While America has some serious enemies -- and it’s certainly our responsibility to protect our country and our children -- I believe our country’s way of dealing with security issues is increasingly obsolete. We cannot simply rely on brute force to rid ourselves of enemies. In so doing, we overburden our military by asking them to compensate for the work that we ourselves are not doing. The only way to make peace with your neighbors is to make peace with your neighbors.
I believe that if, over the last 50 years, more people around the world had seen the American flag decal on schools, hospitals, roads and so forth -- as opposed to military installations and other material support for regimes in their countries which they themselves knew not to be democratic -- then we might not be in the fix we are in today. For America’s problem is not just how many people in the world truly hate us. It’s also how many people don’t actually hate us yet don’t like us either, and are therefore willing to go along with those who would, if given the chance, harm us, our country and our children.
We treat violence both domestically and internationally in an allopathic fashion; simply waiting for the problem to occur, then seeking to suppress or eradicate its symptom.
With physical health we have learned that we ourselves are responsible -- through nutrition and exercise and other life-style choices -- for helping to prevent sickness, and for helping to ameliorate it when it does occur. This same holistic model now needs to be applied to issues of war and peace. For just as we have learned that health is not the absence of sickness but rather sickness is the absence of health, we are learning that peace is not the absence of war but rather war is the absence of peace. I believe our current commitment to military action as primary problem-solver – a commitment of enormous and often tragic amounts of money, talent and human resources – is not what it appears to be. I believe it is less about America’s genuine security and more about the $800 billion spent each year on our military budget -- often in ways that our military itself is not asking for, yet increasing the coffers of the military-industrial complex. I do not believe our nation’s security is in direct proportion to the amount of money we spend on the military; in fact, that amount dwarfs in a dangerous way the amount of money we spend on genuine peace-building efforts.
Both in our district and throughout the country, many fine, talented and extraordinarily skilled people work for the military as well as for military contractors. They are citizens who work hard, contribute to our country and use the money they earn to support their families. It would be ill-conceived and irresponsible to simply starve the beast of bloated military spending.
Rather, America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world. From massive investment in the development of clean energy, to the retrofitting of our buildings and bridges, to the building of new schools and the creation of a green manufacturing base, it is time to release this powerful sector of American genius to the work of promoting life instead of death.
As a Congresswoman, I would gladly co-sponsor the bill before Congress to establish U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act, introduced first by Congressman Dennis Kucinich and most recently by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. This legislation would provide the President with broad consultation regarding the availability and accessibility of non-violent problem-solving options. This department would be paid for by 2% of the defense budget, and go far toward expanding America’s skill set at truly creating a more peaceful world.
Among other things, I believe we need to deeply reconsider the effects of drone warfare. By killing innocents, I believe our drones have done more to create new enemies for America than it has done to kill old ones.
If we truly want peace, we need to help women both at home and abroad expand economic opportunities more than we need more military hardware. If we truly want peace, we need to provide girls with more educational opportunities more than we need another B-2 bomber. And if we truly want peace, we need to resource far more diplomatic, economic and development programs that help people around the world live better lives.