiritual awareness…awareness of our own true nature.  Following that, we can learn effective spiritual practices that have been known for centuries to be helpful in the balancing and healing of our lives.  Let’s not always wait until we are sick, in pain or dying.  Let’s get on with it today…now!


Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.

Is nature merely chemical reactions, genetic mutations, and random chances acting in a soup of energy? Does the lick of a lion mean anything to the cub? Does nature have spirit or spirituality? Does spirituality mean anything beyond humans? Spirit is my favorite outcome and therefore an important word to me; what does it mean to you?

Spirituality however conveys mixed meanings ranging from religion, to supernatural, to unbelievable; what does it mean to you? Nature lives off nature and wolves eat lambs rather than dwell with lambs as it says in Isaiah of the Bible leaving one to question this aspect of spirituality. Until peace is granted by the spiritual Father in the Bible, we cannot trust the leopard with the young goat or the lion with the fattened calf or child. The cow and bear will not be peaceful together and lions and oxen will not eat straw together. Nursing children should not play in the hole of cobras and weaned children should not put hands on the adder’s den unless they expect to be bitten.

To make sustainable and peaceful acts with the land and civil actions with people, we cannot afford to wait for the day when lions will lie down with the lambs or even expect that to happen, because we spiritually believe it will happen. Instead, peace building and actions toward civility are processes that we can start by using our spirit:

  1. A positive human spirit believes better outcomes in our lives and lifetimes are possible.
  2. A vision for the future includes others especially persons who were previously in conflict or perhaps who merely were not communicating.
  3. Make plans toward agreed upon interests and missions for accomplishments.
  4. Use the spirit that you will work hard with your talents, time and treasures to achieve desired outcomes.
  5. Use the spirit that you will help others with their talents, time and treasures to achieve outcomes.
  6. Realize and step aside in good spirit and find someone else to help if you are in the way.

Make spirit work for you and those around you.  Perhaps a positive spirit will add to your spirituality!


Lindsey Pointer, PhD in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington, is a past recipient of the Rotary Global Grant Scholarship. She works as a restorative justice facilitator, trainer and researcher.

 “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”

– Brené Brown

I love this definition of spirituality from Brené Brown. To me, spirituality is rooted in a deep awareness of our interconnectedness. Restorative practices are powerful because they provide a genuine experience of that connection. Acknowledgment and nurturing of our innate connection is at the root of the restorative philosophy and drives the restorative social movement. This excerpt from the forthcoming Little Book of Restorative Teaching Tools explains more.

Excerpt from The Little Book of Restorative Teaching Tools: Games, Activities, and Simulations for Understanding Restorative Justice Practices Forthcoming March 2020

The restorative practices field has experienced immense growth in recent decades. What began as an effort towards criminal justice reform has since expanded into a social movement dedicated to making restorative practices integral to everyday life and moving families, schools, communities, and society towards more peaceable ways of interacting. As Christopher Marshall explains, this restorative social movement has the broad aim of the “creation of interpersonal relationships and societal institutions that foster human dignity, equality, freedom, mutual respect, democratic engagement and collaborative governance.”[1]

The vision of a restorative community involves the regular and widespread use of restorative practices that build relationships, provide a sense of fairness and justice, and facilitate healing. It also involves going about basic community functions in a way that nurtures “just relations,” or relationships characterized by mutual respect, care and dignity[2] and honors our innate connection to one another. In describing the philosophical grounding of restorative practices, Howard Zehr makes a connection between the beliefs and practices of restorative justice and the concept of shalom.[3] Shalom is often translated as “peace,” but actually implies a broader vision that emphasizes “right” or “just” relationships between individuals, between groups, between people and the earth, and between people and the divine. It emphasizes the connectedness of all things and provides a helpful philosophical basis for the expansion of restorative practices into other areas of social life. Davis draws on the southern African concept of ubuntu in her description of the restorative ethos.[4] Ubuntu means “a person is a person through their relationships” and speaks to humans’ connection to each other, as well as to the natural world. Restorative communities are those which embrace and encourage this awareness of our interconnectedness.



See the RI website: If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation!  If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit Future issues may explore the following: February—Coping with Stress; March—Nuclear Weapons, Use, Probabilities and History.

[1] Christopher Marshall, “The Evolution and Meaning of the Restorative City Ideal: An Introductory Essay,” (unpublished, Victoria University of Wellington, 2016).

[2] Jennifer J. Llewellyn and Brenda Morrison, “Deepening the Relational Ecology of Restorative Justice,” The International Journal of Restorative Justice 1, no. 3 (2018): 346–47.

[3] Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Herald Press, 1990), 268.

[4] Davis, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice, 18.

Coping with Stress

William M. Timpson, Lloyd Thomas and Del Benson, Fort Collins Rotary Club

Lindsey Pointer, 2017 Rotary Global Grant Scholarship Recipient

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to promote the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties.


William M. Timpson, Ph.D. is a professor at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. What follows is adapted from his 2009 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, co-authored with an international group of peace scholars that included Ed Brantmeier, Nat Kees, Tom Cavanagh, Claire McGlynn and
Elavie Ndura (Madison, WI: Atwood).

During war and its aftermath, there is always a need for helping people deal with the associated stresses as well as with a need for healing, both physically and emotionally. One essential step is to look honestly at all the repercussions of violence, no matter how troubling or sensitive the issue. While calls to “Support Our Troops” were repeated regularly at rallies and in editorials, it is not clear what the implications are for this kind of appeal when “our troops” are involved in violations of the Geneva Convention or violence back home, for example. Every culture must help their service men and women deal with the stresses of their experiences and navigate the challenges they face, especially when they return home with mental and emotional needs.

Feb pic In Burundi, East Africa, our Global Grant focuses on promoting sustainable peace, reconciliation and development. For one of the poorest nations on earth, emerging from colonization and civil war, there still remains a constant stress from the daily threats of theft, disorder, assault, and such, less the larger impacts of war and more the nagging community impact of conflict. Ex-combatants, in particular, represent a population that has often been traumatized yet lacks the education needed to acclimate back into civilian life.

 Know that sophisticated communication skills and high levels of emotional intelligence can help in processing information like what appeared in an article for The New York Times on January 13, 2008. According to Sontag and Alvarez there were 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment—along with a range of other problems including alcohol abuse and family troubles—contributed to these tragedies. Volatile emotions then mix with violence and self-destructive tendencies to produce an explosive, deadly concoction. Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killings. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

According to Sontag and Alvarez, about a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain. A quarter of the victims were fellow service members, including Specialist Richard Davis of the Army, who was stabbed repeatedly and then set ablaze, his body hidden in the woods by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq. And the rest were acquaintances or strangers, among them Noah P. Gamez, 21, who was breaking into a car at a Tucson motel when an Iraq combat veteran, also 21, caught him, shot him dead and then killed himself outside San Diego with one of several guns found in his car.

