Diplomacy advocate lectures congregation

September 26, 2013

The Island Now
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Bill San Antonio

As the executive director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots disarmament organization, Kevin Martin said Tuesday he has seen firsthand the militarization of the United States’ foreign policy in the last decade.

But in his lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation entitled “Endless War on Peace,” Martin said he was confident that America’s recent history of military strikes and occupations of nations seen as a threat to national security would evolve into a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy – particularly because of the recent diplomatic efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and the start of talks with Iran.

“At a certain point, we’re just not going to buy that anymore,” Martin said. “We’re just not going to buy that there’s a terrorist at every corner of the globe.”

Martin began the lecture, which was sponsored by the Shelter Rock Forum, the Great Neck SANE/Peace Action and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, by calling out the names of 11 nations — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – whose combined military budgets equals what the United States spends on its own military each year.

But for all its spending, Martin said the United States is ranked No. 99 on the Global Peace Index, tied with Papua New Guinea despite being known as the world’s last superpower.

“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep marauding around the world and trying to kill more terrorists than we create, because we will fail,” Martin said.

Martin said the U.S. spends approximately $600 billion each year on its military and $1 trillion on national security, and in the next 10 years will implement a $200 million arms refurbishment program.

“How do we have any credibility going to Iran or anyone else, saying they shouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, when we not only intend to keep ours, we intend to modernize them?” Martin said.

Martin also cited a University of Massachusetts study that said military spending is the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, adding that the money America puts toward military spending could better serve the job market if it were used on education.

“Military spending does not help our economy in any way other than keep people employed,” Martin said. “If you can separate the nonsense about the economic benefits of military spending from the real security issues we have in this country, we can win that argument.”

Martin said the mainstream media has more recently played a role in more diplomatic measures in America’s foreign policy.

With Syria, Martin said the mainstream media took greater interest in covering the different angles toward President Obama’s recent request to Congress for a military strike on Syria after those who have been known to be pro-war were coming out against the strike.

Within a day or two, Martin said the media began covering what he called “better alternatives” to avoid the strike, such as sending supplies and weapons to those who are fighting off the Syrian army and rebel fighters who may have ties to terrorist organizations.

“That’s when I knew Obama was sunk, because he could try to scare us or try some fandango, but once better alternatives were out there, he lost control of the conversation,” Martin said.

Martin added that there could be a “spillover effect” from the diplomatic solution toward America’s approach to Syria that could impact future negotiations with Iran over the destabilization of its nuclear program.

“Now diplomacy seems like this limb we’ve learned to use again,” Martin said.

Martin said he does not think major arms manufacturers will continue to have a strong influence in lobbying the federal government into increased military spending, if better alternatives continue to present themselves in America’s foreign policy and people continue pushing for peace.

“If peace actually breaks out, you just can’t justify using such a huge percentage of our tax dollars on tanks and missiles and that $200 million over the next 10 years to refurbish our weapons,” Martin said. “You just can’t justify that anymore.”

If the United States opted for diplomacy more frequently, Martin said the short-term effect would be that other countries would fear and hate the United States less, though its history of invasions and military attacks would likely mean it would take longer for the world to “love us more.”

But the process of healing America’s reputation around the world starts with money coming out of the “war machine” and being put toward more “life-affirming functions,” and for people to “stand up for the values this country says its for” and be more vocal about a peaceful and diplomatic foreign policy, Martin said.

“We have hope, we have real solutions, we have better alternatives, we have better policies,” Martin said. “They have a lot of money and guns and weapons, but really all they have is fear.”


Field Director Judith Le Blanc’s Letter on Pentagon Spending in the Washington Post

May 3, 2013

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pentagon-cuts-can-work-to-our-advantage/2013/05/02/3b75f022-b11a-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Letter to the editor

Pentagon cuts can work to our advantage

It’s neither a quandary nor a conundrum. It is an addiction.

The post-9/11 increase in defense contracting created an economy dependent on the Pentagon budget. Congress created the addiction. Now it’s time for it to wean the Pentagon by using the money cut from the defense budget to fund a transition to production for civilian use. It’s not a new idea. This has been done in the past.

We need the political will from liberals and conservatives alike to reduce the waste in the Pentagon budget in order to fund jobs in sectors that contribute to the economy for the long term.

The real conundrum: Will Congress move the money from weapons we no longer need to manufacturing that produces what we do need? Our military contractors, our communities and the federal budget need this transition from an addiction to military contracts to manufacturing to meet human needs.

Judith Le Blanc, New York

The writer is field director for Peace Action.


“Blowback” in Boston, Fort Hood, Iraq, Afghanistan…and Syria?

