Many of us who protested the Vietnam War–and subsequent wars–think that some initiatives on behalf of peace are a waste of time. During the Vietnam War, some people suggested that if our troops would sit down with the Viet Cong and sing “Kumbuya” together, the war would end. Among other things, this view showed an ignorance of the region’s history and what brought all the players into the conflict.
Could any of the great wars have been avoided if–prior to the days the first shots were fired–people had worked harder for peace? Historical accounts tend to convince us that the answer to that question is “probably not.” If you’ve read historical accounts, you know that World War I was billed as the war to end all wars. Those who believed that were fooled, I guess.
On the other hand, if we believe that peace is unlikely, then perhaps it is. Our beliefs about peace being unlikely probably shape a lot of our words and deeds and keep us from speaking out against the so-called hawks doing the saber rattling whenever potential conflicts exist. If we remain quiet, then the so-called doves and those who haven’t made up their minds yet don’t consider the fact that the “proper response” need not be a military response.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that maintaining the Department of Defense costs us (as of 2016) $605 billion, including “Overseas Contingency Operations” in areas such as Afghanistan. Those who advocate social programs, reduced taxes in general, and (naïvely or otherwise) a peaceful approach to the world see these expenditures as a waste of money. We’re lured, I think, into the belief that we must spend that money to keep ourselves safe. Personally, I don’t think the Iraq war or operations in Afghanistan made any of us safer, much less more secure. I support our troops, but not those who sent them to such places.
If you read the news, it’s hard not to think that the world isn’t a very nice place. North Korea is threatening to blow us out of the water, ISIS is causing trouble wherever it can, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the Russian government and the Russian mob. Almost every week, we hear of a new terrorist attack somewhere. It seems logical, doesn’t it, to buy more guns and spend more money on defense and covert activities.
But is all that logic a self-fulling prophecy that leads only to more unrest and less security? I think so. I don’t think it helps us to be naïve about the world and its dangers. I do think that if we assume war is the only answer, then that’s what we will have. We need to stop listening to the playground-style bullies who keep telling us the only answer is to “kick the shit out of” one group or another. That keeps leading to more or the same. We kick them. They kick us. We kick them. It’s lose-lose for everyone.