Mid-Missouri

Peaceworks

Working towards peace and sustainability

Afghanistan & U.S. Role in the World

For decades, Afghanistan has been a war zone. From the site of a Cold War proxy conflict, to a land beset by civil war, to a nation wracked by 20 years of ongoing conflict following the 2001 U.S. invasion, occupation and the installation of a client government, Afghanistan has suffered tremendously throughout. And U.S. actions have consistently led to tragic outcomes.

Sadly, the same can be said for U.S. involvement in the affairs of many other nations including quite a few in Latin America, in Southeast Asia and in Africa, as well as some in other parts of the world.

Some of our government’s actions have involved invading and overthrowing governments. Some have involved covert operations that range in scale from coup plots to engaging in costly, protracted covert wars. Others have entailed backing often reactionary factions in civil conflicts, and arming, training and providing logistics for armed groups that terrorize their fellow citizens. In recent years the U.S. has moved in the direction of using small contingents of elite, special ops forces. The Pentagon and the CIA have also turned to remote-control war-making from afar, using armed drones to assassinate suspected enemies, even though the majority of those killed turn out to be innocent civilians.

These wars and interventions are most egregious, as they are costly in life and limb, but much of what our government does militarily is to maintain a system of global hegemony, sometimes referred to by the military itself as “Full Spectrum Dominance.” This includes many hundreds of bases worldwide, dominant positions on the seas, in the air as well as in space and in the cyber realm, with vast arsenals of costly armaments, both so-called “conventional” arms as well as “weapons of mass destruction.” As is often pointed out, we American taxpayers are spending more on our Military-Industrial Complex than the next ten or eleven top-spending nations, combined.

The U.S. often portrays its actions as altruistic, claiming that we are making war to promote democracy, or women’s rights, or to remove governments that harm their own citizens. The reality is that so-called “American Exceptionalism” is bogus and U.S. wars are fought to establish and maintain hegemony, exercise geopolitical dominance, control resources, markets and labor, as well as to keep using and buying more weapons, keeping the arms merchants profitable and happy.

While the 20 year war in Afghanistan has ended tragically, as many informed commentators, as well as President Biden, have pointed out there was really no way this could have ended well. Our intention here is not to rehash the war, which Peaceworks opposed from the start and advocated ending throughout, but rather to look forward and consider the positive role our nation could play in the world moving forward.

What’s Possible Instead?

Is it possible to have a foreign policy that is based upon pursuing peace and justice? It’s hard to know, as we’ve never actually tried. But after 80 years of continuously being on a wartime footing, might it not be time to investigate the possibilities?

As the nation with the largest arsenal, the most advanced weaponry, the strongest system of alliances and the greatest global military reach, the United States is uniquely positioned to initiate a paradigm shift in international relations. While some may attempt to exploit the Afghan debacle by calling for increased militarization and a ramping up of the so-called “War on Terror,” we see the need for a to-the-root rethinking of our nation’s role in the world.



Peaceworks would welcome our government challenging all others around to world to begin a process of mutual, verifiable, incremental and universal disarmament. While this would need to be negotiated with all the leading military powers, which takes time, it could begin with unilateral steps to demonstrate sincerity in the pursuit of these objectives.

President Biden could announce that, at least while negotiations proceed, the U.S. would halt the procurement of military hardware and put a freeze on the so-called “modernization” program for nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Biden could challenge all other nations to join us in addressing very real threats to our collective security starting with climate change, which is arguably the defining issue of the Twenty-first Century. Our failure to deal with the climate crisis would, as the Pentagon has repeatedly asserted, be a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions in many already conflicted locales including, most notably the Middle East.

In addition to pressing the rest of the world to effectively address climate change, our government must acknowledge the problems presented by long-festering conflicts, such as in Israel-Palestine, proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, or between nations, such as Armenia and Azerbaijan. Under United Nations auspices, commissions can be set up to mediate these conflicts and press for just settlements. A carrot and stick approach that rewards those who are willing to compromise would incentivize non-violent conflict resolution.

With wise vision and a view to what sort of world we might leave for our progeny, we could commence down a path that leads, initially to dramatic reduction in the size of national militaries and the size of military budgets. An interim goal would be sizing each country’s military to provide for defense, but not for offensive capabilities. In other words, all nations would be able to defend their borders, but not invade or attack others.

To encourage sustainable development in the Global South a United Nations force could be established with an eye to halting military aggression. Any lesser developed nation willing to disarm and move to a force capable of ensuring civil order, could be put under a protective umbrella with this UN force readily available to respond to any military aggression these countries might face. The money saved could then be directed into essential investments in education, healthcare, renewable energy, etc. This is a route to real security.

Will our vision be realized anytime soon? The honest answer is that it is highly unlikely. That said, until we can envision it, we can’t really work to create it. And, if the paradigm shift we’re seeking is one that’s promoted, we have a much better chance of moving in this direction. Let’s take seriously what President Eisenhower once said:

“One day the people of the world will want peace so much that the governments will have to get out of their way and give it to them.”

 


2021 Candidate Forums on Climate Concerns

 

In the past, our candidate forums have been in person. We hope that we'll be able to do this again soon.

While climate change is a global concern, much of what needs to be done to address it actually happens at the local level. We need climate conscious leaders at all levels of governance who can implement policies that effectively address the crisis we face. For that reason, even though Peaceworks does not endorse or oppose candidates for office, we do our best to educate our members and supporters as to where the candidates stand of critical climate matters.

