Is War Necessary to Create Peace?

December 18th, 2009

The following is an except from the speech by President Barak Obama when he received the Nobel Prize for Peace:

“So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions. A gradual evolution of human institutions.

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps beAs I have read and re-read this speech, I found my reaction went from anger to despair to resolution.For those of you who haven’t either read or heard the entirety of this speech, I encourage you to do so by checking out the links for it on our website.

It seemed offensive to me for President Obama to reference Martin Luther King, Jr and Mohatmas Ghandi and then say they are wrong minded because its not possible to use non-violence to change the actions of a despot or groups acting with disdain for other’s human rights. He said that the only way for countries to defend themselves was with the use of force. He did give an eloquent rationalization for this point of view.

Its felt that the President has taken a pill since he was candidate Obama and his perspectives about war and peace had been altered. There has been a large cry of outrage from many who backed his run for President who now feel betrayed.

That may be true, and I believe that the President missed a golden opportunity to expose and begin a dialogue to truthfully bring about an end to war and an emergence of a sustainable peace not only between nations but within nations.

On the December 18th Business Matters program, we talk about the role of capitalism in reducing war between nations. Its not good business to fight each other. OK, but let’s take that all the way.

We have a huge war machine in the US. For example, in the fiscal 2010 US Government budget, $1 Trillion is allocated to either defense or national security spending. That accounts for ½ of all the money spent in the world these areas. Imagine – all the countries in the world combined, including Russia, China and India combined spend what we alone spend

This enormous machine has links into over 100,00 businesses of the US alone. These businesses that involved in war are naturally going to fight to keep the existing system alive. For many of them it feels like a battle for survival.

So without a transitionary plan to redirect the work of these businesses and others like them in other parts of the world to peace oriented production, wars will be waged in some manner or form.

If we continue to spend at this level, there will not be adequate resources for the fundamentals of peace like food security, education and the environment. Its time for national governments to start having the hard conversations about redirection of resources. After WWII, there was an unpredicted restructuring of the war machine to peaceful applications. The time is now for such a commitment.

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