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Can US Foreign Policy Become a Force for Peace?

Posted on: November 12th, 2015 by BWNWAdmin No Comments


That’s the question Carol Van Houten of CALC helped answer at the Church Women United of Lane County November Celebration of “Our Journey Toward Peace.”

Carol started out with some hopeful notes by sharing examples of some of our relatively successful foreign policy decisions starting with our improving relations with Cuba after all these years of what many of us have seen as senseless sanctions. There’s still work to be done but we have seen some real progress already.

Costa Rica has been doing rather nicely (thank you) while maintaining no military presence. Can you imagine the savings in their federal budget? Hopefully NAFTA regulations won’t change that.

Tunisia : The four groups that have put together a successful democracy there received the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Though problems will continue to arise, this can be seen as a successful element of the Arab Spring. Costa Rica and Tunisia are examples of the locals doing it themselves with the USA neither helping nor hindering. We don’t have to do it all.

There was quite a struggle getting to the Iran Agreement but it is a great example of diplomacy succeeding over military intervention. I just read that 57% of American Jews supported the agreement which is higher than the population at large. (Lou Dubose in Washington Spectator). Some forceful actions, not lethal actions, are necessary. Sanctions are good examples of these.

Of course we church ladies liked this one: Women Matter. Women were prominent in the democratization of Tunisia. The State Department’s Wendy Sherman was working with little fanfare for the long term preparation of the Iran Agreement.   Both are examples of what social scientists have found: if women are involved things go better. (We knew that).

How to get more of what works? Carol suggests we stop doing stupid things. A good example is the Iraq War. The blowback from that made things worse than ever in that area. The US has been involved in developing terrorists in the Middle East since the 80’s in Afghanistan when we trained the Mujahedeen to fight the Russians. Drone strikes and Special Ops have killed more civilians than bad guys. These could be recruiting posters for ISIS.

We need more thoughtful leaders, not just knee jerk, get even types. We need to reconsider American Exceptionalism and thinking that we are indispensable. We are not. Other countries have legitimate ideas. Though we may have differences, we need to learn to co-habit with others around the globe.

Is it not obvious that we need to stop the arms race? Carol pointed out that the UN Security Council is made up of five nations that sell the most arms throughout the world. (The fox tending the chicken coop comes to mind.) Carol says we can stop selling arms and we can stop giving old military stuff to police departments as well. Now we are upgrading our nuclear arsenal and developing more accurate missiles while it has been obvious for years that we need to decrease the danger of having these arms. Carol reminded us of Ike’s warning about the military industrial complex.

Regarding the Middle East, Carol offered that ISIS is not a threat to the US; it is an ideology not an armed country. We need to spend our time, energy and money on rebuilding our homeland. We can become leaders in education and health care access and quality. We can work out our problems with racism and immigration. We can take the time to make a full bore commitment to dealing with climate change. It is real. Our own Senator Merkley has been in the lead with measures to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Thanks, Carol for leaving us with some hope. Here’s what we can do:

  • Be informed.
  • Challenge the notion of American exceptionalism.
  • Increase the role of women everywhere, every time. Note that the marines found that when women are involved in groups, better decisions are made.
  • Challenge the image of masculinity being violent, controlling, using force with guns. (gun control)
  • Support political change. There are movements to increase local control of decision making. Know that businesses are there to protect business interests not necessarily in our best interest. An example is Monsanto and GMO seeds rather than supporting local growers.
  • Be aware of future wars caused by shortages of water.
  • For years after WWII we relied on MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Rather, diplomacy can be how “we be in the world.”
  • It’s estimated we’ve spent 4.5 TRILLION dollars on wars in the Middle East. It’s been estimated that we’d need to spend 1 million dollars per day since Jesus was born just to get us to ONE TRILLION dollars.
  • It’s urgent that we become a force for peace.

(Submitted by Anne O’Brien)

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