April 6, 2021 is the date for our next municipal and school board elections across Missouri. Peaceworks once again, in collaboration with our climate allies, held forums with candidates for the Columbia Public Schools Board and the Columbia City Council focused on climate change and related issues. While we have members and supporters in many neighboring communities, we did not have the resources to reach out to candidates outside of CoMo.

Our allies in the Osage Group of Sierra Club, Renew Missouri, Citizens Climate Lobby of Columbia, CoMo Transit Justice, Sunrise Movement Columbia and Climate Leaders at Mizzou joined with Peaceworks in sponsoring this pair of forums, held on-line this year, via Zoom as well as Facebook live. We also recorded both events and are now able to share them here.

To access the Feb. 22 School Board forum please click HERE.

To access the Feb. 25 City Council forum please click HERE.

A few things to note: The candidates were provided the questions in advance so they could consider the issues and perhaps research those they were less familiar with.

All five School Board candidates participated. They are: Teresa Rouse Maledy, Lucas (Luke) Neal, Aron Saylor, Katherine Sasser and Jeanne Snodgrass. Teresa Maledy had a schedule conflict so she shared her responses in writing, and a volunteer read these for her.

There are six candidates running for City Council, three in Ward 2, and three in Ward 6. Four candidates, two in each ward, participated while the other two did not. We offered all candidates the option of having a surrogate present their responses or to put their responses in writing to be presented by a volunteer, but two chose not to participate. We’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as to what this says about their climate concerns and positions. Or you can contact them to ask them their thoughts on these critical issues.

The Ward 2 candidates who participated are Bill Weitkemper and Andrea Waner. The Ward 2 candidate who did not participate is Jim Meyer. The Ward 6 candidates who participated are Betsy Peters and Philip Merriman. The Ward 6 candidate who did not participate is Randy Minchew.

We hope you’ll find this information helpful and encourage you to share it. We will also note that the deadline to register in time to vote on April 6 is Wednesday, March 10.

To access the Feb. 22 School Board forum please click HERE.

To access the Feb. 25 City Council forum please click HERE.

Joe Biden’s Rite of Passage?

 

So, Joe Biden has done what every new U.S. president has done for decades. Shortly after entering office, they have all ordered the U.S. military to drop bombs that take the lives of people thousands of miles from our shores; people who have done nothing to attack or threaten our country. This is supposed to show that they are tough. It’s a “don’t mess with me or else” sort of message. A way of showing they’re not “soft.”

Biden ordered the attack on a Shiite militia that he and the Pentagon allege was responsible for attacks on U.S. bases and facilities in Iraq, but this begs two questions:

First of all, is there any legitimate reason why the U.S. would have any troops or contractors based in Iraq, many thousands of miles from the USA? It seems the U.S. presence in Iraq is an artifact of the illegal, immoral and counter-productive U.S. war on that now beleaguered and divided country. There is no defensive reason for the U.S. to project military force into Iraq specifically or the Middle East in general. Their presence in Iraq or any other country in the region has no legitimate purpose.

Secondly, while the Biden administration claims this action was a measured, retaliatory response, this ignores the nature of cycles of violence. The U.S. perspective takes things back to the last action, one allegedly taken by this militia, but that ignores the actions of the U.S. This includes the 2020 U.S. assassination of Iranian military commander major general Qasem Soleimani.

Cycles of violence are incredibly destructive and have no winners. Given the stature of Soleimani, the Iranian response has been very measured. Can you even begin to imagine the U.S. response if Iran launched a missile that killed the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff while on a visit to France?

What’s most relevant right now is getting back on track with the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which Trump withdrew from, and ending the proxy war in Yemen. Unfortunately, Biden and the Iranians are playing a high-stakes game of Chicken, with each insisting the other go first; the U.S. saying Iran has to get back in compliance with the nuclear agreement (they were in compliance when the U.S. withdrew) before sanctions are lifted, and the Iranians insisting that the U.S. lift the sanctions, which violate the agreement, and then they will come back in compliance. In the interests of peace, it’s rather obvious that both sides should take these steps simultaneously.

Biden should be given credit for halting the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that would be used in Yemen, but this alone won’t end the war there; the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis. It’s high time a cease fire and comprehensive halt to arms shipments is initiated and a conference of all concerned parties is held. Pursuing such a path would be a wise step for our new president. Dropping bombs on Shiite militias is not.

A true sign of strength would be turning to peacemaking and away from lethal use of force. The U.S. can, and must, do better.



Peaceworks Needs Your Support.

 

It's been a tough year and, as it races to a close, Peaceworks is looking for your help. We need to raise $30K during our year-end drive and would very much welcome your support.

Our ability to keep doing our visible, impactful work for climate action, peace with justice and a sustainable future for all depends upon the generous support of approximately 400 caring individuals or households.

We don't have matches, premiums or other bells and whistles. We're simply a frugal, local, grassroots group that does a ton of education and advocacy on a shoestring budget. Trust that your donation will be spent wisely and will make a difference.

If you'd like to learn more about us, check out our fundraising letter at: CLICK HERE

There are several good ways to make a tax-deductible contribution:

  You can mail us a check addressed to Peaceworks at:  804 E. Broadway Ste. C, Columbia, Mo 65201.

  You can stop by the Peace Nook and donate in person.

  You can give securely at: CLICK HERE

  You can contribute via a Facebook fundraiser between now and Dec. 15 at: CLICK HERE.

  Between Dec.1-31 you can give via CoMoGives.com.

Many thanks to all who are already supporting our work and a special thanks to those who give now. You are most appreciated.