Add to this the alarming number of suicides among enlisted and returning veterans. According to the Times On-Line for October 3, 2008, “More American military veterans have been committing suicide than US soldiers have been dying in Iraq. . . At least 6,256 US veterans took their lives in 2005, at an average of 17 a day, according to figures broadcast last night. Former servicemen are more than twice as likely than the rest of the population to commit suicide. Such statistics compare to the total of 3,863 American military deaths in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 — an average of 2.4 a day, according to the website The rate of suicides among veterans prompted claims that the US was suffering from a “mental health epidemic”—often linked to post-traumatic stress.”

Note how troubling it is to read the graphic details about the human stories that underlie these statistics. It is no surprise that the proponents of a particular war do not like to see this kind of information made public. Yet it is in the public arena that democracy must play out. We must develop the skills needed to honestly face the realities that put stress on everyone. We must also provide the support services that some need to cope with the stresses in their lives.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns.

Identify your habitual coping mechanisms for handling stress.  Here is a list of negative (and often unconscious) coping mechanisms.  Following this list is a large selection of positive coping methods you may want to substitute for the negative ones.  Feel free to add to the list.

ARNOLD BENNETT: “Worry [stress] is evidence of an ill-controlled brain; it is merely a stupid waste of time in unpleasantness.  If men and women practiced mental calisthenics as they do physical calisthenics, they would purge their brains of this foolishness.”

ALCOHOL: Drinking to change your mood.  Considering alcohol use a “friend” with whom you can “let down” and relax. Drinking to feel “in” with others.

DENIAL: Pretending nothing is wrong. Lying. Ignoring any problem or the stressful problem.

DRUGS: Abusing coffee, aspirin, street drugs or prescription medications. Smoking pot. Taking tranquilizers.

EATING: Eating beyond the point of satisfaction.  Using food to address issues other than hunger, e.g. boredom, anxiety, comfort, etc. Binge eating.  Always going on a diet.

FAULT-FINDING: Having a judgmental attitude. Complaining. Criticizing self, others and the situation. Blaming. Prejudice and hatred.

ILLNESS: Developing headaches, nervous stomach, back problems, major illness. Seeking caring through having something physically wrong with you.  Becoming accident prone.

INDULGING: Staying up late. Sleeping in. Buying things on impulse. Buying things you don’t really need.  Wasting time.

PASSIVITY: Hoping things will get better. Wishing without taking action. Procrastinating.  Waiting around for a “lucky break.”

REVENGE: Getting even.  Being sarcastic. Talking mean or insulting. Bullying.  Violent acting out.

STUBBORNNESS: Being rigid and demanding your own way.  Refusing to be “wrong” or refusing to acknowledge when you make mistakes.

TANTRUMS: Yelling, moping, pouting, swearing. Driving recklessly. Raging when frustrated.

TOBACCO: Smoking to relieve tension or boredom. Smoking to be “in” with others. Smoking to feel “grown-up.”

WITHDRAWAL: Avoiding the situation(s). Skipping school or work. Keeping your feelings and thoughts to yourself. Engaging in the “silent treatment.” Escaping to your own room (isolation).

WORRYING: Fretting over things that aren’t happening. Anticipating the worst. Thinking about all the negative events that could happen, but probably won’t.

Instructions for your clients.  Can you identify your favorite negative coping mechanism(s)?  Any of the above may work temporarily for you.  But used over a long time, they can destroy your goals, your relationships, your hopes and dreams, your lifestyle…even your life.


Naturally, there are hundreds of coping methods that are positive in nature and do not exact the heavy toll as do negative copers. Here are a few positive coping mechanisms, listed under the categories of mental, physical, spiritual, interpersonal, family, and diversions. If you want to manage your stress better, pick one or two from each category and practice them until they become “automatic.”


IMAGINATION:  Looking for humor in your life. Anticipating the future. Daydreaming.  Using fantasy or visualization of fun, enjoyment and pleasure. In your mind, creating your desired future.

LIFE PLANNING: Setting clear goals for yourself. Planning for the future and designing strategies for achieving those goals and plans.

ORGANIZING: Taking charge of a project. Taking charge (responsibility) for your life. Making order and not letting things “pile up.”

PROBLEM-SOLVING: Solving problems by yourself. Seeking outside help when you need it.  Resolving things or situations which you habitually tolerate (“zapping your tolerations”). Tackling problems “head on.”

RE-DEFINING: Explore other possible points of view. Look for the positive in every situation.  Define the present moment as “perfect,” or the “way it should be.” Define a problem as a challenge or opportunity for a new experience or the development of a new skill.

MANAGE YOUR TIME: Practice prioritizing. “Work smarter, not harder.” Delegate your weaknesses to others. Discover and exercise your strengths. Consistently           seek more efficient and effective ways to accomplish what you want. Plan for time to relax, enjoy yourself, and engage in fun activities.


BIOFEEDBACK: Learn to listen to the feelings and sensations your body sends you. Come to really know your physical limitations and, if you must exceed them, do it very slowly and cautiously.

EXERCISE: Pursue physical fitness. Jog, swim, dance, walk. Take weight-training and regular cardiovascular exercise at a local health club.  Fit regular exercise into every day.

NOURISHMENT: Eat only when hungry. Stop eating when satisfied. Eat nourishing food for your health. Avoid junk food and all unnecessary drugs (including alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and THC).  Take a vitamin/mineral/dietary fiber supplement.

RELAXATION:  Practice tensing and relaxing each muscle group in your body (isometric exercises). Take a warm bath.  Learn the relaxation response and practice it regularly. Listen to soothing music. Design a part of your environment to reflect peacefulness, security and tranquility.  Go into that special place when         you want to relax.

SELF-CARE: Energize your work and play. Treat yourself as you would treat a loved child or pet.  Strive for self-improvement for the joy of it, and not necessarily to meet some standard or criteria set by others. Give to yourself some of your favorite things and experiences.

STRETCHING: Take short stretch breaks throughout your day. Learn stretching exercises.

BREATHE: Practice breathing exercises, deeply, abdominally and fully.  Learn breath control exercises (e.g. panting, holding, timing, etc.).


