NNOMY Conducts National Steering Committtee retreat online to explore strategies for network's future

12/28/2021 / NNOMY Steering Committee - On December 11th 2021 The Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization conducted an online national retreat on Zoom to discuss the existential challenges that the network is encountering moving into a post pandemic future, Groups represented in the meeting were Pat Alviso, the National Coordinator representing Military Families Speak Out from Orange County, California, Rachel Bruhnke representing Codepink from San Pedro, California, Kate Connell representing Truth in Recruitment from Santa Barbara, California, Rick Jahnkow representing the Committee Opposed to Militarism & the Draft from San Diego, California, Monique Sandoval representing Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities from San Diego, California, Siri Margerin representing Before Enlisting from San Francisco, California, Sebastian Munoz-McDonald representing Feminists Against the Draft from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, Jesus Palafox representing American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Midwest Region from Chicago, Illinois, and Louis Raprager representing Veterans for Peace and Digital Counter-recruiters from Gamers for Peace.

Each Steering Committee member was also permitted to invite up to three representatives from their groups. In total the retreat had twenty people in attendance. From the NNOMY office staff, Libby Frank, Gary Ghirardi and Selene Rivas were in attendance as well.

Moderating the meeting was Monisha Rios.

Unable to attend were steering committee members Barbara Harris of the Granny Peace Brigade from  New York City, New York, and Kharis Murphy from Stop Recruiting Kids an On Earth Peace Communications Fellow.

Goals discussed in the retreat encompassed Prioritizing the Next Generation of Activists; Determining short and long-term goals; Developing a concrete and actionable strategic plan; Aiming for what is practical & possible; and Thinking out of the box from past approaches to counter military recruitment activism.

NNOMY History & Background

Counter-recruitment refers to activity opposing military recruitment, in some or all of its forms. Among the methods used are research, consciousness-raising, political advocacy and direct action. Most such activity is a response to recruitment by state armed forces, but may also target intelligence agencies, private military companies, and non-state armed groups.

The counter-recruitment movement was the successor to the anti-draft movement with the end of conscription in the United States in 1973, just after the end of the Vietnam War. The military increased its recruiting efforts, with the total number of recruiters, recruiting stations, and dollars spent on recruiting each more than doubling between 1971 and 1974.  Anti-war and anti-draft activists responded with a number of initiatives, using tactics similar to those used by counter-recruiters today. Activists distributed leaflets to students, publicly debated recruiters, and used equal-access provisions to obtain space next to recruiters to dispute their claims. The American Friends Service Committee (A.F.S.C.) and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (C.C.C.O.) began publishing counter-recruitment literature and attempting to coordinate the movement nationally.

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth is an outgrowth of the national counter-recruitment organizing conference held in June 2003 in Philadelphia. Almost 200 activists came together during June 27-29, 2003 for the first national counter-recruitment conference, titled “Stopping War Where It Begins: Organizing Against Militarism in Our Schools.

Held at the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia, the conference was sponsored by 11 local, regional and national organizations: the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) National Youth and Militarism Program, AFSC Washington D.C., AFSC San Francisco, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO), Center on Conscience and War, the D.C. group CHOICES, the San Diego groups Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) and Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO), ROOTS/War Resisters League, the college-based Student Alliance to Reform Corporations (STARC Alliance), and the Teen Peace Project of Port Townsend from Washington State.

 

The original NNOMY network was set up with a structure of Sponsoring organizations and Endorsing Organizations.

Sponsoring organizations are groups willing to participate in a national organization that makes broad national network decisions. Sponsoring organizations were designated to carry out national actions.

Sponsoring organizations were to appoint a Steering Committee for the Network. Participation included submitting proposals to the Steering Committee for national actions and educational materials.

Sponsoring organizations formally endorsed the Network, could use and help develop Network resource materials, and through a designated organizational representative make all Network decisions not delegated to the Steering Committee, including but not limited to financial decisions and recognition of caucuses.

Endorsing organizations are groups that could use network resources, and help publicize network activities but choose not to participate as a sponsoring organization.

There was also the opportunity for individuals to participate in and contribute to the Network by proposing an action or other item that required a decision by the Network by requesting the support of an existing sponsorship organization, who could then officially submit the proposal to the Network.

Most counter-recruitment work in the U.S. was focused at the policy level of public school systems. The most common policy goal was to impact the frequency of military recruiters' visits to public schools, their locations in schools, and how their types of activities would be controlled rather than being allowed unlimited access to the students.

Many of the larger urban school districts implemented such guidelines since 2001 often due to pressure from counter-recruitment efforts in their districts.

Other goals included "truth in recruiting" counseling addressing the deficiency in high school students' understanding of war and military life, rather than allowing military recruiters to exclusively perform that role.

On high school campuses, counter-recruitment activists since 2001 have also focused their concerns around a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act, which required that high schools provide contact and other information to the military for all of their students who do not opt out.

