Global insecurity: Understanding the “War System”

What is the nature of the “War System,” who and what does it impact, and how might we begin to dismantle it?

Time required
  • Approximately 1 hour per discussion (up to 2 hours)
relevant sections of “a global security system: an alternative to war”
Discussion Goals & Objectives
  • Develop awareness and understanding of the systemic nature of the War System
  • Explore and identify the deep roots, relationships and impacts the War System and corresponding militarism have on social, political, and economic structures and the environment
  • Identify the mindsets, attitudes, and worldviews that support and sustain the war system
  • Reflect upon deeply held assumptions and personal attitudes and actions that either sustain or challenge the War System 
Introducing Study and Action Partner David Swanson, Director of world beyond war

David Swanson is the Director of World Beyond War.  He is a champion for the abolition of war and a prolific writer on the topic.  He has authored several books including “War Is A Lie: Second Edition” (2016), “War No More: The Case for Abolition” (2013), “Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events” (2013), “The Military Industrial Complex at 50” (2012), and “When the World Outlawed War” (2011).  You can read his full bio here.

Discussion Guides

Two discussion topics/guides are presented below. Each discussion should take approximately 1 hour. You are invited to do both and follow any sequence relevant to your purposes. If you are to choose only one discussion we encourage you start with “Discussion 1 (Essential).”

Discussion 1 (Essential)What is the nature of the War System?

In preparation for this discussion watch the introductory video and read the recommended sections of AGSS.

Discussion Questions

Start with a general discussion on the nature of the War System using the following questions as prompts:  ( 20 min)

  • What are the components of the War System?
  • How are these components interrelated?
  • It is suggested that the “cause of wars is the ‘War System'” itself (AGSS 2016, p. 11). How do these components act together as a “system” and perpetuate a cycle of endless War?
  • What rationalizations contribute to this perpetual cycle?

Following the discussion above, explore the impacts of the War System using the questions below as a guide.  Depending on the size of your group, choose 3-4 questions you find most compelling.    You may choose to break into small groups to dive deeper into each topic and share back your findings.  Feel free to add other dimensions of the inquiry not outlined in the list below.  ( 20 min)

  • How does the War System and militarism impact people directly?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact international and domestic politics?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact local, state, national and global economics?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact the environment?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact social relationships?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact the mental and physical health of soldiers and citizens?
  • How does the War System and militarism impact education?

The War System is an “entire cultural complex,” deeply ingrained in ways of thinking, cultures and social and economic institutions.    Explore the “cultural” dimension the War System through the following prompts.  ( 20 min)

We can end war only if we change the mindset, ask the relevant questions in order to get at the causes of an aggressor’s behavior and, above all, to see if one’s own behavior is one of the causes” (AGSS 2016, p. 13).

  • In what ways has militarism and the War System affected our ways of thinking about conflict (interpersonal to inter-state), politics, economics or the environment?
  • What is implied in engaging in a “war on drugs” or a “war on poverty?” How might the negative aspects of War System thinking infiltrate these campaigns intended to alleviate human suffering?
  • Reflection: what possible attitudes that you hold or behaviors or habits that you engage in might contribute to the perpetuation of the War System?
  • Host a conversation or local town hall to discuss the impacts of the War System and militarism on the local community.  What are the social, political, economic, gender, racial or environmental impacts on your local community?
  • Identify and create a list of local institutions (banks, corporations, politicians, sports teams, etc.) that contribute to or benefit and profit from the War System.  Communicate with these institutions to ask them to divest.  Consider taking further nonviolent action to build a local boycott and divestment movement.

Discussion 2 (Going Deeper): What are the benefits and necessity of an alternative system?

“Alternatives to particular wars are almost never seriously sought and the idea that there might be an alternative to War itself almost never occurs to people.” (AGSS 2016 p. 14)

The War System so effectively dominates our thinking about global security that few alternatives make their way into history textbooks, mainstream media coverage, or our consciousness.  The reality is that nonviolent alternatives to War have been around as long (if not longer than) War itself.  A majority of future discussions in this Study Guide will be dedicated to exploring and assessing the viability of these alternatives as the basis of a more preferred system of global security.

Before we explore the specific alternatives, how might we articulate the benefits and necessity of an alternative system?


Choose one or both of the activities below. ( 60 min)

  • WRITE AN OP-ED.  Your group task is to create an OpEd for your local newspaper outlining the benefits and necessity of an alternative system.  What arguments need to be made in illustrating the fallacy of war?  What are the local impacts of the War System?  Why is it necessary and beneficial to explore alternatives to War and military based global security?
  • VISUALIZE THE WAR SYSTEM.  Let’s visualize the War System and its various components.  Using a large piece of paper, attempt to map and visualize the war system and its various components and impacts.  You might choose to start with “War” in the middle and map out connections to the components you described in the first discussion above.

Possibilties for action

  • Get your OpEd published in the local paper.
  • Turn your War System map into an infographic that can be used as a public education tool.
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What did you learn from this discussion? Please share with others so we can build a global security system together...