Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rumors of War

From the U.S. Department of State
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on draft resolution
to authorize the use of military force against ISIL at the White House
 on February 11, 2015.

Last week we got a look at how our policy in the Middle East seems to be unfolding:
ISIS is a big problem. It is a problem that resulted from U.S. military intervention in Iraq which destabilized the region and has caused a generation of young people to grow up in Iraq knowing nothing but war and societal dysfunction. After a decade of military action, we were unable to establish any kind of stability in the region. Now with ISIS ascending, we have decided to try… what? A new campaign of military intervention. I suppose because it “worked so well the first time. 

A Severe Lack of Imagination

The problem is that virtually every military campaign and military offensive the U.S. has launched in my lifetime has done more harm than good. I becomes obvious that, one, we don't understand any culture other than our own (and even that is questionable); and two, we seem to always think that military intervention is the best and only option, even while claiming it is a last resort.

Our Nobel Peace Prize winning president approves of new military action and has sent a resolution to congress to authorize the use of military force. Most people, when asked, say they don’t see what else can be done in this situation. Our problem is not in lack of strength.  Our problem is a severe lack of imagination as to how to engage other countries and other cultures.

The big problem with everyone saying, "I'm not sure what else we can do," is that nothing but warfare gets done, and societies are made dysfunctional and our own soldiers are wounded at every level. Just look at the PTSD, suicides, unemployed veterans, families bearing the burden for our claims for "fighting for freedom" when we are in actuality just doing the bidding of corporations. Moreover, there would not be the mess that needs fixing if we had not intervened in the first place. 

We didn't know what we were starting when we invaded Iraq, and now we don't know how to stop it. We are Empire, and our footsteps carry mostly destruction.

Re-imagining the World

If the 20th century taught us anything, it should have been that war is no longer a viable option for a workable society. Our world is too small, and our weapons are too large. Europe was devastated when modern nations tried to settle their differences the way leaders settled them in the past - by launching military offensives. The problem was that it was no longer kings sending out soldiers and knights on horseback with spears, swords, and lances to fight in some field outside the city gates, with the occasional crashing of the city gates. The modern army had tanks and artillery, planes and bombs, that immediately brought unspeakable devastation to civilian populations. We need a way to re-imagine conflict. we need a new way to settle our differences.

Historically, since the mid 17th century, the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) have shown the world a radical way of living that does not include war and violence. While most Christian churches through the years have backed their national governments in matters of war and other violent acts such as the death penalty, The Quakers have made it their Christian witness to stand against violence, war and oppression. The American Friends Service Committee has a strong track record in the area of non-violent alternatives. Thankfully, others have followed their lead and today we have a number of organizations helping the cause for peace and helping us all to rethink our courses of action.

The American Friends Service Committee The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems.
            See their website at http://afsc.org/about

Although the Catholic Church has been criticized for historically standing on the side of emperors and empire, Catholic social teaching based upon the New Testament Gospel and the Old Testament prophets has spawned a number of groups seeking to bring about a more just, equitable and peaceful society. Pax Christi is one example:

Pax Christi USA Grounded in the Gospel and Catholic social teaching, Pax Christi USA (PCUSA) is a membership organization that rejects war, preparation for war, every form of violence and domination, and personal and systemic racism.

            Check out their website at  http://paxchristiusa.org/about/our-vision/

There are also many non-religious, secular-based groups that are effectively supporting peace and justice in the world. Peace Direct is just one of those groups:

Peace Direct – Supporting local action against conflict

We believe that local people have the power to find their own solutions to conflict – and to build their own better futures. Our mission is to help them make this happen. We are an international charity dedicated to supporting local peacebuilding.

In the world’s most fragile countries, we seek out local peacebuilders who are making a real difference – building peace from the grassroots up, preventing conflict in the places where it starts – locally.

They are disarming rebels, resettling refugees, healing communities, reviving economies. They work at great personal risk on crucial problems like child soldiers, women and conflict, youth and peace, political violence. They are the key to preventing conflicts and creating a lasting peace.

We find them, fund them, and promote their work to those in the wider world who can help with finance or influence.

            You can read more about Peace Direct at http://www.peacedirect.org/us/about/

For those who say, "I don't see what else we can do," these are just three examples of groups that are willing to re-imagine a world where peace and justice are possible – a world that is not dominated by empires that know only war and aggression. There are other organizations as well that are involved in the cause of peace and justice. Please take some time to look into some of these groups that are doing so much to advance peace and justice while our governments and empires flail about, crushing many innocents and uprooting whole communities in their unimaginative attempts to govern.


1 comment:

  1. A friend shared this very informative article in The Atlantic Monthly, “What ISIS Really Wants,” by Graeme Wood

    To quote the title page: “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

    This is indeed an important article for us to begin to understand what is happening now in the Middle East.
    Here is one notable observation by way of comparison:
    "Fascism," Orwell continued, "is psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal."

    You can read Wood’s article at http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/?fb_ref=Default


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