Democrats & Liberals Archives

War or Peace

Cindy Sheehan has made all of us start to think about the best way to fight terrorism. She has galvanized the anti-war people into protest against the Iraq war and the hawks have responded. Cindy makes me think about the 2 broad ways to fight terrorism: warlike and peaceful. Bush’s “war on terror” is killing terrorists and manufacturing more terrorists than are being killed. The peaceful way is based on executing initiatives calculated to discourage people from becoming terrorists in the first place. I think the latter approach is better. I am not so much anti-war as I am FOR PEACE.

Though we speak constantly of peace, our foreign policy is oriented around war. We break treaties we do not like. We announce that we are the sole superpower and we will use force to keep it this way. We have the biggest Defense Department and the biggest arms industry in the world. We have something like 700 military bases all over the Globe. We talk of the "axis of evil" while we plan new nuclear blockbusters. When a country becomes an ally, the first thing we do is offer them arms.

We did not like Saddam Hussein, so we decided on regime change. This excuse has morphed into many others and now we are in favor of building a democracy there.

Even when we talk of democracy, we try to impose our vision upon them. This is what war-minded people do. They are very competitive. They believe they are right and everybody else is wrong. And they want to win, which in the Iraq case means getting Iraqis to come up with a "democracy" they can approve of. To achieve this we must "stay the course" until the Iraqis see things the way we do, something that may take years or decades. Meanwhile we may have a few "casualties."

So far the results of our "war on terror" has been a reduction in America's humanistic standing in the world and an increase in world terrorism. We are losing the war because our actions are producing more terrorists. We don't feel safer.

Cindy makes me think of another way to fight terrorism, indeed, a drastically different approach to foreign affairs. Instead of trying to get rid of terrorists by killing terrorists and supporters of terrorists and fighting wars for regime change, we should use peaceful and democratic overtures in order to turn potential terrorists into friends. Instead of basing our foreign policy on competition and conflict, we should base it on cooperation and helpfulness.

What we did to help Indonesia with the tsunami catastrophe, should be a guide for what we should do in other parts of the world. Increasing our foreign aid to .7% of GDP, as has been suggested, is another way. When we sign treaties, we should be offering educational, health and economic aid, not arms. We should be the moderator for settling country-country disputes peacefully. We should devote tremendous effort to making the UN a catalyst, not against war, but FOR PEACE.

Here's an example of how we can reduce terrorism in a peaceful way. Israel has just withdrawn settlers from the Gaza strip. We have a chance to build on this historic event. I suggest that America expend energy and money to help make Gaza an economic powerhouse. James Wolfensohn, the previous head of the World Bank, is now there preparing an economic blueprint. He has donated $500,000 of his own money for the project. America should give a decent amount of money, something like $5 billion, towards implementation. This is not a lot of money - if you compare it to the hundreds of billions we are throwing away in Iraq.

America should be ready with implementation just as soon as Wolfensohn submits his plan. Implementation should not consist of sending American firms (like Halliburton) to make money. We should encourage the people of Gaza to do the work. We should entice militants to become entrepreneurs.

Here's the message to militants:

"Why be a terrorist when you can be a mogul?"

Offering help with no strings attached will make clear to the Palestinians that we are their friends and want them to live in peace with Israel. Arabs in the Middle East will begin praising U.S. as they have never done before. Anti-American propaganda will decrease. Even the mullahs will take notice. The entire global environment will change.

War or peace? The war approach has failed miserably. Let's try the peace approach.

Posted by Paul Siegel at August 19, 2005 6:08 PM