COMMITMENT: Involve yourself in a worthy cause. Volunteer some of your time. Invest yourself in a meaningful way. Serve or do someone else a favor. Persist in gaining self-knowledge, growth, goal-attainment and self-improvement.

FAITH: Find meaning and purpose for your life. Create a personal mission statement. Trust the process of life. Generate and nourish hope for your future. Believe in yourself.

PRAY: Count your blessings. Give thanks. Develop an “attitude of gratitude.” Pray for others. Share or confess those things about which you feel guilty. Ask for  forgiveness. Practice meditation. Learn mindfulness.

SURRENDER: Let go of your problems. Learn to accept the current situation “as is.” What exists at the moment…IS! Keep in mind that everything changes. Allow yourself to “float on the river of life.”

VALUING: Give attention to what you find most valuable. Set priorities. Be consistent. Focus on the present moment. Spend your time and energy in ways that meet your values and standards. Use and control your own impulses. Develop your own, accurate belief system.

WORSHIP: Share your values, beliefs and feelings with others. Put your faith into action. Celebrate life within a “community of caring.” Honor your “higher    power.” Recognize the forces operating in the world over which you have no control.


AFFIRMATION: Believe in yourself and trust others as well. Give yourself lots of encouragement and positive, self-affirming statements. Give lots of “positive strokes” to others as well. Attend to and notice the positive characteristics and qualities you have and the actions you take. Reward yourself.

ASSERTIVENESS: Display and state your needs and wants. Learn to ask directly for what you want. Say “no” with kindness. Be firm in communicating your feelings, thoughts and opinions.  

CONTACT: Make new friends. Be a friend to others. Touch each other mentally, emotionally, physically, affectionately and gently. Really listen to others and respond from your understanding of their expressed point of view.

SELF-EXPRESSION: Show your feelings. Move your body freely. Exercise and demonstrate your skills and talents. Share your deepest thoughts, feelings and wishes.  Be yourself.

CREATE BOUNDARIES:  Set your own standards and boundaries and let other people know what they are. Accept others’ boundaries. Drop some commitments when you have too many.  Under-promise and over-deliver.

NETWORKING: Share desires, projects and interests with others. Ask for support from family, friends and acquaintances. Invite others to become involved with            you and your activities.


BALANCING: Balance the time you spend alone/with your family/at work or school, with your interactions with family and friends. Accept your friends and family members for who they are now, and realize that nobody is perfect all the time. We all have our faults and weaknesses.

CONFLICT-RESOLUTION:  Learn conflict-resolving skills which lead to “win-win”    solutions.  Intend your conflicts to result in everyone getting what they want. Forgive easily and readily.

BUILD ESTEEM: Attend to the positive qualities of yourself and those of your family members.  Acknowledge out loud, the things you like or appreciate in your family members. Focus on personal and family strengths.

FLEXIBILITY: Be willing to take on new family roles and responsibilities. Become well-versed in many family activities and roles. Remain open to change.  Be spontaneous.

LINKING: Develop friendships with other families. Make use of the personal and organizational resources available in your community.

TOGETHERNESS: Take time to be together, play together, and share time with each other.  Build family traditions. Always express heartfelt affection for one another.  Limit TV-watching and video-game playing.


GETAWAYS:  Spend time alone.  Daydream.  See a movie. Listen to music. Designate a “special place” in which to be alone.  Go on a vacation.

HOBBIES: Write, paint, remodel, create something, garden, plan and develop “projects,” engage in sports, learn to play a musical instrument, sing.  Engage in activities unrelated to your usual ones.

LEARNING: Take a special class. Read. Join a club. Surf the Internet. Make learning new things a priority. Never stop acquiring new knowledge.

MUSIC: Play your own instrument. Sing. Dance. Join an orchestra or choral group. Listen to music. Take music lessons.

PLAY: Learn new, non-competitive games. Play them with friends or family members.  Go out with friends.  Develop a playful attitude.  Don’t take things so seriously.         Find humor in situations.  Laugh regularly.  Go for walks, runs, and dances.

WORK:  Engage in meaningful work.  Go after accomplishments. Tackle a project unrelated to your usual activity.  Keep your mind and body occupied with enjoyable activities. Volunteer.  Join a service club.  Assist a friend or neighbor in one of their projects.


Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.

To overcome stress of an attack, you can fire your internal organs as does the sea cucumber or sacrifice your own life to protect the colony as does Malaysian Soldier Ants using violent muscle contractions that releases poison from fluid-filled glands. Humans have been known to expel body fluids to ward off an attack and to commit suicide in defense of their positions, but those are not generally acceptable stress reduction mechanisms for most situations.

You could change color as will cuttlefish or make seasonal plumage changes as will ptarmigan to blend into their environments. Dressing in camouflage for sneaking up on wildlife during outdoor activities, wearing smart business attire for the board room, and avoiding the “tourist look” in foreign countries generally improves your chances of fitting in appropriately and lessening unnecessary stress.

Humans and wildlife can avoid stress temporarily using three primary behaviors: hiding, fleeing, and fighting which logically are best used in that order.  When used in the reverse order–fighting, fleeing, hiding–conflict is inevitable and outcomes are risky. One cannot fight, run, and hide forever, so learning how to face reality and to cope civilly is the key.

Coping mechanisms can be healthy if used to address real problems, opportunities or dilemmas or they can become the problem and destructive if used as addictive substitutes for realistic behaviors. For example, eating is necessary to survive, and an elk might have its head down and feign eating to not appear frightened by predators, even though the elk are alert and ready to run if necessary. However, if eating becomes a compulsion when stressed, then weight gain and addiction to food or beverage can lead to new stressors.  We can see this issue in personal lives and amongst family pets.

Procrastination is a commonly used and abused coping mechanism delaying some projects while allowing work on others; however, if every project is delayed and work is not accomplished on time because of procrastination, then productivity suffers, and stress increases.

Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund, included the Defense Mechanisms below and how humans use them to falsify reality.  Apply these to situations that you encounter in life, work, and in the news.  If you watched the Presidential Impeachment trials, then perhaps you can recognize many of these in those proceedings.


  • Denial: claiming/believing that what is true is actually false.
  • Displacement: redirecting emotions to a substitute target.
  • Intellectualization: taking an objective viewpoint.
  • Projection: attributing uncomfortable feelings to others.
  • Rationalization: creating false but credible justifications.
  • Reaction Formation: overacting in the opposite way to the fear.
  • Regression: going back to acting as a child.
  • Repression: pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious.
  • Sublimation: redirecting ‘wrong’ urges into socially acceptable actions.

