Aside from the occasional asteroid and volcanic outburst, human beings are responsible for the greatest messes on the planet. We’ve polluted the air and water, punched holes in the ozone, and pumped enough carbon into the atmosphere to overwhelm the global thermostat. Nor is this merely a modern attribute of homo sapiens. As Jared Diamond points out in his book Collapse, we’ve repeatedly taxed the limits of our environment, from the heart of the Mayan civilization to far-flung Easter Island. We’ve hunted countless species into extinction and exhausted the soil to feed burgeoning populations. And what we once did on a local basis, we are now applying on a global scale.
Five years ago the United States attacked and occupied Iraq. It has lost militarily, politically and morally. The end of the war may be in sight. But the consequences will endure, as will the deep-seated impulse among America’s leaders for global intervention without constraint.
Last week’s briefings for the press by U.S. civilian and military officials in Baghdad were uniformly upbeat, cautious, and predictable.
The peace movement is a very important part of American life. Much like the labor movement, the racial justice movement, and the women’s movement, the peace movement is comprised of an array of organizations and millions of supporters. It maintains a visible public presence through meetings, demonstrations, vigils, leaflets, letters to the editor, newspaper ads, art, music, lobbying, and occasional civil disobedience actions. In addition, it inspires the loyalty of prominent cultural figures, intellectuals, and politicians. And many of its key goals—for example, ending the war in Iraq, fostering international cooperation, and securing nuclear disarmament—have broad popular support.
Lost in the "surge" debate is the unfortunate reality that escalation in Iraq, just like the invasion itself, plays into al-Qaida’s ultimate strategy to eliminate America. As revealed in a 2005 strategy document, al-Qaida hopes to repeat Osama bin Laden’s victory over the Soviet empire in Afghanistan by eliminating the chief obstacle in the way of establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. The goal is not, as Bush administration and right-wing pundits proclaim, to conquer or directly destroy America. Osama bin Laden wants to provoke the United States into destroying itself.
There is broad agreement today that a market economy works well within a Western democratic system, but there is much less consensus over whether it can function effectively in an authoritarian state. The contemporary political economy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) provides an excellent case in point. The Lao experience since the Communist takeover in 1975 suggests real limits to a development model that combines single party rule with market economics.
In the 5th century BC, the Greek tragic playwright Euripides coined a phrase that still captures the particular toxic combination of hubris and illusion that seizes many of those in power: ÂWhom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.Â
With power comes responsibility. Once they take over both houses of Congress on January 3, the Democrats will have the responsibility to get American troops out of Iraq as soon as practicable.
Otto Dix, The Skat Players (1920) © 2006 Nationalgalerie. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz
In his April 2005 FPIF Discussion Paper “Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice (RTPV),” John Humphries describes how a group of clergy and lay people—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim—drafted a Call to Resist the War in Iraq, which committed signers thereof to become actively complicit in differing acts of civil disobedience designed to end the illegal U.S. occupation and warfare in Iraq. Humphries describes the RTPV c all as inspired by and modeled after the 1967 Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority, which led to the formation of an organization named RESIST that actively opposed the illegal U.S. war against the South Vietnamese. The model indeed fits, as both calls are grounded in basic ethical principles rather than purely utilitarian concerns: The wars and occupations must be resisted, not because they were and are too costly or might drag on too long but because they were and are morally loathsome.