This Is A Very Bad Idea

The representational form of democracy known as a republic differs from direct democracy in that it interposes an additional layer of accountability between the people and the decisions rendered by the society. This additional layer is designed as a check on the passions of the "mob," which, when inflamed, can precipitate actions that would undermine the long-term stability and credibility of the society In the larger world community.  It seems, however, to have failed us at the present time.

Just last month, President Obama quite publicly rejected as "fantasy" the notion that the US should arm the factions fighting President Assad of Syria as a means of bringing about a positive resolution to that crisis. Since that time, however, the public has become increasingly agitated over the beheadings of two American reporters by the Islamic State, which operates both in Syria and Iraq at the present. The resulting public pressure, whipped up by the media, and further exacerbated by anxious Democratic politicians standing for reelection in just two months, seems to have browbeaten the president into doing exactly the opposite of what he said was ridiculous just weeks ago.

This is a terrible idea.

For one thing, we have now six decades of interventionist policy experience upon which we can look back to give us a sense of how further intervention will wind up. Starting with the overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government in the early 1950s, the US has used its military and clandestine services to try and reshape the middle east to fit our interests. And it has been spectacularly unsuccessful, resulting in a worsening of the situation in each progressive decade. We are just now emerging from a 13-year debacle which demonstrated the uselessness of armed intervention, yet now the president seems committed to driving us back in to the abyss lest his party be booted from office and he lose the Senate. Not only have our efforts to intervene in the middle east been unsuccessful either politically or militarily, what has happened in virtually every instance, is that the weapons and training provided to whomever will do our bidding at a given moment has ended up being used against us to kill our own people. Even during his own administration, the president has seen thousands of high-tech missiles given to Libyan opposition forces in their attempt to oust Col. Qaddafi vanish from sight and are now presumed by the CIA to be in the hands of persons of Islamic militants. From Libya to Afghanistan, weapons created by American defense contractors paid for by American taxpayers are being used to kill American men and women, having been given to unstable political and military allies in the mistaken hope that this time things would be different. How many times do we have to walk this road before somebody realizes that it's a dead-end?

Many seekers of peace were excited and expectant at the election of Pres. Obama in 2008, believing that he would chart a new direction in American foreign-policy and would use diplomatic and financial pressure to bring about just outcomes in the world arena, rather than relying on raw power, as had characterized the presidency of George W. Bush. During the second Bush administration, I was on the steering committee for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, which was a time characterized by a surge in interest both inside and outside of religious communities for peaceful resolution to conflict. From the fall of 2008, however, we watched as interest in peacemaking completely deflated in the wake of the conventional wisdom of the time that Obama would bring "hope and change"and hust do away with the militarism of the previous administration. To his credit, the president did take steps in that direction, which reinforced the conventional wisdom and thus spread the general sense that peace need not be something about which the public should concern itself.  But the changes were mostly cosmetic. Instead of big productions that provided footage from embedded reporters on the nightly news for all to see, the deadly work is carried out by drones and special forces, an absence of evidence which, in our visually-oriented media culture, leads us to presume evidence of the absence of war-making by the current administration. 

if nothing else has yet convinced us, last night's speech demonstrates that we may have set aside our vigilance for peace too soon.