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Lefties in the Army, A Peacemaker in the White House?It’s the last thing you’d expect from this administration. But here it is in full public view: Pentagon spokesmen announcing Directive 3000.05 from the Department of Defense. Henceforth, the making of peace, it seems, holds equal footing with the making of war. It is now official policy that “stability operations are a core U.S. military mission” that “shall be given priority equal to combat operations…..”
“Stability operations”? In DoD’s words, they are “military and civilian activities conducted across the spectrum from peace to conflict to establish or maintain order….” Their immediate goal, says DoD, “often is to provide the local population with security, restore essential services, and meet humanitarian needs. The long-term goal is to help develop indigenous capacity for securing essential services, a viable market economy, rule of law, democratic institutions, and a robust civil society.”
It gets even more interesting. On December 7, President Bush gave his Secretary of State a peace mandate. Condoleezza Rice now has a new role: developing strategies for stabilization and reconstruction in conflicted countries. This will include leading interagency planning “to prevent or mitigate conflict”, and developing “detailed contingency plans for integrated U.S. reconstruction and stabilization” in conflicted areas. It will also include leading “development of a strong civilian response capability” in hot spots.
What, lefties in the Army? A peacemaker in the White House? We witness here learnings from the school of hard reality, the results of deadly encounter with the limits of force as a tool for security. For well over a year, American military on the ground in Iraq have been reporting that success there requires more than destroying insurgents. “As long as there’s no water, or clinics, or jobs, we’ve got no chance of winning this war,” in the words of an Army officer fresh out of Afghanistan and Iraq. These painful lessons are finally filtering up to the level of policy.
Might hard reality help Americans to re-examine how to do national defense? We have long assumed that destroying the bad guys equals security. When I write about why the invasion of Iraq makes the world more dangerous for us I get a common response: “Face up to the reality that there is evil in the world! Someone has to destroy the bad guys!” The reasoning is simple: 1) There is evil in the world; 2) Good cannot succeed in the presence of evil; 3) Therefore to be safe and do good we must destroy evil.
Yes, there is evil in the world. Yes, evil endangers good. But we destroy evil by destroying those who do evil? Not so fast. That may have been true in a time when wars were fought on battlefields, when enemies could be slaughtered and left behind in far away places. But those days are gone. Today enemies blend into civilian populaces. Ease of movement and cheap access to compact, powerful weapons mean that hatred against us planted anywhere on earth may well follow us home.
To defeat the evil we face today we need to understand how it spreads. Those who commit evil acts against us are the extreme wing of a group of ordinary and decent people. The car bombers of Iraq are a small minority who have chosen barbaric means to accomplish something that patriots in every country want: the removal of heavily armed foreigners, who bring cultural and religious values different from those of many Iraqis, and whose real purpose for the invasion is, they believe, for the foreigners’ benefit.
Here’s the rub: The doers of evil in Iraq are embedded in a larger society. And, many share their concerns even while rejecting their means. Thus every move on our part to destroy evil people gravely injures good people and stirs hatred against us. Simplistic strategies of destroying evildoers plant seeds of more evil. The more actively we campaign to destroy, the faster evil grows.
The alternative? Don’t fight fire with fire. Fight fire with water. Don’t destroy evil with evil, but overcome it with good. America’s security today will not be increased by increased capability to destroy evil. When ordinary people all over the world know that America makes their lives better, in terms of clean water, health, education, jobs, and a say in their own future, the appeal of terrorists will be limited. We can never make ourselves invulnerable to those who hate us, but with sensible defensive measures we can limit the damage they cause. And if we are creative, determined and generous, we can make it difficult for their hatred to spread to others. The good will of our global neighbors will bring us more security in the long run than all the guns and bombs we could ever hope to accumulate.
There is reason for skepticism about the directives of Bush and the DoD. But for now we might applaud two moves in the right direction – and encourage many more like them.
By Ron Kraybill
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