Stress needs to be addressed rationally. It cannot be avoided forever. Face it directly with civil actions.


Lindsey Pointer, PhD in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington, is a past recipient of the Rotary Global Grant Scholarship. She works as a restorative justice facilitator, trainer and researcher.

Factual Synopsis: While suffering from extreme stress related to his school, work, and relationship, Micah drank to the point of severe intoxication in his dorm room. While intoxicated, he broke his window attempting to illegally access a balcony, was extremely aggressive towards a neighbor and volatile with Residential Advisors (RAs), and ultimately tried to jump out the window. Police were called and took him to the station for a mental health assessment.

Narrative: Micah told the co-facilitator and me that he takes pride in his ability to do it all. Before this incident, Micah was working 35 hours per week at two jobs on top of being a full-time student studying architecture. During the pre-conference meeting, Micah described that on a normal day, he would go to classes, get done at about 3pm, go to work, work until 11pm, eat dinner, and then start his homework, leaving him only a couple hours to sleep before he got up to do it all again. When it felt like he was losing control of something, like when his grades started to slip, he would respond by piling more on. He was good at his jobs. His manager at the supermarket promoted him and gave him more hours, so when school wasn’t going well, he threw himself into more work. He was operating like this for a while, on very little sleep, ignoring the issues with his school work and piling more on to not deal with it when he found out his long distance girlfriend cheated on him. Micah described it as a sort of breaking point. Once his personal life was in shambles too, he just couldn’t take it.

To deal with the stress, Micah started drinking. He drank a few bottles of wine alone in his room. He attempted to reach out to a friend to talk, but she was busy with school work, so he continued to drink. Eventually, he tried to get out on the balcony by crawling through his window and in the process, accidentally put his head through the glass. At that point, he went down to tell the RA on duty (Beth) about the broken glass. Beth could immediately see that Micah was not doing well. He was angry with his next door neighbor and was screaming at him. What followed was over an hour of emotional volatility with Micah screaming, crying, and disclosing information about his girlfriend who had cheated. Paul and Beth were unable to get Micah to settle down or go to sleep so fearing for his safety and the safety of others eventually called the Hall Manager and the police.

The police initially decided that Micah wasn’t a threat and started to leave. One of the RAs (John) was then alone in the room alone with Micah when all the sudden he stood up, looked out the window and said, “John, I’m going to jump out this window and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” John called out for the police who came into the room and after a physical struggle, were eventually able to handcuff Micah and take him to the station for a mental health assessment.

Micah was given a room outside of the hall to stay in and temporarily banned from the hall while arrangements were made for the restorative justice meeting. He was also instructed to begin meeting regularly with the Student Support Coordinator (Jenny). Jenny helped Micah to get extensions for his assignments from his professors so that he was able to take some time to recover from the breakdown.

Throughout the pre-conference and conference, it was clear that Micah has some more serious mental health issues that contributed to his inability to adequately track the conversation and his manic behavior. Mental health concerns can add a difficult component to restorative justice because the process is not therapy and cannot provide the full services that the offender needs. What is important is to remember that behavior communicates needs. In this case, Micah’s breakdown signals a need for greater emotional and well-being support through regular meetings with a counselor. Therefore, when we talked about what needed to happen next to repair the harms and make things right, the first thing that was suggested was for Micah to get the counselling support required in order to not have a breakdown like this again. He ended up agreeing to a weekly meeting with a counselor in addition to the weekly meeting with the Jenny, the Student Support Coordinator, and expressed that both of these meetings would be very helpful.

Restorative justice cannot operate without access to other resources to help fulfill the needs that so often fuel crime. The gift of restorative justice is that the process is able to surface those needs so that they can be addressed and so that the response to the crime or rule violation does not cause further harm. In Micah’s case, if this incident had happened last year before the University began using Restorative Justice, Micah would have been immediately evicted from the Residential Hall with no further contact or support. He would have been cut off from his community of friends, would not have the encouragement or structure to pursue counselling, and would need to find a new place to live. With the overwhelm Micah was already facing, my guess is that these added stressors would have resulted in a downward spiral and further breakdowns.

We see this so often in the mainstream justice system. An offender commits a crime to fulfill a need (whether that is for food, or safety, or mental health support, or clothing for an interview, or respect) and often the crime is a last resort and signals that parts of the person’s life are in serious disarray. Instead of relieving the stressors that led to the crime by working to identify the needs behind the behavior, the criminal justice system often just adds to the stress with fines, curfews, loss of privileges or incarceration. Rather than finding a way to redress the harm, further harm is caused.

Instead, in Micah’s case, he was provided with a different place to live near his friends, but away from the room with the window that could access the balcony, he decided to leave both jobs and focus on his school work, he began attending weekly counselling and support meetings to get the help he needs, and he has committed to giving back positively to the residential hall.


See the RI website: If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation!  If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit Future issues may explore the following: March—Nuclear Weapons, Use, Probabilities and History.


Lindsey Pointer is a PhD Candidate in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington and is a past recipient of the Rotary Global Grant Scholarship. She works as a restorative justice facilitator, trainer and researcher. 

The rationale used for incarceration is often that by putting someone behind bars, we will keep that person from committing further offences and therefore ensure the safety of the wider community. Sometimes this is done as a response to violent offenses, but many people are incarcerated for nonviolent offences, especially drug-related charges. Additionally, many young people are locked up for many years, even far into their adult lives, despite studies that have shown that most people age out of crime. This is similar in some respects to the idea of preemptive war. The community fears that committing one crime (even if it was not a violent crime or a crime committed by a teenager) may indicate that a person is likely to cause additional harm to others in the future, so we lock them up to avoid that chance.

However, this preemptive severe punishment comes with a cost.

Looking specifically at the case of incarcerated youth, most states spend more than $100,000 per year on a single young person’s confinement (Justice Policy Institute). On top of those direct costs of incarceration, there is a loss of future earnings for confined youth, which translates into a loss of future government tax revenue. Additionally, incarcerated youth are more likely to later rely on Medicaid and other social services. Once incarcerated young people also have a very high rate of recidivism, meaning that taxpayers will likely continue to pay for their confinement for a large portion of the rest of their lives.

