After 9/11, Is Peace A Dirty Word in Washington?
By Jim Cason on 09/06/2011 @ 10:30 AM
This week, the Washington Post suggested that in the ten years after 9/11, peace has become a dirty word in Washington. The word peace, the newspaper reported, "has faded from any debate in Washington surrounding the wars," As I pointed out on twitter and Joe Volk blogged, the paper then astonishingly quotes the president of the US Institute of Peace suggesting that the word "Peace" should be removed from their name.
Dick Solomon is responding to a real problem. As the FCNL community knows, earlier this year the House zeroed out funding for USIP. If we all keep on lobbying a good bit of the money for USIP could be restored. What is more troubling is the idea, also expressed in this article, that the word peace is too abstract and academic.
Words matter. I'm an advocate here at FCNL of starting with words that open up space for conversation rather than words that close off the possibility of conversation. So if the word peace closes off conversation then we need to listen carefully to that information. That could help us define a problem we face. I am not convinced that the word peace is a problem. Most members of Congress would, I think, be advocates of peace. The problem is that there is a strong lobby here in Washington and around the country that is carrying the message that a powerful military force is the only way to preserve peace.
This is a good discussion for us to have right now. Ten years ago, the U.S. responded to those terrible attacks on 9/11 with a massive global war on terror. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we were told, would make the world a safer place. At the same time, we were warned, the country needed to prepare for a permanent war or a war without end. Congress approved a sweeping Authorization for the Use of Military Force that is still today used to justify military action, the mistreatment of prisoners, and much more.
The question we might want to ask is "after ten years, after tens of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars of expenditures, has the permanent war worked?" Is the world safer? I don't think so. I'm impressed by what Ahmed Rashid and Reza Aslan are saying. I would encourage you to ask that question to others within your community. I would challenge all of us to ask that question of someone who might not agree with you. If your conversation leads to agreement that these wars have not made the US a safer place, then I hope you will encourage others to support Barbara Lee's new bill that would repeal the authorization of the use of military force.
If individuals doubt that peace is possible or that nonviolence can produce change, then let's examine both the history of nonviolence and the tremendous movements we have seen in the Arab Spring recently. Your FCNL staff should be a resource for these discussions. Look at our website, subscribe to the emails and send us your questions, your doubts, or your ideas about what types of additional information would be useful in these conversations.
For specifics, I'd encourage you to look at the great literature our colleague Bridget Moix has put out about what Congress can do to prevent deadly conflict. There are several military officers beginning to argue that spending more money on the Pentagon doesn't article by Retired Brigadier General John Adams make sense
Mostly, on this tenth anniversary of 9/11, I'd encourage you to bring others in your community the good news that peace is possible.