Working towards peace and sustainability

Pursuing Alternatives to War on the Islamic State

President Obama, while not going to Congress for a declaration thereof—as required by the U.S. Constitution—has, in effect, declared war on the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS or ISIL). He has announced that the U.S. military will be making war against IS in both Iraq and Syria, the latter intervention being clearly in violation of international law.

Peaceworks, while appalled by the crimes of IS, recognizes that the administration’s approach is likely to fail at achieving its stated goals, and, in fact, likely to do more harm than good. As has been the case with every American military intervention in the region, Obama’s war on IS will bring more death and destruction. Its likely outcome will be more, not fewer, enemies and greater regional instability. It is also likely to be very costly in every sense of the word.

Our opposition to the use of violence to address IS is based in part on upon practical concerns. Our government has repeatedly intervened or taken sides in civil wars and internal conflicts with consistently negative outcomes. From Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala) to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), to Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, proponents of intervention have a hard time coming up with a success story they can point to.

Mr. Obama embraces the pursuit of military victory primarily via aerial bombing and drone strikes. But, this approach has repeatedly failed, and for good reason. It is extremely difficult to wipe out an enemy by bombing, and, inevitably, many innocent civilians are killed while trying. Fallen combatants are made into martyrs, and are portrayed as making the ultimate sacrifice fighting the powerful and evil foreigners. With the U.S. taking sides in a civil war, there is greater polarization and less opportunity for reconciliation between warring factions.

This does not mean we reject taking action. We simply call for action that is consistent in means and ends and more likely to succeed. We must start, first and foremost, with diplomacy and work with other states in the region, not to make war together, but to seek a just and inclusive peace. Here is a list of actions that we think would be more effective, borrowed from our friends at Veterans for Peace:

1)  Stop the airstrikes because the Sunni leaders and militia, who President Obama acknowledges must be persuaded to break with ISIL, see the U.S. as acting as the air force for the Kurds and Shia against Sunnis. The driving force for the Sunni-ISIL alliance is the alienation of Sunnis from Baghdad by the previous Iraqi administration. Bombing Sunnis will not help mend this relationship.

2)  Stop the slippery slope of sending troops to Iraq and stop sending more weapons that fuel the conflict killing more civilians and ignoring human rights violations committed by “allies” This includes pressuring countries to stop supporting and selling arms to ISIL and stopping all black market weapons sales.

3)  Make diplomacy the number one priority. Since it is clear there is no military solution, seriously engage with everyone in the region, including Iran, which is needed to force the Iraqi government to be more inclusive with Sunni leaders. Without an inclusive government in Iraq there is no way to effectively confront ISIL.

4)  Initiate a new effort at building a broad diplomatic solution in the United Nations to use diplomatic and financial pressure to stop countries from financing and arming ISIL and other fighters in Syria. An arms embargo on all sides should be on the long-term agenda.

5)  Make a real effort to restart UN negotiations to end the civil war in Syria. Set aside preconceived demands and work to end the violence. Once that is achieved the people of Syria can begin to chart their destiny.

6)  Massively increase humanitarian efforts through the UN and any other means. Real and effective efforts to relieve suffering will go a long way in convincing people to break with ISIL. More U.S. bombings and killings will only confirm that the U.S. is the enemy of Islam.

World in Flames, Time for Action, Not Despair

It’s a profound understatement to say “this has not been an easy time for peace activism.” From the Ukraine and Iraq to Syria and Gaza, to Ferguson, Missouri, it seems conflict and violence are ubiquitous. The challenges those of us working for a harmonious, sustainable and prosperous future face are too numerous to catalog. There is a tendency to feel overwhelmed and powerless. While understandable, these are responses we can ill afford.

Conflicts often are complex and not resolved by simple solutions. There are, however, some approaches that can, we believe, be generalized. First of all, force and violence rarely, if ever, provide solutions. They usually exacerbate existing problems and create new ones as well. On the other hand, inclusive efforts that address the needs of all stakeholders can yield viable and durable solutions, especially if they address the conflicts’ root causes.

Those of us who are advocates, working for ending the Permanent War and building a future based upon cooperation, need to be in this for the long haul. As we in Peaceworks have often pointed out, what we are working toward isn’t simply to end a particular war or conflict, but rather a paradigm shift that renders war making, itself, obsolete.

Major cultural and power shifts usually take many decades to achieve. Successful social movements –from those to abolish slavery and achieve civil rights, to those for women’s suffrage and equality, to those for labor rights, environmental protection or LGBT rights—have all been intergenerational. They’ve all had highs and lows; periods of advance and of retrenchment. Most who founded these movements did not live to see their goals achieved.

