Monday, June 30, 2014

Two Presidents and the Quest of a Warless World

by Craig Hovey

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but today I’m thinking about two presidents: the president of the United States and a past president of Ashland University. Bear with me.

President Obama won’t have the United States fund just any old Syrian rebels with $500 million. We’ll only fund ones who have been “Appropriately Vetted.” I wonder what this vetting process involves given the administration’s stated goal of protecting Syrians against both the regime and extremists. We’ve also learned about the president’s announcement, in a speech at West Point, of plans to create a $5 billion counterterrorism fund to be used in the Middle East—$4 billion of which will go to the Pentagon. Meanwhile, the National Security Council maintains that “there is no military solution to this crisis [in Syria].” And of course 300 American military advisors are right now on their way to Baghdad. 

I’m struck by how readily military means are edged up to problems that admittedly have no military solution. If we zoom out, I think it’s clear that there was no military solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein over a decade ago, or at least it’s clear that Iraq’s current problems are partly the result of how a military “solution” failed to bring peace. War and peace are strategic issues and we discuss how effectively or ineffectively peace may be achieved through violence. 

Now, because Ashland University gets a new president this week, I’m also thinking about what a past president, J. Allen Miller (1866-1935; Ashland College president 1899-1906), thought about war. He wasn’t interested in the strategic questions, but in moral, spiritual questions and matters of conscience. Here’s a quote from a sermon he preached called “The Quest of a Warless World”:

“WE ARE CONSCIENTIOUS NON-RESISTANTS. This is the Historic position of the Church. We insist that MORAL and SPIRITUAL issues can not be arbitrated by FORCE. War is basically a moral issue. An appeal to ARMS is an appeal to brute force. Force can never make a wrong and an injustice, right and just, whether as between man and man or Nation and Nation. We refuse to be partners to the settlement of a moral issue on the basis that might makes right.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to avoid the same old mistakes in Iraq

As events in Iraq continue to intensify, the United States government is trying to determine the best way to respond in light of all of the lives and money that have already been sacrificed in trying to create a democratic government in that country.  In the U.S. News and World Report article shared here, Michael Shank and Yemi Melka of the Friends Committee on National Legislation address reasons why the U.S. should not use military force in this conflict.

Forget military strikes. The U.S. should address sectarian tension by promoting regional cooperation.
By Michael Shank and Yemi Melka
Published June 18, 2014

As fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL or ISIS, and bands of insurgent groups seize new cities and head south toward Baghdad, Iraq’s escalating humanitarian and security crisis necessitates a radical rethink in how the West handles this threat. If America wants to help the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families impacted by this violence, it must be willing and ready countenance a completely different foreign policy path forward.
Washington’s current proposal for a military strike will only increase the volatility of the situation and imperil the population on the ground even more. In the nearly 10 years of the most recent American warfare in Iraq, the strong military arm of the Defense Department failed to guarantee stability and security in the country. More of the same approach, then, will similarly fall short.
What must be considered, instead, is first an understanding of how the West failed Iraq and, secondly, how it can help remedy these failures. To be clear, this current uprising resulted, in part, from devastating sanctions followed by years of bombing and the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Whether it was the overlooked importance of political reconciliation, the lack of sustainability and accountability in Iraq’s security force training or missteps in recruiting regional cooperation, Iraq will continue to witness instability unless these points are addressed promptly.  Read more here...

Michael Shank    Michael Shank, Ph.D., is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee
                        on National Legislation.

Yemi Melka Yemi Melka is a legislative intern with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.