An Interview with Robert Thurman, The West's First Buddhist Monk
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It would not be a Buddhist strategy, however, in the current moment on the planet to completely, unilaterally, and 100 percent disarm because then we could be pushed around by anybody. That’s not what’s being advocated. What’s being advocated is a genuine slow process of disarmament. I have a slogan. I call it shifting from MAD to MUD. It means switching from Mutual Assured Destruction to Mutual Unilateral Disarmament. What I mean by Mutual Unilateral Disarmament is as when with the end of the Cold War, which of course our military complex has tried its best to start up again by being so aggressive with Russia instead of rewarding them. And rewarded the Chinese, actually, and invested hugely in China and put all our factories in China where they killed their people in Tiananmen Square unlike Boris Yeltsin and Gorbachev and communists in Russia who surrendered power and became part of a multi-party democracy, at least for the moment, and then we pushed them back and Putin came back in, and it’s not working that well. But they did intend to do that. But did we reward them? No. We rewarded China for doing the opposite. Which was really stupid of us. But anyway, so Mutual Unilateral Disarmament treaties encourage pushing back the nuclear weapons, diminishing their number on both sides, with the goal of completely demilitarizing nuclear-wise. That would give us real credibility in the nonproliferation regime and then we could get after North Korea and get after Pakistan and these different things. Get after the Israelis who are brandishing a couple hundred nuclear weapons as part of their aggressive Dr. Strangelove behavior. Then we wouldn’t be having this worry about Iran and eventually Brazil.
Until people are better educated, you’re going to need some police. We have surgical violence within nonviolence. Buddhism is pragmatic; it’s not fanatic.
Guernica: Can you imagine a planet where we have no weapons?
Robert Thurman: Yes, I can, but not immediately. The ultimate goal would be to have a true global democracy and true international order of law where the UN had the main police force and there was a democratic way in which the UN was run and these so called big powers which won WWII would no longer have this veto power over the UN. There would be things on the level of Russian perestroika where they gave up huge territories and allowed independent republics to emerge. India, China, U.S., we would give back the parts of New York State, the Black Hills, South Mexico to different Indians. We would honor all different treaties that we made in the past. You wouldn’t have these huge post-imperial energies make a world community impossible. You would have relatively disarmed countries with police forces, and you’d have a UN with a kind of police army. Then you have to implement a worldwide effort of finding the nonviolent elements in the different cultures. How many Christians are there in the world? There’s 1.5 billion or so. And Jesus told them to cool it, but they never listen. So that has to be taken seriously, and they have to sit with an education program and a psychology. When China gets off its Communist pretense, there will 1.5 billion or so Buddhists. There’s 1.5 billion Muslims, and that’s more complicated because there was a period where Mohammed did have to fight and he was a successful general in a couple of campaigns, so they can point to something that might make it more difficult to figure out disarmament. He has also many statements that could be emphasized that would lead to peacefulness and compassion and so forth. So there you have 4.5 billion people using the core ethical treatises in those countries. And then you’ve got to dig up a few more things for some others. If you have a worldwide education like that, you have a place for it. And you have all that money that is wasted in militarism and destruction going into wells, food, environmental restoration, wildlife preservation, quality of life, quality of education. You have a lot of enlightened people. You have a happy planet.
Guernica: Isn’t a police force a version of militarism?