Monday, March 01, 2010

Europe to Gates (and Obama): Peace is the way

A.J. Muste’s familiar saying, “There’s no way to peace; peace is the way,” is being questioned by none other than America’s very own Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Last week he publicly bemoaned what he described as Europe’s “demilitarization,” saying that the coolness for fighting was jeopardizing the war in Afghanistan.

Jeopardizing war? That sounds like what Muste had in mind. The way to peace is — peace.

A New York Times story on Feb. 23 noted that polls in Europe show that the Afghanistan war “has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European country.”

As Gates noted, NATO members just aren’t putting enough money into guns. The story had Gates complaining that “only five of 28 countries have reached the defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product. Here in the USA — where we still have underfunded schools, miserable health care and a crumbling infrastructure — we spend more than twice that percentage on fighting or preparing to fight.

Indeed we spend more on “defense” than all the other nations on the planet combined.

One nice thing about small democratic countries is that what the people want they get — health care, education etc. Here, we leave it to corporations and the defense industry to call the shots. Vis. the recent Supreme Court decision on corporate political contributions.

So Europe, a cluster of relatively small nations, which feel the impact of Islam’s presence far more than we do, is turning thumbs down on Mr. Gates’ (and President Obama’s) war.

The counter to Gates (and Obama), of course, is Muste (and Gandhi and King and Jesus).

If you want peace, don’t fight wars.

With regard to Afghanistan, there’s a long conversation that Mr. Gate should have with the Russians and the British of the 20th Century. The problem is this: that was then and this is now.

History is not on Mr. Gates’ side. Nor, it would seem, is Europe.

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