We live in remarkably violent times, and it hasn’t always been like this. It ranges from a heightened lack of civility in political processes from local to state and national governmental bodies, to angry insistence on hoarding assault weapons by millions of Americans who honestly believe they need them in the plausible event some day of a civilian war against their own government, to plots great and small by social “losers” to gun down innocents in classrooms or at public events, to Friday Night Lights and Sunday football, where fans even in the nation’s capital angrily insist on perpetuating an egregiously racist team nickname and 400 pound men with lightning quickness smash into each other with slim chances of avoiding permanent brain damage over time, to car and IED bombings that kill 40 or more at a time being detonated almost daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, to stealth assassination teams and deadly unmanned drones carrying out a perpetual invisible war on those American brass consider enemies, to cyber assaults that, in the case of just revealed Chinese hacking efforts, have canceled out hundreds of billions worth of American hoped-for advantages in military capabilities, to rogue despots in remote places rattling their nuclear-tipped missiles, to the ever-present risk of poisoned gas and bio-warfare, and on and on.
Even Mother Nature is getting more and more violent. Monster tornadoes ravaging entire cities in Oklahoma, or super-storms wiping out the coastal economy of an entire state, uncontrollable fires, gaping sink holes, earthquakes, tsunamis, who knows who or where such things will strike next?
Now in the midst of all this, the winds of a much bigger war are gaining momentum around the situation in Syria, which has all the ingredients for, if a lot of people don’t take a lot of care to avoid it, a flash point, an Archduke Ferdinand moment that could trigger a rapid series of attacks and counterattacks that could bring the world to the brink of all-out nuclear war. The trip wires are all in place. Who’s going to stumble to set this whole sequence of events into motion?
If the global mood were more copacetic, then the likelihood of such a cascading descent to hell would be remote. But think of how things have changed since 2000, since the George W. Bush administration’s reaction to the 911 attacks was to begin indiscriminately and unilaterally foisting American military force everywhere, and turning most of the rest of the world into an anti-American posture.
President Obama has taken steps to pull back this American hydra-headed pit bull aggression, but not at the pace needed to significantly lower the threshold for a potential trip-wire. The Pentagon has continued its killings without apology, and populations that America’s perceived adversaries represent remain hostile and dedicated to our nation’s downfall.
What’s needed to dial everything back is a much louder voice on behalf of the goals of peace and justice emanating out of the U.S. The President can lead this by launching a peace offensive with America’s economic might just as America did, in more generous times, to rebuild Europe and Japan after World War II.
This can’t be done in the mixed-messages manner those who are trying to help in Afghanistan suggest. It has to be done through massive and visionary water diversion and agricultural development projects that span entire regions of the Middle East and Africa, in particular. Such large-scale initiatives spur a form of cooperation that undermines the arguments of those who insist on pushing for conflict.
This approach would also help the U.S. and European economies to recover, and create a pretext for an improvement of relations among all the major powers.
Ironically, the example for the U.S. of a great advocate for peace was a Republican president – Gen. Eisenhower – who shut down the Korean conflict on almost day one of his presidency and refused to use U.S. military might in any way during his eight years. Given the role he played in World War II, he know first hand the horror of war, and wanted no part of it.
Primarily, grace above anger in every American household is how a new peace offensive can get started.