So what are the offenses pushing us to confine these youth at great public cost? Over 60 percent of youth are confined for nonviolent offenses (Coalition of Juvenile Justice). The majority of youth being put behind bars are not being put there because they pose a violent treat to community safety. More often, these are nonviolent offenses, often tied to needs arising from poverty, substance abuse, or untreated mental illness. 60-70% of youth in confinement have a mental disorder and 25-50 percent have a significant substance abuse disorder often co-occurring with mental disorders (Coalition of Juvenile Justice). Choosing to incarcerate these young people impacts their ability to live at home, build a positive social support network, attend and succeed in school, and work productively in the community.

Instead, needlessly confining young people results in harm to youth, fails to protect public safety and wastes taxpayer money.

So if incarceration isn’t the answer, what does work to improve youth outcomes?

According to the Council of State Governments, the most effective programs are ones that identify and address the key needs that drive youth’s delinquent behaviors. This involves getting to know the individual and identifying the specific needs that he or she is attempting to meet through crime, including assessing mental health and substance use treatment needs. Additionally, the most effective programs match youth to services based on their strengths. An emphasis on assets and strengths promotes resiliency and encourages pro-social behavior. Along with this emphasis on strengths, is an integration of individual support networks into the process. Outcomes are improved when the family is engaged.

Programs and practices such as Restorative Justice are arising to fill this gap, responding to the needs of the individual and emphasizing strengths and support networks. These program are both more effective in terms of reducing recidivism, responding to victim needs, and increasing community safety, and also place far less of a burden of cost on the community.

We are faced with the choice to transition to a system that is more effective and less costly, a system that has already been tried and proved at large scales by countries such as New Zealand.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, many in the U.S. wanted to ascribe blame and get revenge.

A “preventive war” is different than a “preemptive war.”  Both however, are preceded by either fear, revenge or perceived “self-defense.”  A preventive war is launched in an effort to destroy a perceived potential threat by the targeted party, even when such an attack is “not imminent or known to be planned.”  It is usually justified by anger or a desire for revenge.  The most recent example of one is the war in Afghanistan.

A preemptive war is launched in anticipation of immediate aggression by another party, and is initiated even without a clear incentive for either party to attack the other.  It is simply based upon the fear-born and irrational belief that one party is about to engage, or has engaged in an aggressive action against the initiator of the war.  Such a belief usually “justifies” the preemptive action because the initiating party’s fear is diminished and therefore termed to be “defensive.”  The war in Iraq is an example of a preemptive war.

Both fear-based “defensive” aggression and anger-based vengeful (spiteful) aggression have proven to be quite effective at reducing the perpetrator’s fear or anger, but always increases the fear and anger in the victims of a “successful” war.

In his book, Justifying Preventive War, Alan Buchanan concluded: “I wish to end however, on a note of caution.  Nothing I have said suggests that any preventive war that has been waged in the past, including the…US invasion of Iraq, has been morally justified.”  Both preventive and preemptive wars are based upon a single dynamic belief: If I believe that you believe something that I find offensive or frightening, that gives me the right to aggress against you.  For thousands of years, such a belief has been the justification for waging war.



 We seem to be living in a time when governments, nations and individuals are always blaming others for their mistakes, beliefs and weaknesses.  It appears that blaming others has become a national habit.  When we cannot identify a single person to blame, we spread the blame around to others, to fate, to Mother Nature, to God, to other nations or to anybody who isn’t us.


The dynamic of blaming others is a consequence of our personal fear of our genuine inability to control or even influence events or others.  It probably begins when we were children and asked to control our own behavior (like bowel and bladder control) and couldn’t…leading to parental disapproval or punishment.  When we are afraid of being “out of control,” we usually are fearful most of the time.


There is a psychological downside to blaming.  It inadvertently gives the “blamee” unwarranted power over the blamer.  After all, if it is always somebody else’s fault, then the blamer has no power to modify that for which he is blaming somebody else.  Blaming is always assigned to events or actions that have occurred in the past.  And we are all helpless to change anything that is already history.  So, blaming always increases the blamer’s sense of powerlessness and helplessness.  A sense of helplessness is one element in psychological depression.  It is no wonder that blamers are often depressed.  They also blame anybody or anything for their depression.


An alternative to blaming is “accountability.”  When we are genuinely seeking accountability, we want to discover the specific cause(s) of events or actions.  We ask ourselves the question: “What accounts for this event?”  When we become genuinely curious about what causes events or actions, we are open to new learning.  When we actually discover and understand the causes of things like disease, violence, disasters, war, and tragedies, we position ourselves to take preventative measures.  If we would hold ourselves able to account for (account-able) such occurrences, we empower ourselves to do something about them now and in the future.  Genuine accountability does not result in feelings of guilt.  Rather, it frees us to become responsible.


Do you hold yourself accountable for the nature and quality of your life?  Are you able to account for those things for which you would like to blame others?  If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you will feel much more powerful and able to respond appropriately to anything that “happens” in your life.  You become response-able.


When you feel accountable for the quality of your life, and for everything that happens to you, you then become responsible for everything that impacts it.  When you take on the responsibility for your mistakes, and even the mistakes of others, you learn from them.  If you feel accountable and responsible for an explosion that occurred in someone else’s house, you will seek to discover the causes of the explosion (e.g. your neighbor was building rockets or creating methamphetamine), and you may learn what not to do to avoid explosions in your own house.  If you observe and learn the responses to the explosion of others (e.g. firemen), you empower yourself to address any explosion you experience now and in the future.  You become response-able for prevention and extinguishing future explosions.


Instead of blaming others or circumstance(s) for our life; instead of feeling helpless to do anything about it; instead of feeling guilty about the negative things that “just happen;” instead of blaming yourself or others (or fate); become accountable and responsible for everything that you experience in your life.  When you stop blaming and start being accountable and responsible, you become more powerful, more aware, more capable, more confident, more knowledgeable and hopefully, more wise.  Is there anyone who wouldn’t like to develop these qualities?  Stop blaming, and you increase your chances of creating a life of your dreams.

EXPLORE PACIFISM by William M. Timpson

William M. Timpson, Ph.D. has been on the faculty at Colorado State University in its School of Education for many years. What follows is adapted from Timpson’s 2009 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, co-authored with an international group of peace scholars that included Ed Brantmeier, Nat Kees, Tom Cavanagh, Claire McGlynn and Elavie Ndura (Madison, WI: Atwood).

After the attacks of September 11th in the U.S. and the drumbeat for revenge from the White House, in particular, sounded ever louder, there was an emotional push to do something, for throwing the full force of American military might against the “evil doers” wherever they hid. Eventually George W. Bush would build a case for the preemptive invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation, as the best way to keep Americans and American interests safe.

