Show Us Some Peace Instead


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“We’ve convinced ourselves that a strong military—one with massive bases all around the world in other peoples’ nations—will protect us from threats, despite the fact we’ve always had a strong military and regularly been threatened. But, where has this left us?

“Agree or disagree—like it or not—there are people and parts of the world with the belief that the sins of Osama bin Laden pale in comparison to the sins of the US. We saw the mixed reactions to bin Laden’s killing in the Middle East, China, Central Asia, and elsewhere. Some regard him now as a holy martyr—he would have been just another criminal in jail if he had been captured instead of slaughtered. A continual return to the cycle of violence by us has only exacerbated this perception. Reaching out, however, can mitigate it. Even when Gen. Petraeus continued to ask for more non-combative operations, highlighting that they were more effective and cost less costly….”

Author: Wim Laven, adjunct professor of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon
Published in: MyWebTimes out of Ottawa, Canada (at http://mywebtimes.com/
Date: May 10, 2011

For the full article:
Show Us Some Peace Instead
(581 words)
by Wim Laven

“Show us footage of the raid!” “We want to see the body!” These comments are in the news, presumably, because we think it’s important. Important because we are skeptical—we don’t trust our government. If we don’t trust our government, how can we expect those afraid of us to? We don’t build trust through violence; we build trust by making and sticking to our agreements—something we could do by reaching out.

Let the dust settle. Let Osama bin Laden’s death mark the end of the Global War on Terror. Listening to the mainstream media’s account of it all, however, you’d never know. For all of the fears that have been propagated in recent days, the public has been left to wonder—how afraid should we be? But why aren’t we talking about putting an end to the cycle of violence?

To paraphrase Herman Goering: The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders by challenging their patriotism. America’s bumper sticker philosophy, “These Colors Don’t Run,” seems to capture the sentiment clearly. We’ve convinced ourselves that a strong military—one with massive bases all around the world in other peoples’ nations—will protect us from threats, despite the fact we’ve always had a strong military and regularly been threatened. But, where has this left us?

Agree or disagree—like it or not—there are people and parts of the world with the belief that the sins of Osama bin Laden pale in comparison to the sins of the US. We saw the mixed reactions to bin Laden’s killing in the Middle East, China, Central Asia, and elsewhere. Some regard him now as a holy martyr—he would have been just another criminal in jail if he had been captured instead of slaughtered. A continual return to the cycle of violence by us has only exacerbated this perception. Reaching out, however, can mitigate it. Even when Gen. Petraeus continued to ask for more non-combative operations, highlighting that they were more effective and cost less costly—both in dollars and human life, we never heard about it. The conversation about building peace isn’t made public. Our commitments to ideologies actually get in the way of making us safer; peace doesn’t make good politics, economics, nor media copy, apparently. Security is still our goal isn’t it? Do we get more of it by killing more people, or is that only fanning the peat bog smoldering fires of resentment?

Osama bin Laden was wrong; he lead to the useless and unnecessary suffering of millions; he used terror as an instrument of war, and he targeted innocent people—the world is better off without such people. So, for as clear as this is—that violence is not the answer—why aren’t we putting an end to it? Is it because people don’t believe it will work, or because we don’t know how? If it’s the former, then all we need is an education—history is full of successful nonviolent struggles. If it’s the latter, why not start by trying the approaches already proven to work?

The voice for peace has always existed, and it has always told us: violence isn’t the answer. Our generals remind us that the best way to support our troops—to bring them home alive—is with non-combat operations. Everyone needs to heal, and we need allies more than enemies. But, the voice gets lost and drowned out when we don’t listen for it.

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Wim Laven is an adjunct professor of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.