Peace As Deterrence
America is not the city on a hill. Nor is America the envy of the entire world. It’s important that we as Americans acknowledge this. The U.S. was not attacked because people were jealous of American freedoms; it happened in response to American actions abroad. This is also important to understand if we are to realistically confront terrorism so as not to be attacked again.
A quick note: all wars are de facto considered “just” by the leaders and to an extent the people of the countries waging war (if they resemble a democracy). The most atrocious deeds in human history were seen as just at the time they were perpetrated because it was simply “a part of war.” Thus the Vietnam War was initially seen as just, the Jewish holocaust was seen as just by the Nazis, and the American Indian holocaust was seen as just by the Americans of the time. The “justness” therefore of any war (especially in time of war) is a fairly hollow concept in my view.
The U.S., and to a lesser extent Great Britain, are responsible for the disaster that has been happening to Iraq for a decade. After the U.S. put Saddam in power and supported him and his killing of ethnic minorities within Iraq, George H. W. Bush didn’t like Saddam threatening the oil supply, so Hussein became public enemy number one, and the White House declared war on the people of Iraq. A decade of sanctions later, Saddam is still in power and the Iraqi people must search for clean water to drink. The U.S. is currently contemplating another all-out war on Iraq.
The U.S. financially, militarily, and ideologically supports one side in a “holy” war in the Middle East. The U.S. influence in that region and its presence at the negotiating table has done more to perpetuate the cyclical violence than to abate it. On a promising note, after decades of blocking U.N. resolutions to the establishment of a two-state region, the U.N. recently passed such a resolution. Surprisingly, the U.S. representatives were the creators of said proposal. Will this be a step towards de-escalation? How much money does the U.S. have budgeted for Israel’s defense for fiscal year 2003?
The U.S. establishes military bases all over the planet against the wishes of the people in those lands (what does that matter?). The U.S. refuses to allow the creation of a International Criminal Court because then, perhaps (innocent) U.S. soldiers may be held accountable for their behavior abroad. The U.S. is further straining relations with other countries by expanding our nuclear policy to target non-nuclear countries.
When all of this is done so that U.S. corporations (e.g. Dick Cheney’s Halliburton) may extract the natural resources from a foreign land and leave its people in misery, what reaction can we expect from people abroad? If someone attempted something similar in the United States, would we not try to defend ourselves? But if people defend themselves by killing innocent people, isn’t that absolutely unconscionable?
Consider this: the U.S., in an effort to defend itself, has killed more innocent Afghans than the number of people killed in the World Trade Center buildings. More U.S. soldiers have been killed by friendly fire and equipment failures than in combat.
The U.S. is a giant among nations, no doubt. We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, almost twice as much as our nearest competitor. And this was before the attacks. With this unprecedented defense spending, with all of the “intelligence” that the CIA and Pentagon had gathered, how could the attacks have happened? Why do we believe that spending more on defense and intelligence gathering can possibly defend us against such attacks in the future? Why not face the fact that building up weapons like this is useless. Let’s look for some alternative to war and genocide.
Everyone wants to feel safe -- it’s a human need -- but is increasing defense the way to safety? To continue bombing nations, to continue pointing fingers and saying “You’re the enemy!” is only going to make other people of the world frightened. The guy with a massive stockpile of weapons can say that he’s struggling for peace, but no matter how good his intentions are, until he loses the stockpile, the guy without the weapons can never feel safe. The fear of the latter can only translate to the insecurity of the former.
The so-called al Qaida network is global; it’s thought to be comprised of between 40,000 to 60,000 people who work independently of central leaders like bin Laden. These members are in both developing and developed nations, both here and abroad. Not even our war machine can confront such an “enemy.” Where does that leave us? Does that mean we’re doomed? I don’t know. But it does mean that our weaponry, our nukes, our ICBMs, and especially a missile defense system are useless. That should be clear enough.
What is an alternative to increasing spending and aggression, and the concomitant decrease in world safety and stability? The U.S. needs to stop doing harm. Immediate actions would consist of the Bush administration ceasing its senseless terror war on terrorism. Long term actions would consist of making sincere steps toward global peace; quitting the funding of foreign governments and armies, and lifting of food sanctions on people who are dying every day of starvation. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that Americans couldn’t imagine being something else and being proud of it. This may be one reason why it’s such a radical notion that some people on this planet Earth would simply like to exist without the influence/protection/developmental assistance/humanitarian efforts of the United States. To avoid the annihilation of the planet, we have to start understanding the people of the world. We have to acknowledge that our security and our prosperity go hand in hand with the security and prosperity of our neighbors. Peace will never come from the barrel of a gun, or from the tip of a warhead. We need to stop fooling ourselves; stop believing that our leaders are righteous in their foreign policy. Once we understand and accept that, we have to act as citizens. As human beings, we have to try to put ourselves in the shoes of those in other countries; try to understand the world from their point of view. As students at this prestigious university in this nation, we need to voice our opinions. People will listen. In theory and on paper, we have the power to influence our government. Use your influence, your intellect, your skills, and your voice.