During all this, I remained deeply troubled by all this and began to join with Quakers/Friends for their Sunday meetings. I also joined in the many protests that were organized locally.

As I tried to sort out what I would teach in my classes—just what does an educator say—I found myself drawn to these Quakers and other faith communities who were committed pacifists—they were crystal clear that violence of any sort was not an option. While I tried the services offered by Mennonites in town, I was really drawn to the essential silence of the Quakers/Friends meetings where I could find the space to meditate on the meaning of peace in the midst of outrage and the build up to war.

When I later worked on writing a book on all this, Teaching and Learning Peace (2002), I found myself repeatedly returning to the question of nonviolence in Europe during the 1930’s, the rise of Hitler and the brutality of the Nazi ascension to power. I asked myself: Could I be a pacifist in the face of that kind of threat? My dad had volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and 1938 and then later with Patton’s U.S. Third Army as his contribution to rid the world of fascism. The Nazi military along with their Italian and Japanese allies committed numerous preemptive attacks that took a heavy toll on civilian populations, in particular. The German military use of the “blitzkrieg” (lightning war) is a prime example.

Yet, while preemptive attacks got the Germans and their allies early victories, they also created their own defeat. The brutality of their aggression and ambitions, motivations and actions quickly turned the entire world against them. Certainly World War Two fit my notion of a ‘just war.’ In the summer of 2002 I even took myself on a trail of the Holocaust, exploring the Nazi occupations of Lithuania and Poland including the death camp at Auschwitz and the slaughter of Jews in Budapest. Picasso’s Guernica memorializes the tragedy of fascist carpet bombing in Spain.

Revisiting all the arguments for the U.S. involvement in World War Two, I listened to the responses I then got from my Quaker colleagues and these really pushed my thinking. I had to ask myself: What would have happened, if the allies had committed to whole range of nonviolent interventions long before the U.S. entry in the war after the attacks on Pearl Harbour. Could an economic embargo on Germany and its Fascist leaders made a difference?  Cutting off their international credit? Divesting? We conducted war crimes trials at the end of World War Two, should we do the same now and rethink the Iraq War? Should we try to determine where the mistakes were made and by whom so that we can respond differently in the future?

Years after World War Two we saw the results when the world united to isolate the South African government and its brutally racist policies of apartheid. No one advocated a military style invasion. Several international businesses pulled their operations out. College campuses in the U.S. rang with student voices calling for divestiture of funds from companies doing business with South Africa. Sporting teams from South Africa were barred from participating in international events. No armed invasion was needed; in fact, just the opposite happened. In the face of international pressures, South Africa moved toward the inclusion of the Black majority in democratic elections and the ending of apartheid.

I ask you to think this through on your own. Find a pacifist faith community where you live and attend one of their services or meetings. Read the arguments for nonviolence in the writings and speeches of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Join with others to examine the role of pacifism today and consider what they can teach us.


Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University.

In 1844 President James K. Polk was anxious to distract the public from the loss of Vancouver and the northern part of the Oregon Territory to the British, and there was a significant likelihood of war with Britain if the issue was allowed to continue.[1]  Polk preferred a vision of  American “Manifest Destiny” incorporating California, New Mexico and Texas into the United States which would give slavery an area into which it could expand. Lincoln wrote to his law partner William Herndon in 1848 about Polk’s decision to use preemptive war against Mexico.   Lincoln was very opposed to Polk’s expansionist program and made three points:[2]


  1. The president should not start a war because his reasons may end up being wrong.
  2. The president should not start a war because his initiative may start a bigger war.
  3. The Constitution gave congress not the president the power to declare war.  Lincoln noted this was specifically in reaction to the fact that “Kings had always been impoverishing their people in wars, pretending…that the good of the people was the object.  This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that NO ONE MAN should hold the power of bringing this oppression on us.” (Emphases shown are Lincoln’s not mine).

Nonetheless, in 1846 Polk had ordered General Zachary Taylor to move troops into the disputed Nueces Strip near the Rio Grande to confront Mexican troops.  The Mexican troops claimed the Americans were on Mexican land and drove off the Americans.  Polk went to Congress demanding they declare war since “Mexican troops had…shed American blood upon the American soil.”

When asked who would pay for the war Polk argued Mexico would pay the costs by ceding California and the New Mexico territories.  Although the U.S. got major territorial expansion as a result of the Mexican American war, we have embittered relations with Mexico now for over a century.  Mexicans even today consider the war an illegal occupation.[3]

It wasn’t much of a “war” really, more like a mugging or a punch in the face.  As Ulysses S. Grant himself finally put it:

I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory”.[4]

Did you know that one of the major reasons for the cry for Texan independence that preceded this war was that Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829, and the Texans did not want to give up their slaves?[5]  When you know the back story, all the patriotic guff about the Texas Alamo and the brave American fighters isn’t so impressive.  For example, the so-called hero James Bowie who died in the Alamo was a black birder[6] (slave trader), land swindler and a thief.  Even worse, Bowie was baptized Roman Catholic so he could emigrate to Mexico, he renounced American citizenship and took out Mexican citizenship, married the daughter of the Mexican vice governor of the province, and swore an oath of allegiance to Mexico …so he was essentially a traitor to Mexico when he fought at the Alamo.[7]

So how is preemptive war rationalized?  One definition suggests:

A preemptive war is a war that is commenced in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived imminent offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (allegedly unavoidable) war shortly before that attack materializes. It is a war that preemptively ‘breaks the peace’.[8]

Preemptive war or preventive war[9] has been embraced by many nations at different times.  Justification has been highly debated.  Most recently for the United States the so-called Bush doctrine was argued to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2002.  In summary, arguments for preemptive response by Bush’s administration were:

  • The nature and magnitude of the threat involved,
  • The likelihood that the threat will be realized unless preemptive action is taken,
  • The availability and exhaustion of alternatives to using force and,
  • Whether using preemptive force is consistent with the terms and purposes of the U.N. Charter and other applicable international agreements.

Article 2, Section 4 of the U.N. Charter prohibits all UN members from even exercising the “threat of use of force against the territorial integrity of political independence of any state.”  In Article 51 the UN Charter draws the line between legitimate and illegitimate military force.  If no attack has occurred, then there is no justification for preemptive “self-defense.”  To be an action of self-defense the preemptive actor must believe the threat is real as opposed to perceived, and self-defensive force must be proportional to the harm threatened.  Even then nonviolent options are preferred such as negotiation, retreat, or calling on neutral authorities like the UN.8 (The United States ratified the UN Charter as of October 24, 1945.)

