Category: Peace

Does Self-Defense Perpetuate the Cycle of Violence? What Should We Then Do?

A news item crossed my desk this morning about a Florida school board member who is trying to get his district to agree to a “no-punishment-for-victims” policy in a revised “zero tolerance for violence” project. In his view, a schoolyard fight should not be seen as involving two mutual combatants subject to identical punishment (which is now the case there). Rather, if one student can be clearly identified as the aggressor and the other as a victim defending him or herself, then the victim gets off Scott-free.

The board appears poised to reject his proposal in favor of one that would mete out lesser punishment to the victim. Board members are concerned that a no-consequences policy signals that violence is acceptable.

nonviolenceThis debate masks a deeper underlying philosophical discussion that our nation needs to have. That discussion centers on the cycle of violence in which we find ourselves as a society. Gang feuds, global turf battles, and our national policy of pre-emption on the world stage are all examples of this cycle. And like any cycle, the only way it gets broken is for someone to say, “Enough” and begin to act in a way that is morally more awakened than the norm. In other words, to stop the cycle of violence, someone has to respond to violence with love and non-violence. The first individuals who agree to do so for the sake of the greater good will almost certainly suffer harm, perhaps even death. But there is an undeniable fundamental truth at work here: violence never ends violence.

Hundreds of Americans were severely injured and killed during Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights revolution in this country. But if those people had chosen to fight back rather than adopt Ghandian non-violence tactics, do you really suppose any fewer would have died? Would the outcome have been as successful? Would the struggle have ended sooner? History suggests the answers to all three of those questions is “No.”

Vast human experience shows that you don’t stop a bully by fighting back. You can sometimes stop a bully by refusing to allow him or her to get your goat, i.e., by not fighting back thereby robbing the bully of the satisfaction of seeing you cower before him or her. That same experience is of course replete with examples of people who have responded passively and non-violently to a bully and been injured or killed in the process. In that case, there is a greater good for a greater number involved. The one who sacrifices does so — on some level at least — with the understanding that he or she is acting in the broader social context.

The zero-tolerance policy sometimes, perhaps often, leads to outcomes that are on their face absurd and unfair. But if that policy, rightly enforced, does indeed ultimately result in the banishing of bullying and aggression, then the greater good will have been served and the individuals who suffered the apparent injustice of the policy will have been vindicated.


Gee, That’s How Vietnam Started

The United States has apparently begun to provide “trainers” to four small African nations who are battling with Al Qaeda factions. The idea, according to reports is that within a few years these nations will have built up their own counter-terrorism teams and be better equipped to fight an insidious and ruthless enemy.

President Obama and his advisors have apparently forgotten that this is precisely how we got into Vietnam. I was part of the initial involvement there: U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MAC-V). Note the operative word, “assistance.” It was ironic in some ways. We were in Vietnam to teach soldiers who had been fighting an insurgency for years and years how to engage the enemy in a war unlike any in which we had a shred of experience or expertise.

The rules of engagement prevented U.S. forces from using their weapons. Except in self-defense. Then self-defense became search-and-destroy. Then our men started dying at the hands of a native population that neither welcomed our presence nor needed our training. Before it was over, 58,220 young Americans had given their lives and we had to turn tail and run from the first major military defeat in our nation’s history.

But we’re going to teach these poor Africans how to fight yet another enemy we neither understand nor appreciate. What could possibly go wrong?


Great Idea: Connect Brazilian Students of English With American Seniors Over Video Links

Karmatube always has very cool ideas. Today, they brought me a video about a very cool idea that connects students at the CNA school of English in Sao Paolo, Brazil, with seniors living in a retirement community in the U.S. The students get to practice their English and the seniors get someone to talk to.

The video shows the kinds of relationships that can build between these two disparate groups of people, reminding us once again of the deep truth that we as humans always have more in common than we have differences that seem to separate us.

Bravo to CNA and thanks to Karmatube for pointing out this program! It helped make my day.


The Economist Nails Putin Linguistic Boundary Doctrine

Ever since the first whispers of Russia’s designs on the Crimea region of Ukraine came to light, I’ve been scratching my head. How, I wondered, could a modern state justify the forceful takeover of another country’s land based solely on the fact that most of the people in the area spoke the same language as the aggressor?

Now I get it.

