Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rev. John Dear getting arrested in front of the White House in 2014.

An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind

Rev. John Dear

Millions of Americans believe that war doesn’t work, that war cannot end terrorism because war is terrorism, and that U.S. war-making is breeding a new generation of terrorists around the world. Millions also want the senseless killing to stop and they realize we must begin with ending our own military’s killing sprees. Americans want a new nonviolent response to the violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. We don’t want to keep on inspiring millions of oppressed people to join ISIS or Al Qaeda. We want to stop the killing, make reparations, and start healing our world.

Al Qaeda and ISIS are the outcomes of far too many years of U.S. warfare in the Middle East. The American government has killed hundreds of thousands, militarized much of the Middle East, funded the Palestinian occupation, and used drones to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere.

What is needed instead of continued military violence is a new global nonviolent response. The United States should immediately halt all its bombing raids and drone attacks and pursue ceasefires everywhere. We should start a massive reparations program to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, and every land we have bombed, on a scale greater than the Marshall Plan. We should cut off all funding to ISIS from all quarters, and fund nonviolent peacemakers throughout the Middle East. Creative nonviolence should become our new foreign policy and the policy of every nation.

Of course, America is going to have to spend billions of dollars on nonviolent options. This money is available for war and should instead be made available for peace. To start paying for nonviolent solutions, we can close all our nuclear weapons plants, disarm our nuclear arsenal, and allocate those many billions of dollars to the many problems we face in the world. We have spent some seven trillion dollars on nuclear weapons since Hiroshima. It’s time we instead spent serious money on nonviolent conflict resolution instead.

We have definitive proof that active nonviolence works. Unlike war and violence, strategic nonviolence brings lasting, peaceful results. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s groundbreaking book, Why Civil Resistance Works, proves through empirical data and strong scientific analysis that violence in response to violence only increases violence and that nonviolent conflict resolution can bring a more peaceful and just solutions.

“An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind,” Gandhi famously said. This sad truth is being played out every day now. We need to have the courage to stop the cycle of violence and use the methods of creative strategic nonviolence to end this madness and pursue a more nonviolent world. This is achievable, but it requires that everyone get involved in building a global grassroots movement of nonviolence. We need to stop the warmakers on all sides who are intent on furthering the cycle of violence and war.

“To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said. “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”

“When evil men plot, good men [and women] must plan,” King continued. “When evil men burn and bomb, good men [and women] must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men [and women] must commit themselves to the glories of love. When evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men [and women] must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

I hope everyone will stop listening to the voices advocating violence and instead listen to the voices of nonviolence. Please join the grassroots movements of active nonviolence in pursuit of peace because the people of the world deserve so much more than violence and war has ever given us.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Rev. John Dear

Rev. John Dear

Rev. John Dear is a longtime activist, and author of 35 books on peace and nonviolence, including his most recent book, "They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change" (2018). He works with www.campaignnonviolence.org. His other books include: "Thomas Merton, Peacemaker" (2015); "Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action" (2004);  "Jesus the Rebel: Bearer of God's Peace and Justice" (2000); "Transfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World" (2007), and his autobiography, "A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World" (2008). See more of his work on his website: www.johndear.org

Coalition of 200+ Groups Call for Permanent End to 'Neocolonialist' Global Gag Rule

"The global community deserves true partnership from the U.S., but the threat that this destructive policy could reemerge undermines relationships and harms people around the globe."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Social Cost of Emissions: 'One of the Most Important Numbers That No One Has Ever Heard Of'

An analysis for Friends of the Earth finds the social cost of CO2 calculates to at least 15 times the Biden administration's current figure, which is set to be finalized by early next year.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Biden Urged to Pressure EU to End 'Outrageous' Opposition to Vaccine Patent Waiver

"As citizens of the world, we cannot sit and watch a repeat of the horror during the AIDS pandemic, when millions of people died while countries and companies refused to share life-saving antiretrovirals."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


'The Zapatistas Have Invaded': Indigenous Activists Sail From Mexico to Spain

"They did not conquer us; we are still here resisting," the group said following their seven-week trans-Atlantic voyage marking the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Report Shows How DC Statehood Would Be Step Toward Racial and Gender Justice

"In this moment of racial reckoning, in the midst of a burgeoning movement to protect the fundamental right to vote, it should not escape notice that the nation's worst violation of civil rights falls heaviest on Black women."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·