Sadly, when a nation possesses a first strike advantage and believes it will win a preemptive engagement, there is very little incentive to bargain for any peaceful settlement.  “If the probability of winning minus the probable costs of war is high enough, then no self-enforcing peaceful outcome exists.”[10]

CONCLUSION:  Although patience and time always seems to be a better solution to seemingly terrible danger than war, peace building is not possible if the first reaction is to use a big military hammer because you have it.  With a big hammer everything looks like a nail.

[1] The conflict over Vancouver eventually led to the “Pig War” a bloodless but tense confrontation between the United States and Britain that lasted from 1859 to 1872.

[2] Fehrenbacher, D.E., Ed., Abraham Lincoln:  A Documentary Portrait through his Speeches and Writings, The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., New York, 1964, pp. 59-60.

[3] For the Mexican viewpoint see:

[4] Quote by Ulysses S. Grant about Mexican American War in 1879

[5] Texas Revolution background of slavery and racial bias:

[6] A black birder was a slave trader who kidnaped free blacks and sold them to Plantation owners as being former slaves.

[7] James Bowie:

[8] Chronology of preemptive war to today:

[9] A preventive war as opposed to a preemptive war is one initiated to prevent a belligerent party from acquiring a capability of attacking.

[10] Fearon, James (1995). “Rationalist Explanations for War”. International Organization. 49: 379–414.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns.

“Aggression” is not the same as “violence.”  “Violence” is the label we give to extreme forms of aggression.  Not all aggressive actions are violent in nature.  Not all people with “aggressive personalities” engage in violent acts.  Like Brandt F. Steele, M.D. stated in his 1970 essay, Violence In Our Society,** most behavioral scientists believe that human beings have “an instinctive drive toward aggression.”  Dr. Steele writes, “…the fact [is] that human beings are natively capable of being quite aggressive, and that the problem is very much one of the manner in which such impulses are channeled or directed.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that in the United States alone over “2 million emergency room visits each year are due to violent assaults, and about 16,000 people will be murdered each year.  Young men between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of violence. Over a third of American women and over a quarter of American men have experienced stalking or physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and nearly half of all American women have experienced psychological aggression from an intimate partner.”

In his book, The New Brain, R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D. writes, “Violence at political rallies, terrorism, and horrifying workplace shootings bewilder us, but they shouldn’t. Traditional approaches to understanding violence seem played out. What we need is an understanding of violence at the level of brain circuitry. Violence, like all human behavior, is controlled by the brain. From the everyday road rage, to domestic violence, to a suicide bombing, the biology of anger and aggression is the root cause of most violent behavior.”

Viewing violence narrowly from the perspective of psychological dysfunction shirks the larger truth that the biological roots of rage exist in all of us. The leading risk of death throughout the prime of life is not disease. It is violence. If you survive into old age you will most likely die from disease, but according to CDC statistics for deaths in the United States for the year 2014, “life ends at the hand of another human so frequently, that from early childhood through middle-age, homicide is the third to fifth most common cause of death in all age brackets between 1-44 years.”

In the July 2019 issue of the magazine, The Rotarian, Alex Kotiowitz writes, “In Chicago, [between] the years 1990 and 2010, 14,033 [people] were killed, [and] another roughly 60,000 wounded by gunfire.  That is more than all those U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in the combined wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  Those wars are ongoing today…2019.  He goes on to write, “…here’s the thing: Chicago is by no means the most dangerous city, not even close.  Its homicide rate doesn’t even put it in the top 10.”

Kotiowitz makes it clear: “Often considered a physical expression of aggression, violence may be predatory, impulsive, reactive, [vengeful] or defensive in nature.  Violence can develop from situational or environmental and may result from a mental condition or from personal or cultural beliefs.” (Italics mine).

In today’s modern world, most people rarely think that violence or war is good.  But they often believe it to be necessary for: defending or gaining territory; economic gain; spreading religious beliefs; strengthening “nationalism”; taking revenge; dismantling an “unjust” government; resolving disputes/conflicts; freeing oneself from fear (creating “security”).  They believe that these goals can be attained only by using weapons in violent aggression.

Human aggression seems to be “channeled or directed” by a single dynamic belief: “If I believe that you believe something different than I believe, that gives me the right to act violently against you.”  History is replete with examples where violence is used to justify one’s belief system.  John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln because he held a deep belief in the rightness of the Southern cause, in the Southern ideals and in the Confederacy.  Booth actually wrote in his diary, “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of punishment.”

The Christian Crusaders while carrying the banner of God and the Church, killed thousands of infidels.  Believing their actions to be righteous and rewarding, jihads kill non-Muslims by the thousands.  Parents violently abuse their children thinking they are “teaching them life lessons,” or “encouraging better behavior.”  Our “justice system” uses violent actions (killing) believing that “justice” will be served.

Violence invites retaliatory violence.  Killing the enemy creates more enemies.  Fearful domination creates passive resistance or active rebellion.  In like manner, being heard invites understanding.  Cooperation invites teamwork.  Addressing physical and psychological needs invites mutual, peaceful activity.  Look what happened with the Japanese and western Germany after world war two.  Peacekeepers need to attempt these risky behaviors prior to engaging in violence or going to war.

Steele writes, “It seems obvious that individuals as well as various cultural and social groups tend to use aggression and violence that they consider good or right to enforce their good and right standards.”  However, someone once said, “You can only fight ideas [beliefs] with other ideas.”  The threat of violence or violence itself has never been very effective in changing one’s mind (beliefs).  Multiple studies have shown that previous experience with violent punishment has not prevented the occurrence or recurrence of anti-social behavior.

Dr. Steele concludes: “I refer to the concept that our moral convictions, our superegos, not only give us permission to be violent, but give us great approval for violence expressed in certain directions.  These same patterns of violence we then transmit to our children in their earliest, most formative years.  We should pay much more attention to the ideals and categorical imperatives that we teach our infants and children.  …we must recognize that the most potent controls and directions of aggression and of violence are those that we learned at our parents’ knees.

If we are really to understand the mechanisms of violence and how to control it in our culture, we must pay attention much more than we have in the past to those morel forces within us that tell us to direct violence in certain ways, and that enable us all to do evil under the guise of doing good.  …I am almost ready to join with Henry David Thoreau, who said, ‘If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with a conscious design of doing me good, I would run for my life.'”

**The above quotations of Dr. Brandt F. Steele are found in: THE PHAROS OF ALPHA OMEGA ALPHA, printed in April, 1970, Vol. 33. No. 2, Pages 42-48 and were used with permission of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.


