For decades I’ve read about foreign policy, military strategy and history. Of course, being around the US Army my entire adult life helped me form my world view, which runs toward believing in a strong national defense. The question “why war” captivated my imagination long ago when I was assigned to a Pershing missile unit and first learned about being a Cold War Warrior. Grenada shaped that question to looking for a road to Peace and I’ve spent years pondering this question. Is there actually a road to Peace or are we destined to endless wars? In the for what it’s worth department, here’s my opinion.
If the world had leaders who could find their way toward trusting a little more and agreeing on some common ground – situations like Syria wouldn’t linger. I talk about how we don’t have a dog in that fight and that’s true – but really the death of thousands to senseless violence hurts us all in the long run – another intractable cycle of virulent hate and factional fighting. If we had groups of kids fighting like that, we would step in and separate them, take away their weapons and tell them they need to sit in time out until they can learn to play nice. In situations like this where the sides fighting are varied and irrational – our world “leaders” only big internal debate is about giving these out of control factions more weapons – so they can wreak more havoc. We wouldn’t even consider this with kids and yet with the least-developed, least stable states – that’s our answer – give them more sophisticated weapons and then we really think we can control these rogue states that we armed to the teeth? Would you trust kids who haven’t mastered some self control and demonstrated some maturity with your car keys? But we talk about trusting them with advanced weaponry? We have North Korea with nuclear weapons, with the nuts in Iran close behind, for crying out loud.
The leaders would have to agree on some ways to stop the slaughter of so many people and actually help some stable civil institutions emerge under the watchful eye of a united front of world leaders. But the world leaders are always playing these elaborate games to one up each other and lying so much to each other in the pursuit of playing high stakes diplomacy that the entire world system is built upon the shaky house of cards called lying. Distrust is the foundation of all our international institutions. It would take time and many failures to change that fundamental lack of trust, but good leaders have got to pave the way toward that goal, by gradually embarking on cooperating on some issues and getting a few wins in the building trust department. For instance when one of my sons went to Russia for a study abroad program, he stayed with one family at first where he didn’t feel comfortable, so he was put in a hotel until they located another family for him. Finally they placed him in the home of a retired Soviet Army officer and my gut reaction after all those years embracing the Cold Warrior mentality – was relief. I believed a Soviet Army officer would have an orderly, disciplined home and live by good principles. He and his wife treated my son like part of their family and my son still talks about “my host father” all the time.
The world can’t change overnight, but with a commitment to dealing with people (as flawed as they are) and having some courageous world leaders take some steps toward building trust and acting in unison to quell some of these bad situations like Syria, with the senseless slaughter – over time we could have more wins in positive cooperation and helping people and less violence – bringing people toward more peaceful coexistence benefits everyone. A strong national defense remains vital though – because the strong really must protect the weak. I believe the “world order” could change for the better and I don’t understand why people accept this belief that this is the way it’s always been, so this is the way it has to be. People are flawed – sure, they lie a lot, and that leads to all these other bad things – but we sure don’t have to set up our international institutions based on the lowest common denominator – how about raising the bar some and setting some ideals worth striving for? The UN turned out to be a cesspool of lying and so fraught with corruption that it sure as hell hasn’t provided an avenue, so maybe if we had just a handful or so of world leaders willing to begin the change and embarking on a few trial problems, as honest brokers – changing course could inch forward. Wouldn’t that be “change you can believe in”? (lol)
In the case of Syria, President Obama continues to drag his feet on action. Aside from some clandestine support to the opposition (of which Benghazi was probably part of some gunrunning operation), he has remained indecisive. Now, John McCain upped the ante a bit by entering Syria and meeting with a Syrian rebel force (here) and he’s pushing for us to unilaterally jump into this hot mess. The Russians and Chinese, in Cold War default mode, are aiding Assad, so we’re stuck in the same old pattern. Now, I sure don’t support the US independently taking on the role of world policeman and until we can get the world leaders to step outside their traditional geopolitical mindset – yes, we are doomed to endless wars. Men, who thought up all these elaborate theories for war, only think about more force to have one side win. Truly, for the Russians, Chinese or the United States, is some rebel band leading Syria going to be much better than Assad? The rationale offered by people like McCain is that if we arm these rebels, they can topple Assad and end the fighting. That’s a nice bit of wishful thinking. There’s no political leadership behind these rebel groups, just bands of rampaging, angry men. The hope that amongst them is some George Washington at the end of the road, to unite and build a functioning democratic state requires a degree of delusional thinking that escapes me.
Certainly the tragedy in Syria leaves one wishing for a way to end the fighting quickly. However, handing more weapons to poorly led, rampaging bands of rebels with little military finesse and a lot of rage seems a recipe for more horrific violence, not less. The world needs real leadership where the strongest countries should agree to provide a united front and force some calm and work at disarming rather than funneling in more and more advanced weaponry. Once the irrational actors are neutralized, then rational actors in places like Syria should come to the table and work at political solutions. This is the Mom world peace solution – take away the dangerous toys from the kids who can’t play nice and who haven’t mastered some self-control. No fancy one-world government solution or new complicated political theory or even some religion- just common sense. The road to Peace is built, brick by brick, by building trust among leaders (people). As with most human endeavors the answers are simple, but that sure doesn’t make them easy. Trust is one of the hardest things for people to achieve – definitely much harder than devising a theory like “mutually assured destruction”. Only men could think up that one, believe me! A Mom sure never would – she’d take away the weapons from the misbehaving, immature kids on the world stage and put them in time out until they learned to play nice;-)