April 30, 2013

by Eric Swanson

The term “blowback,” the consequences of a covert or military operation that has repercussions for the aggressor or the result of supplying weapons to a conflict only to see those same weapons turned on the supplier, has been used for decades by national security elites. It has been used long enough that the previous definition of “unknown and unintended consequences” has become obsolete. The consequences are well known and openly discussed in national security circles.

In analyzing the tragedy in Boston, the concept of blowback is made clear in a Washington Post article by Scott Wilson, Greg Miller and Sari Horowitz (April 23 “Boston bombing suspects cite US Wars as motivation, officials say.”)  The surviving suspect told interrogators the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated his actions.  The US engages in war internationally, and local tragedy results.

When one looks at how the US national security apparatus has discussed previous instances of blowback and how it appears they will analyze this horrific event in Boston, they treat blowback as a law of nature, an inevitable consequence of immutable causes; as inexorable as an earthquake, as inescapable as an avalanche. Blowback is something that can be interdicted with good intelligence and vigilant law enforcement. It can be diverted with deft diplomacy. It can be muted some with the appearance of solid multinational alliances. But, in the collective understanding of the US foreign and military officials, blowback can never be prevented, and in fact may just factored in as an externalized cost of US war-making. So, in this case, it’s the innocent civilians in the Boston area who paid the cost.

We have seen blowback in the 2004 killing of US contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, the shooting deaths of 13 people and the wounding of 30 more at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, and the proliferation of drone technology with drones now seen in the hands of non-state actors in just the last few days. At this point there is nothing unpredictable about it. Violence committed and weapons technology sold will pay in kind.

Blowback isn’t a law of nature. It is the predictable result of specific policy decisions. It is mutable. Drones flying overhead and raining death on a civilian population creates, understandably, anti-US sentiment. Wholesale aggressive destruction of entire villages, cities, and regions creates fear, anger, and yes, terror. And that creates individuals and populations ready to send that terror back.

These are equations that can be changed. Moving away from a militarized foreign policy moves us away from blowback. Moving away from selling arms to parties in conflict zones moves us away from blowback. Moving away from accepting our current policies as good business and expecting blowback as the cost of doing that business moves us away from that day when tragedy becomes the norm.

In just the last two days we are seeing the next possible incarnation of blowback as the US ramps up hawk-ish talk about the conflict in Syria. Whether the US floods weapons into the country or directly intervenes with military force there will be consequences. Under those conditions there will be blowback. But, as it is predictable, it is also preventable with a sane foreign policy that isn’t based on militarism and short-term profit but on restraint, humility, diplomacy and international cooperation.

 

Eric Swanson has served as Peace Action’s Database Manager since 1998. He served in the US Army from 1987-1990. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with over 200,000 members, donors and online supporters. http://www.peace-action.org/

 


America – An Intervention

December 17, 2012

Hi America. Come on in. Have a seat. Get comfy. Well, we’ll just come right out and say it, since we really care about you. You have an addiction. To violence.

I know you’re hurting, but today IS the day to talk about this, and not just about gun control, but that’s where we need to start. Twenty kids massacred at school. Jesus. You can’t go on like this.

You have almost as many guns as you do people. How is that a good idea? Why does no other country think that’s a good idea? How is this making your people safer?

How come it’s easier to get guns than mental health care? Oh right, you don’t have universal health care like other grown-up countries. You could fix that, easily. Take that money you squander on your endless, pointless wars (really, enough of that already!) and give everybody health care, okay? No need for you to keep spending as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.

What was that you said? Second Amendment? You can read, right? What does a well-regulated militia have to do with anything? Really, stop being evasive. Folks can keep all their guns. Just stop making or buying bullets. It ain’t rocket science. Oh yeah, stop with the rocket science too. No more drones and missiles and “missile defense” and space weapons and all that kinda stuff.

Stop yammering about the NRA. Declare them to be what they are – a terrorist organization. Come on, sit up straight now, stiffen your spine. You can do this!

Let’s get to the bottom of something – what’s with all the fear? You have riches most other countries would only dream of – your natural resources, you bounty, and especially the ingenuity of your people. Yet you seem obsessed with fear at every level of society, from the personal to the neighborhood to the national and international levels. Why do people of different races or sexual orientation scare you so much? There’s no such thing as absolute security, for people or for countries. So ease up on all the fear-mongering already. Garrisoning neighborhoods or the country is no way to live.

Okay a lot more we could discuss that’s a lot at one sitting. Now say the following:

“Hi I’m America. I’m addicted to violence.”

Hi, America.


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