William M. Timpson, Ph.D. has been on the faculty at Colorado State University in its School of Education for many years. What follows is adapted from Timpson’s 2009 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, co-authored with an international group of peace scholars that included Ed Brantmeier, Nat Kees, Tom Cavanagh, Claire McGlynn and Elavie Ndura (Madison, WI: Atwood).

The telling of history from limited, violence-based perspectives constructs social memory in ways that help to perpetuate violence as inherent, natural, and a human absolute—in short, ‘just the way things are.’ The telling of violent histories saturates collective memory with violent images and struggles of the past; these violent narratives can serve to impact the power of present transformative action toward actualizing nonviolent futures. In Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History, Elise Boulding (2000) writes of the war-steeped telling of history as related to western civilization, that history is often written as stories about the rise and fall of empires, a description of the rulers, their armies, navies and air power, their wars and battles, i.e., the history of power—who controls whom.

In this provocative book, Boulding critiques the telling of history from violent, power-dominated, and patriarchal viewpoints. She furthers her argument by providing historical examples of groups and societies who lived relatively peaceful and harmonious lives, solving conflict in nonviolent ways. Examine how you and participants are/were “told” stories in history books and various media. What explicit and implicit messages are reinforced through these narratives? Brainstorm a list of examples of nonviolent historic responses to conflict situations. Who were the key players, leaders, and ‘behind the scenes’ people and groups involved in these conflicts? What methods, besides violence, were used to actualize change? Reflect on how peaceful, nonviolent, and cooperative paradigms might alternatively transform present community, societal, national, and global conflicts into mutually beneficial outcomes for humanity and our fellow planetary inhabitants.

In the photo below, a large mural in Londonderry pictures the violence of “Bloody Sunday” when British troops fired on civil rights marchers, an event that triggered the Irish Republican Army to declare war on the occupying British forces. A very violent two plus decades followed until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 made for a peace that still holds. The challenge for educators and the community in general is how to tell the story of this history in a way that honors the experiences of all sides to this conflict but also emphasizes the forces of peace that eventually took hold.




Del Benson, Ph.D. is Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University since 1975 working to connect persons with nature and with other humans.

Can nature study and human history inform thinking about social groups, cooperation, posturing, territorial displays, aggression, violence, civility, and even peace amongst populations of wildlife or humans? These topics are so broad and deep that I suggest reading ecology books and Google searches about animal references. Scholarly accounts of the past from history books or religious books will suggest that humans have been quite violent towards each other over all time. Violent topics are common in The Story of Civilization, an 11-volume series by Will and Ariel Durant, the Bible, and the Quran.

Animals generally have social hierarchies within geographical territories that are defend against others of their species either overtly or subtly.  Birds sing and elk bugle to show their locations and to attract mates. Browsing mule deer might ward off another deer, even their own young, that wants to feed in the exact same place without clear signs that the space is being secured. Nests of birds and fish are often protected by at least one parent.  Cliff nesting birds tolerate very close proximity to other nests while eagles defend larger spaces.

Male grizzly bears and African lions kill the young of females to initiate estrus allowing breeding and genetic exchange with the new male. Baboons and some monkeys (especially the open grassland species) are quite territorial with violent interchanges under conditions of threat. Other primates (often the tree dwellers) such as chimpanzees and great apes show less physical violence but use posturing for social status and aggressive displays to ward off intruders of the same species.

Most animal species display with songs, feather shows, antler thrashing of the ground, urinating on bellies and bushes, brow lifts, or by driving Mercedes cars to show social standing. Social order and submission to authority can be maintained by picking bugs and grooming other primates, bearing necks and lowering the tails of submissive canines, cowering behind an aggressive partner, or by not speaking up at board meetings. Do these behaviors promote peace and civility for animals…or human animals?  Peace no, civility yes!

It is better to avoid fighting than to fight and lose, so displays are generally adaptive for upward mobility in the social structure. Many species will flee when danger is too near and that is why humans are taught to make noise when in dangerous situations of nature. Some animals give warning sounds such as the chatter of squirrels and trumpeting of elephants. Chimpanzees might pick up sticks to warn intruders or use them in battle if the threat is upon them.

Mock charges of display are frequently a first attempt to bluff the intruder before fleeing or fighting as seen with the neighbor’s dog, a bear in the forest, or with candidates at Presidential elections. Even generally gentle animals will fight off predators and other perceived threats. Hikers are told not to get too close to babies in the woods. Human presence could result in the mother disappearing or she might attack aggressively.

Fighting off unwanted suiters is a biologically adaptive strategy to make sure that breeding is taking place with those of similar fur and feather. Animals in situations where fleeing is not an option will likely play dead or fight. Never back a skunk into a corner with no escape route. These imperatives relate to humans also.  Cooperation is useful and adaptive…until that strategy does not work! Humans can try to live together, because our big brain affords us intelligent reasoning.

Humans have family and social structures.  We create tribes, cities, states, nations, organizations, and levels of authority and responsibility. Disputes can be handled civilly while skirmishes are avoidable…unless there is a greater threat. Humans pick leaders based upon displays of status that could include traits which are physical, psychological, social, economic, designated, assumed, or acquired by aggressive force.

Human civilizations have many attributes, but one major reason for being is the acquisition and distribution of energy. We use energy in the form of reproduction, food, labor, product making, distribution, transportation, securing the supply, and communications about the availability of resources to the rest of community. Ultimately, energy is used to acquire and to protect territories and to locate and secure resources that are needed and wanted for the times.

When resources are scarce, humans can think and solve those problems.  Solutions can cause invasions of human territories leading to conflict. Stories of history, whether academic or spiritual, are replete with examples of how humans have maintained and expanded their territories and fought for energy resources, labor, distribution, wealth, and status.

Is peace attainable?  No!  The hungry will try to eat. The oppressed will grow weary and fight back. Can civility be learned and practiced? I hope so! Humans have the ability to try.  Consequences for not trying are grave. Human abilities for destruction are greater today than at any time in history.  We have nuclear warheads, remote distribution systems to deliver them, and the appetite for dominance and display. We consume resources at alarming rates and defile the atmosphere, lands, and waters with activities and pollutants that harm nature and ourselves.

We know that we can exert force, but should we us it? Now is the time to focus our big brains on civility and diplomacy. We cannot flee because there is no place to go. We should not fight because that merely leads to more fighting and we learned from the animal world that fighting is only valuable when you win.

Can humans afford to battle nature or each other; or should we use the paradigm of diplomacy and civil actions?