My previous column generated many interesting responses, some of which were impassioned, thoughtful and well expressed. I appreciate those who took the time to engage in the debate. I read each comment, whether it was a personal indictment, an emotional anecdote or a logical argument.
One prevailing sentiment many expressed can be summarized in one sentence: The reason I’m able to espouse my (naïve) pacifistic views is only because others are willing to fight for my freedoms.
While other common criticisms can hopefully be addressed in future columns, I challenge that spurious claim on its face.
It’s common to make incorrect causal relationships, attributing one factor as explanatory for another.
For example, a salesman travels door to door selling elephant repellant. He’s usually shunned, but a few people give him the time of day.
His pitch is simple:
“How does it work, you ask?”
“I’ve been spraying it for weeks, and look, still no sign of elephants,” he says.
The same assumption resonates with the notion that the military preserves and protects our freedoms.
The freedoms bestowed from the Constitution aren’t under attack. America faces no militaristic threat — 9/11 was an isolated incident. America wasn’t invaded. It was brutally victimized, but our borders were never threatened. The militaristic response however, has inflamed violent extremism, creating multiple jihad networks expanding throughout the Middle East. Things get worse, not better, when you combat violence with violence because new enemies emerge — angered over family and friends who’ve been murdered.
Our militaristic involvement increases the probability of future terrorist attacks, leading our government to revoke our freedoms. Objectively speaking, Americans have fewer freedoms resulting from these unjust wars (see airports, Patriot Act). The idea of preserving and protecting our freedoms via military intervention is not only wrong, but the opposite has proven true. Americans are less safe today than before 9/11 and have fewer rights and freedoms.
Secondly, America has an opportune geographic location. With massive oceans surrounding our borders, we’re largely insulated from invasion. Canadians don’t attribute their freedoms to militaristic hard power. Their freedoms are upheld through participatory elections; checks and balances; and free press. They don’t provoke conflict through privatized, profitable, unilateral wars. If military is what makes us free, what of nations who rarely deploy?
Some nations have no military. I was asked how I could possibly imagine what a nation would be like sans military. A dreamer, a utopian I was called.
Costa Rica, in Central America (a region that’s been plagued by conflict) is far more geographically vulnerable to attack than America. It’s one of the freest nations in the world, according to Freedom House. They manage quite well, ranking first in Happy Planet Index. Costa Rica is also ranked by some to be the most environmentally friendly country on earth.
Evidence overwhelmingly points to non-violent activism as a preserver of freedom, not military strength.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win.”
Scholar David Cortright writes, “New research shows that nonviolence is twice as effective as force in achieving social or political goals,” One reason why is “Governments can justify the use of force against groups that also use force … It is much more difficult to justify the use of violence against completely nonviolent protesters.”
Anyone suggesting if I don’t like it here, then move, is missing the point. That’d be taking the easy way out. It’s because I love this nation that I write and espouse non-violence. It’s because I’m distraught by the sight of wounded veterans that I fight to abolish the military. It’s because I care that I work diligently to expose our addiction to violence as a source of our problems, not the resolution thereof.
Guess I’m patriotic after all.
Conor Shapiro is a graduate student in the School of International Service and a liberal columnist.