Monday, December 22, 2014
Peace on earth, goodwill to men sorely needed this Christmas season but so hard to achieve
Peace on earth, goodwill toward men, one of the messages of Christmas, is sorely needed in our troubled world. This year has been less about major wars, but more about individuals gone berserk and sudden rise of terrorist jihadists acting in regions or as lone wolves anywhere. Modern media has been both the messenger and the tool of the perpetrators that give acts of violence world-wide impact. We have yet to find a consensus for the best response.
In the United States there are two schools of thought. One is always to meet violence with violence and the other is to search for peace. President Obama seems determined to leave office with a more peaceful world by resolving some nagging conflicts and addressing recent explosions of violence both at home and abroad, but he faces some tough challenges.
Since he cannot run for re-election, he at least is freed from the consequences of a political backlash if he takes controversial measures. Using his executive powers, he is burying the hatchet with hostile regimes and bringing together those who feel they have been treated unfairly.
Beginning with dialogues with Iran and historic reverse of a fifty year policy toward Cuba, Obama has taken steps to bring Peace on Earth. Obama had already stopped torture of prisoners immediately when he took office and he is consistent in condemning past torture practices brought to light by a Senate report.
Our country is plagued by riots and police assassinations from Ferguson to the boroughs of New York, heated by racial tensions and angry speech from by both sides of the racial divide. The violence is an accumulative effect of high profile incidents of apparent racial profiling by police ending in death of Black men and youth. Obama is threading the needle between empathy with minority communities and finding ways to bring communities and policing together. It is a delicate balance, but it is a uniquely credible opportunity given he is the first Black president.
The case for peace is as much a matter of pragmatism as it is a moral imperative. Violence begets more violence. One kind of violent action becomes a template used by others who are, or who are not, fighting political causes. Some fueled by personal revenge, hate, or mental health issues copy the latest violent techniques so they, too, can go down in a blaze of publicity.
Abroad, we have learned that using military force works only in the short term. Our ultimate goal should be to win over hearts and minds so that jihadists lose fertile ground in which to plant their flags. Otherwise we will be involved in a never ending or reoccurring warfare. Sadly, Iraqi villagers seem willing to exchange ending strife for ISIS order no matter how cruel and oppressive. Oppression eventually breeds revolt and a search for a better way. The very difficult challenge for Obama is to craft policies that appeal to the better angels in the long term while helping Iraq halt ISIS’ military advance and doing it without our full military engagement.