In the past, counter-recruitment campaigns have attempted to change school policy to ban recruiters regardless of the loss of federal funds, to be active about informing students of their ability to opt out, and/or to allow counter-recruiters access to students equal to the access given to military recruiters.

These political campaigns had some success, particularly in the Los Angeles area, with one led by the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, and another orchestrated in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A simpler and easier, though perhaps less effective, strategy by counter-recruiters had been to show up before or after the school day and provide students entering or exiting their school with opt-out forms, produced by the local school district or by a sympathetic national legal organization such as the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Lawyers Guild.

In San Diego California, Students and Teachers together organized to successfully remove JROTC Shooting ranges from their high schools in the San Diego Unified School District.

Organizations which have attempted to organize such campaigns on a national scale include American Friends Service Committee and the now defunct Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and Campus Antiwar Network (C.A.N.), and the War Resisters League.

Code Pink, with the Ruckus Society, had sponsored training camps on counter-recruitment as well as producing informational literature for use by counter-recruiters. United for Peace and Justice had counter-recruitment as one of its seven issue-specific campaigns. Some of these organizations focused on counter-recruitment in a specific sector, such as high schools or colleges.

The National network Opposing the Militarization of Youth dealt with the larger issue of militarism as it affects young people and society and supporting counter-recruitment groups nationally with organizing resources like the Back-to-school Kit for Counter-recruitment and School Demilitarization Organizing and the Before You Enlist video.that is shown by counter-recruiters that gain access to classrooms and sympathetic teachers that invite activists to present information to their students.

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth also organized national campaigns like “A National Call: Save Our Civilian Public Education”,  “Winning the Peace” A Smart Phone informational resource for students based on What Everyone Should Know Before Joining the Military, organized a campaign support resource for groups like Codepink’s Divest From the War Machine and provided trainings on counter-recruitment for Veterans For Peace like our workshop Full Spectrum Counter-recruitment in 2020.

In the intervening years the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth had organized national conferences in Chicago Illinois both in 2009 and 2018 to assess and develop strategies for the activism of counter-recruitment nationally.

 

Looking Forward with a Strategic Plan of Activism

The meeting on December 11th, 2021 was convened as the first of a two part online gathering to our national steering committee to confront the existential challenges to our network as we confront expanding military recruitment opportunities for the military’s recruiting command with their outreach to youth on virtual gaming platforms and continuing and expanding programs in our public schools like the Department of Defense STEM.

A followup meeting is in the planning sometime in the first three months of 2022.

 

Emerging Challenges

Out of this first meeting, which was a brain storming session, came the following questions, issues and concerns:

  • Do we anticipate new war fronts and how do we address those developments inside our schools and with our youth?
  • What will develop around draft registration for women and can we build a culture of resistance to it within national youth?
  • Do we see any problems with school access and how to maintain equal access post pandemic?
  • What might result from right-wing pushes to control school district policies, etc.?
  • Can we expand the CR narrative in schools in light of the Right Wing push back on school boards?
  • We should respect the cultural limits of communities as to what CR narrative is acceptable to convey but to  defend the right to adjust the message to accommodate the community.
  • How do we change “the war is inevitable, military sacrifice and heroism is beautiful” narrative?
  • Implanting and broadening a culture of Social Media Outreach within national and regional Counter-recruitment groups.
  • The Department of Defense's Militarization of STEM Programs in our public schools.
  • How can we keep groups from shutting down?

 

We need to Assess What We are Working With...

  • Resources, goals, strengths, weaknesses
  • How do we expand our mission?
  • How to find more collaboration with groups that have a historical peace foundation and to engage peace groups together in collective campaigning to keep youth out of military service on moral and ethical grounds.
  • Passing on the work. Next generation needs to speak up, elders listen then respond 
  • What can we do better as a network supporting national counter military recruitment efforts? 
  • Can the NNOMY Steering Committee be a working board in part if not in full?
  • Maintaining and expanding a professional fundraising outreach
  • Taking advantage of strategic moments in the country when new wars and military conflicts arise?

 It is essential that we clearly evaluate the role that the Network sets out to serve and to moderate our work based on a realistic assessment of capacity but also not to settle for self limitation as a course of operational culture moving forward as a community.

 

What is at Stake

NNOMY must do our best to understand the continued and expanding importance of our work as counter-recruitment activists going forward to push back against the expanding militarism in our schools that will effect the views and values of the generations emerging into adulthood in our society. American democracy is weakened when the impact of a corporate and military partnership sets policies for our schools and diminishes the civilian character of our country. These developments spell the death of a civilian based economy and governance.

NNOMY Office @PeaceCampus

 

Sources:

  1. Counter-recruitment | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-recruitment
  2. The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Network_Opposing_the_Militarization_of_Youth
  3. National network forming to oppose the militarization of youth | https://nnomy.org/en/who-are-we/nnomy-formation2.html
  4. Stopping War Where it Begins: Organizing Against Militarism in Our Schools | https://web.archive.org/web/20040205003303id_/http://www.youthandthemilitary.org/default.htm

 

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 Revised 01/30/2022

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