Decades of War and Destruction

It is way past the time to sit back and take a deep breath and rethink this reflexive rush to military solutions to foreign policy conundrums. Now even the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, “has estimated that Iran will likely achieve nuclear weapons capability within two years.” What no one else is telling you, and I quote Zbigniew Brzezinski, is that, “the Israelis have been predicting since 1994 every year that Iran will have nuclear weapons the next year.”

No one is sure that Iran has nuclear weapons or even aspirations for them because we are too busy threatening them with airstrikes instead of sitting down and asking them. Déjà vu right?  We didn’t talk or more appropriately listen to the Iraqis tell us they didn’t have nukes, we just went in anyway. “There could be a mushroom cloud” was the mantra of the Bush II administration and it proved to be false. Yet, here we go again moving drones and aircraft carriers into an already volatile region. Only this time the target is next door to Iraq: it is Iran.

It isn’t enough that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans, both military and civilians, died in Iraq. It isn’t enough that tens of thousands of American military men and women are returning from combat with missing body parts and war trauma or what people like to temper down to “post traumatic stress syndrome.” It isn’t enough that families are broken and suicide rates in the Army are at an all time high. This country is determined to continue its endless tradition of being at war.

Destruction in Homs, SyriaDestruction in Homs, Syria (April, 2012)

If it’s not Congress calling for no fly zones and arming rebels in Syria, it’s buying into the continued bulling of Iran despite the consequences of possibly starting World War III. Although US calls for military intervention claim to be humanitarian, it is extremely hard to believe that the words are anything but deceptive.

Our “leaders” point to Libya and Yemen as some sort of semblance of success that continues to prompt the overthrow of Bashar Al Assad and in turn and overthrow of the government in Iran. Sure Libya is rid of its dictator, who by the way was treated anything but humane, and Yemen just got a freshly picked ruler from the old regime without holding anyone accountable for its atrocities during that “Arab Spring.”

The irony of all of this is that there are brutalities being carried out by governments all over the region. As it stands, however, the West is cherry picking who has the right to commit them and who does not. For example, it is ok for the Saudis and Bahrainis to quell the demands of demonstrators, but not ok for Syria. It is ok to drop bombs from drones on Yemeni separatists or stand by while militias commit war crimes in Libya, and torture centers continue in Iraq, but everyone else needs regime change.

While the US reprimands Russia (although at the time of this writing Russia has halted weapons sales to Syria the US continues to arm governments just as brutal as Syria and just as nuclear equipped as Iran;. It is no secret that India, Pakistan and Israel all have these weapons. Apparently though, even though the Taliban runs Pakistan and Israel is voted most likely to go to war, they can continue to have them.

It is not ok for the Syrian government to “just” use those Russian weapons on “terrorists,” but it is ok for Israel to use top shelf US drones on what they term are “just militants.” Everybody else is just collateral damage and as George W. would say “worth it.”

Our political leaders like to try to be convincing by using qualifiers to explain their actions. They are “them” not “us” or “evil” not “good.” Like people have given up the right to being human beings even though they may have had a hand in making them that way. Didn’t the US support Saddam Hussein for a time, Muammar Qaddafi? In the current ongoing saga, the Syrian President says his adversaries are foreign, which is exactly how the Israel’s refer to Palestinians. Further, all of these countries supplement qualifiers with a divide and conquer initiative going on in the name of religion.

The world governance authorities are not only shirking the responsibility to lead, they are taking advantage of those failing to see the hypocrisy of these irresponsible and reckless actions. Actions that lead to nothing more than continued conflict and war. It makes these rumors of Armageddon or the five minutes on the Doomsday clock all to real, especially since the parties are playing with weapons that can indeed destroy ... oh ... everyone.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel - and that’s just one region of the world - where does it end? What ever happened to world peace?

Guernica, by PicassoGuernica, by Picasso (1931), rails against the tragedies of war

Ok, so perhaps that won’t happen, but why this tendency to rush toward war?

Yes, diplomacy takes time. It takes patience, critical thinking, and intellectual thought. It takes dedication to resolving or managing a situation to produce a more positive outcome. If the US Army can invest in long-term relationship building, why can’t the State Department? Are our soldiers the only ones dedicated to preventing more war?

It is time for change. Time for a new and more equitable system that does not continue to take advantage of, but be more responsible for, those who depend on people in power.

It is time to stop investing in endless amounts of weapons and begin thinking about people and beyond war. Before it is too late. Before decades go by with nothing positive to show for it. Certainly not a more educated and prosperous healthy civil society around the world. Just a wake of death and destruction.

Patricia (Tricia) DeGennaro is an adjunct professor at New York University’s Department of Politics where she teaches courses on international security, U.S. foreign policy, and civilian and military relations. In addition to her work as a professor, she is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and a professional service provider and a subject matter expert on Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Arab Guff States, Pakistan, and Iran for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.