But the long run trend has generally been toward improvement. As Dr. King put it, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And, much like those who’ve gone before us, we must commit our energies in an ongoing, sustained fashion to this work.

We need to keep this in mind as we wrestle with the unfolding of a New Cold War, the renewed U.S. bombing in Iraq, the ongoing conflicts in Israel-Palestine, Syria, and other locations where our government has intervened. Ditto, as we face injustice, racism, violence and economic inequality here in the United States.

The space available on this page does not allow us to address these issues in depth. 

To learn more about Peaceworks' positions please CLICK HERE.

What we can do here, is to lay out some principles that might guide our action moving forward:

·        First, we respect the dignity of all of our fellow humans, even those we profoundly disagree with. And we respect the inherent equality of all, regardless of gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc.

·        Second, we seek not just “peace” in the sense of the absence of violence, but recognize that peace requires the presence of justice.

·        Third, we also recognize that we need to be at peace with all of nature. The other species in the intricate web of life have rights as well.

·        Fourth, as the feminist movement informs our work, we acknowledge that the personal is political. We cannot successfully strive to create a just social order, while not living that way in our own right.

·        Fifth, our work must be done through means consistent with our ends. We will not achieve a peaceful future through violence. We will not achieve a participatory, democratic future by building a top-down movement.

As Gandhi said, we must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” We, at Peaceworks, urge you to embrace hope and up the ante, committing to working with us, in a sustained fashion, to create this brighter future. 

To learn more about Peaceworks' positions please CLICK HERE

Respond to Iraq Crisis by Joining in a Call for Peace and a New Foreign Policy.

When medical doctors consider health problems, they distinguish between acute and chronic conditions. The current crisis in Iraq brings both sorts of problems to the fore. On one hand, some in the foreign policy establishment are calling for American military intervention to reverse the gains made by the ISIS insurgents and their allies. This push for the use of the U.S. military is one we need to respond to. On the other hand, we need to deal with the chronic or underlying set of issues that drive the Permanent War Economy and lead to repeated crises. This involves becoming proactive in advocating a different sort of foreign policy, one that would make conflicts like this one, as well as those in Syria, the Ukraine, etc. less likely in the future.

The U.S. war on Iraq was illegal and immoral; a war of aggression. Our tax dollars and U.S. troops were used to take down Iraq's government. The years of violence that have followed, including current events, are the direct consequence. The lesson needs to be learned. We must never again launch an aggressive war or attack a nation that has done nothing to attack or threaten us. Moreover, and perhaps more to the point at the moment, a U.S. military intervention, even one that was just from the air, with no "boots on the ground" would only compound the unfolding tragedy; like pouring gasoline on a fire. Our government should not be sending troops—whether we call them advisers or combat troops matters

little—we shouldn’t be putting U.S. “boots on the ground.” They should not be sending drones, planes or missiles to drop bombs that will undoubtedly kill innocents. And they should not be selling or giving arms to the Iraqi government. The U.S. has already supplied too many weapons to Iraq and they are now in the hands of both sides in the conflict.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW:  What's needed is a groundswell of opposition. Polls show lots of people opposed, but when so few are taking action, politicians think people don't really care and therefore they can do what they choose, w/o concern for our opposition.

MAKE IT VISIBLE:  We invite and encourage you to join us this Wednesday anytime between 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and Providence. If you don't want to see your tax dollars paying for bombs falling on Iraq, make your concern visible, please. We’ll have signs and banners and welcome you to be there for whatever portion of the hour fits your schedule. We also invite participation at this time any Wednesday that you can join us. We’ve held a weekly Rush Hour Demo for Peace for 12 going on 13 years now and welcome participation whenever it can fit your schedule.

CONTACT PRESIDENT OBAMA & CONGRESS:  Please call the White House (202-456-1111) or post a message on their site: CLICK HERE.  Also, please contact your Congressional delegation. You can find their contact info if you CLICK HERE.

REGARDING THE LONG HAUL:  Peaceworks and our peace movement allies have been working for years to promote a thoroughgoing reconsideration of the U.S. role in the world. The Military Industrial Complex has held sway for far too long and policies driven by geopolitical and profit imperatives are weakening us and diminishing, not enhancing, our security. Our work for a sustainable Peace Economy that provides Real Security will continue. We need and invite your participation in this work as well. If you’d like to get more involved, please let us know. You can reach us via phone at 573-875-0539 or via e-mail at mail@midmopeaceworks.org.