Sunday, October 04, 2015

Peace is too important to be left to politicians

Professor Stephen Walt, makes a prediction about the presidential horserace.

... there’s one important concept about which we won’t hear very much: peace.

He's right of course. As far as the GOP clowns are concerned, peace is about as popular as venereal disease; they seem to be competing over who can boast of the stiffest dick. (Yes, that includes Carly -- she's doing pretty well at it, actually.)

Among the Dems, there is something beyond silence. Bernie says the right things:

Senator Sanders believes that the test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner.

He's proud of his vote against the Iraq war. He's got a good grip on the fact that wars starve and strangle domestic progress.

But the Dem frontrunner is another story. Hillary is an aggressive strength projection kind of woman. As Walt remarks,

... Has Hillary Clinton ever opposed a military operation or led a successful peace campaign?

She seems eager to plunge more deeply into Syria. I've always been afraid that the first woman to have a shot at occupying the Oval Office would have so honed her reputation for bellicosity that she made herself immune to attacks based in the sexist notion that "girls don't know how to fight." As a member of my generation of early contemporary feminists, Hillary seems to have done just that; perhaps a younger woman would have felt less need to prove herself in this particular fashion. (Or maybe not.)

And Hillary seems to have learned none of the lesson of last 75 years: no shooting war the U.S. has engaged in since World War II has left either the people directly in its path or the U.S. itself better off than before hostilities commenced. When all-out war came to mean annihilation in 1945, war ceased to be a viable instrument of even superpower policy. Sure, this turns historic human experience on its head, but it is true.
Once upon a time, aspiring presidents thought there were votes to be won by promising peace. Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 slogan was "Peace and Prosperity." I'd get behind a candidate who dared such an unfashionable suggestion for our national aims. Right now that means Bernie -- but I want such a candidate in November 2016. So if Bernie falters, we're shit out of luck.
The desire for peace is a baseline human trait. Even most citizens of this empire share it, except when riled up. So why is there no permanent constituency injecting peace into presidential campaigns?
  • In the last two administrations, our rulers have perfected the evil art of waging faraway wars without troubling most of us. When you are as rich and as safe as citizens of this country, so long as no one you know is doing the fighting, you don't worry much about the foreign millions whose lives are shattered by our imperial adventures. For ourselves, we have peace. It asks a level of imagination most people lack to get across that in so much of the world, we're the problem.
  • Because we are so safe from foreign threats (though perhaps not from homegrown gun cultists), we scare easy. This is particularly true when our pols hype the supposed threat. And, in turn, our politicians are afraid that if a critical mass of us get in a panic, they'll take the blame. We need a peace movement to have the back of any politician who offers us a realistic assessment of actual threats.
  • Collectively, this society has lost any awareness that peace is a positive good. We think of peace as absence of war, not the presence of security, justice, community, possibility, and love. Peace is the precondition of all those goods; we are unrealistic insofar as we struggle for any of them without the awareness that peace is needed for all of them.
This country still needs a permanent peace movement.

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