The Economist, in a delightfully tongue-in-cheek piece, lays out the world as it would be if Putin’s inane and insane doctrine were carried to its ultimate conclusion. The results are pretty funny…and somehow troubling.


Obama Ups Military Ante in Uganda

For a guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama sure does like his military adventures.

The President has notified Congress that he’s upping the number of American forces in Uganda to 300 “advisers” who are not allowed to engage in combat except in self-defense. He’s also sending in an  unspecified number of Osprey helicopters, all in the cause of trying to track down Central African bad guy Joseph Kony.

There’s no doubt Kony is a war criminal. He’s been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Although his organization is said to have been pretty much erased in recent months by defections and attack, he remains at large. But it’s really hard to see how adding a few Special Forces advisers and some choppers to the Ugandan arsenal is going to make any difference in the effort to track down one bad guy through thousands of miles of jungle.

This is just one more way in which Obama has turned his back on his base of liberals, who are fundamentally peace-loving people who prefer diplomacy to guns. I got the idea long ago that he’s not a liberal, even though he tries to sound like one at election time. But I guess it’s more disappointing when he adopts a Bush-like military posture in some obscure conflict to no particularly obvious good purpose.


Thank You, Dianne Feinstein, for Standing Up to War Mongers and Israeli Influence

I was greatly heartened today to read of my Senator, Dianne Feinstein’s, bold and clear opposition to the ill-considered “march to war” that appears to have finally been quashed in the Congress.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein

For the past several years I have become increasingly discouraged with her “moderate” stands on issues of great — even grave — concern to myself and fellow Leftists. As she has aged in the Senate she has moved farther and farther to the right to a point where I now consider her more right-of-center on the key things I care deeply about.

But on this one, she got it right. Her floor speech was a model of clarity, focus and persuasion.

While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the US goes to war. By stating that the US should provide military support to Israel should it attack Iran, I fear that is exactly what this bill will do.”

Amen and amen.

There are and always have been far too many Congresscritters who tremble in fear over what AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobbyists will do to them if they waver one scintilla from that nation’s conflict-driven foreign policy. Note that I do not for a moment deny Israel its right to follow such a policy even though I disagree that it is effective; violence is, in my world, never a way to respond to violence. But we must protect our own sovereignty, pursue our own agenda, and where our agenda and Israel’s conflict, we don’t owe Israel any greater obligation than we do any other great and reliable ally.

In fact, I applaud President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for their efforts and successes in this situation and for their seeming willingness to embrace a more moderate line in supporting our good friend Israel. I continue to hope and pray that we will become more insistent and demanding when it comes to trying to curb some of what I see as Israel’s overly aggressive behavior that seems designed to sabotage Mideast peace processes. But I am grateful today for Sen. Feinstein’s insightful and peace-driven support for the Iran peace initiatives, our best hope for any reduction in tension in that region at the moment.

Finding a Viable Third Route in Syria

All too often, American political decisions – including those with global war-and-peace implications – are framed in binary terms. We are told that we must either do X or nothing. Since the cost of doing nothing is cast as immense, we are left with no alternative to proposal X.

This has been the case with Syria. The Administration wants us to believe that either we authorize and conduct a military strike against the Asad Regime to punish them for their use of chemical weapons, or we do nothing and look weak and cowardly on the world stage.

There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Ribbon image.I don’t buy into this approach. In every situation, there is always a third way. That way is characterized by love, compassion, forgiveness, and humanity. It’s seldom the easiest, almost never viewed as the most effective, but the only true way for us to break the international circle of violence and achieve anything resembling a peaceful world.

In the case of Syria, we claim that our primary objective is to render it impossible for that country to use chemical weapons in any way against any population for any reason. Leaving aside the question whether aerial bombardment on the delivery capacity of these weapons ultimately has the effect of preventing or deterring their use, the fact is that there are clearly no guarantees it will do so. Thus, we are faced with a Hobson’s choice: take direct and violent action which may or may not help and which may or may not backfire, or back down.

The trouble is, what America is seen to be backing down from here is an ill-advised, adolescent threat uttered by our President for the sole purpose of not looking weak in the face of conservative attack. It is, as several pundits have said, very much like seventh-grade playground. We drew a line in the sand and the bully crossed it. Never mind that drawing the line was ill-advised as well as unnecessary because the world had already drawn that line 100 years earlier.

