I believe that our future safety and political freedoms will largely depend upon Americans recognizing, hopefully sooner rather than later, that our traditional approaches to national defense usually don't work very well. They alone cannot keep us safe from terrorism or global thermonuclear war. Furthermore, I am convinced that adversarial strategies may actually provoke attacks on our country and our planet. Sadly, the actual effect of pursuing these aggressive counter-terrorism strategies is to increase the likelihood that our worst nightmares will become realities.
The next big terrorist attack on the United States will determine the direction of our political future. As 9/11 demonstrated, Americans will support leaders who offer them reassuring security plans without demanding to know if they really are effective, reliable, cost-effective, or violate our democratic traditions.
To my mind, rubber-stamping endless homeland defense expenditures primarily insures only an illusion of security, since our “homeland” is very difficult to defend from all possible attacks. Likewise, sending our young adults off to fight un-winnable pre-emptive wars is morally unconscionable and fiscally reckless. Creating unwieldy spy bureaucracies oftentimes undermines the very freedoms such actions are meant to save. Focusing media attention on the weaknesses of our perceived enemies, and rattling our sabers self-righteously in their direction, only heightens dangerous tensions. None of these strategies will keep us safe in the long run, and none can truly solve the problems of the 21st century.
What we need to acknowledge is that there is no sure-fire way to provide safety for any single nation, or group of nations, no way to guarantee peace for only U.S. citizens and their allies. There are no constructive pathways to safety if protection is withheld from some–or any–group or nation on this unpredictable globe.
So what's the answer? Only a universally inclusive path of international cooperation and non-violence can offer any long-term safety to one and all. Before the next terrorist attack, we must embrace the ancient wisdom inherent in all religions–that violence engenders only more violence, that war creates new problems without solving old ones, and that hatred begets more hate.
People everywhere want to live their lives in liberty, and to pursue their individual and collective dreams uninterrupted by violence. The only path to the very peace we all want is a path we must all walk together; the path to peace is the path of peace. There is no way to peace; peace is the way. If we want peace and safety, we must teach it, live it, and offer it to all, just as if we lived in a world where everyone is thought of as “next-door-neighbors.”
The night before his death, Martin Luther King Jr., said, “The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence. It's non-violence–or nonexistence.” The world can learn peaceful ways without facing the devastation of terrorist attacks or nuclear annihilation. We can open our minds and hearts now to the practical promise of non-violence, before greater tragedies befall our world. Non-violence has come of age; it is an idea whose time has finally come.
Which path to safety will we choose during our next elections? Will we choose a police state or a peace state? Will we choose a violent, power-based path, or the path of non-violence–Jesus' path, Gandhi's path, Martin Luther King Jr.'s path–the gentle path of all those around the world who are now peacefully resisting tyrants? Either way we will be vulnerable, and will suffer some injustice; however, we need never add to the sum of injustice.
In the past, we elected many representatives based on the old politics of fear and aggression. During our next election, we hopefully can turn away from demagogues who pander to our worst fears, turning instead to leaders who show us peaceful pathways to greater global safety.
Nothing matters more than that our new leaders embrace the universal, timeless, and essential spiritual values of faith, hope, and love….
Here are a few practical suggestions for applying the principles of non-violence in our response to terrorism. We can build new peace initiatives within our Defense Department. We can develop a volunteer force of unarmed citizens to monitor violent conflicts at home and abroad. We can establish a U.S. Peace Academy, equivalent in honor, distinction, and service to our proud military academies. We can found a cabinet-level Department of Peace, to influence policy, conflict resolution, and decision-making at the highest international levels, as well as in our home towns. We can apply cutting-edge peace research to the transformation of our combative diplomatic, justice, welfare, and education systems.
Why do these things? Because I believe that:
Only faithful leaders trust in God's redemptive love for every one of earth's children, and in international dialogue and peaceful cooperative efforts, disavowing the politics of exclusion, polarization, and dehumanization;
Only hopeful leaders join with like-minded light-bearers of other nations, stand with them, work with them, and lift all nations and peoples up, leaving no one behind, and;
Only loving leaders forgive, and let go of the past–and past blame–accepting, supporting, and respecting human life everywhere, instead.
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