Now we are faced with the possibility that we can walk away from this situation without a single missile being launched from our warships.  Syria’s primary global supporter Russia and Syria itself seem to have agreed to a new plan which calls for Syria to become a signatory to the international treaty governing chemical weapons. This would result in their granting United Nations inspectors access to their stockpiles, which would be turned over for ultimate destruction under international supervision.

The Administration has been reluctantly positive about this turn of events. It maintains that we must nonetheless pursue permission for a violent attack while this scenario works itself out. That may even be palatable. I wish Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama could see his way clear simply to agreeing and putting all military action on hold pending the outcome. But, of course, he won’t do that because his status as a playground bully is at stake.

Beyond the issue of chemical weapons and their use, America and Americans have been woefully inadequate in responding to the humanitarian crisis the Syrian civil war has created. There are now over 2 million refugees in neighboring countries. Syria is shrinking to insignificance of its own weight. In the meantime, tens of thousands of children die of starvation and preventable illness while we threaten to go to war over the loss of 400 children to poison gas.

It makes no sense. It’s past time for us to step up to the plate on the humanitarian front and do more to force a diplomatic solution to the Civil War itself as well as to the chemical weapons issue. This new initiative gives us a wide opening through which to drive the truck of peace. Let’s hope we don’t blow it again.

Combat Veteran’s Suicide Note is a Strong Indictment of Establishment

I’ve always been taught that suicide was a cowardly act. That it punished those left behind, who are left wondering what they could have done to have prevented it. But this letter from a recently deceased combat veteran opened my eyes wide to another perspective.

The agony this guy went through after his “duty” to his country was over is unbelievable. The Establishment — starting with W but continuing to two weeks ago when he finally took his life — failed him at every turn. And it has done the same to thousands and thousands of others.

I’m a vet. I was lucky to come back from Vietnam relatively whole and then to find my way to normalcy (such as it is) in a culture that had become venomously opposed to us “baby killers.” The new generation of soldier isn’t so lucky.

Just one more reason to get us out of the war business. As if we needed more.


Mr. President, Return Your Nobel Peace Prize

obama-syriaThis story has been edited since publication to correct one factual error and some spelling mistakes.

With the White House announcement today that President Obama will begin supplying military aid to the rebels in Syria, our Costumer-in-Chief has taken the first step down the path to yet another ill-advised American adventure in the Middle East (previously misplaced Syria on the African continent). He may not (yet) put any “boots” on the ground, but you can bet your posterior that he’s going to put plenty of boot-like-foot-coverings on the ground on the feet of mercenaries and military contractors who will “teach” the Syrian rebels how to use their new-found toys. This “teaching” will take the form of those Americans actually firing the weapons on Syrian government planes and facilities. You can take that to the bank. And if one or a few or a few dozen or a few hundred of these Americans die? We’ll likely never know.

Another thing you can take to the bank is that at some future date, Americans will be killed — perhaps even in large numbers — by the very military weapons our Masquerader-in-Chief is handing over to a rebel group that consists largely of people who, if they weren’t trying to overthrow a regime we didn’t like at the moment, would not be on any list of American friends. These rebels have, after all, been linked by numerous sources to Al Qaeda. So we are putting deadly weaponry in the hands of the people we’ve given up our freedoms to defend ourselves against. Where is the logic in that?

Finally, you can’t yet take this to the bank, but does anyone really expect this to be our nation’s last effort to shore up a rebel cause facing a government that has the backing of Russia? Seriously? It is all too likely we’re going to be in this up to our fatigue tops and Claymores before this is over. Because, you see, at the end of the day America’s military cannot afford to let us go too many years between wars. Otherwise, their upcoming senior officers get no real “training” in warfare and tactics to keep us safe in the (inevitable by this logic) war. And the very real possibility that Russia will engage us directly cannot be lightly dismissed.

This President, who promised openness and transparency but keeps giving us secret security sweeps and stifling of civil rights, who promised us relief from corporate greed and corporate welfare and keeps appointing the same old corrupt cronies to key national office, who promised us an end to senseless American adventures abroad and who now delivers yet another one, no less senseless than those he pledged to end, deserves the total lack of confidence among his so-called “base”.

Mr. President, return your Nobel Peace Prize.