by John Miksad
I met U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) for the first time recently. I had a short, but revealing conversation with him.
I don’t know what he thought coming away from the exchange, but I know what I felt. I felt afraid. I saw someone who was enthusiastic about the current proxy war with Russia and the potential war with China, two nuclear armed nations. I saw someone who believes that the US only fights for freedom and democracy although I wonder if he could tell me that last war that was fought for freedom or that resulted in democracy.
I will admit that the weapons manufacturers–who Joe staunchly assists at every turn–have experienced more financial freedom (read “profits”) as a result of Joe’s efforts.
I saw someone who had no use for diplomacy because he believes that you can’t negotiate with adversaries, a belief that has led to countless wars through the millennia and continuous war in this century.
This is deeply concerning to me. Violent conflict over land, resources, ideology, power, and ego may have been the only model we’ve been exposed to, but we can no longer afford to continue working within this old paradigm of might makes right, zero-sum games, and endless arms races. All this has led us to where we find ourselves today, on the brink of self-annihilation.
The fear I felt coming away from this conversation stems from the realization that many of our elected officials adamantly maintain that violence is the only way.
We must find a way to talk, negotiate, build trust, and ultimately cooperate with all nations. I come to this conclusion based on the premise that all people of all nations now face the same existential threats from pandemics, climate collapse, and war escalating to nuclear annihilation.
For the first time in history, the entire human species has obvious common interests. The only rational way forward is to put aside our petty grievances and come together to deal with these existential threats. No one nation can solve these threats alone. There is no other way but together as an international community.
People like Joe are unwilling to give peace a chance and in doing so they are condemning all of us to hardship, suffering, and potentially death. They know only “us versus them” thinking.
They cannot get past the obsolete and barbaric paradigm of resolving conflict by violence or the threat of violence. They don’t realize that we will only have safety and security when all nations have safety and security. Their belief system is incompatible with the realities that we face.
They think that fighting over there protects us here. They don’t realize that there is always blowback and tragic predictable consequences from war that come back to bite us in many ways. We now have epidemic levels of violence within a society that has been shown by its government that violence is the best way to settle disputes.
The blood and treasure that war has stolen from us has left us with crumbling infrastructure, poor results in education and health, and a failing democracy. The planet’s climate is fast approaching tipping points (points of no return) as people around the world experience escalating climate catastrophes including deadly heat waves, floods, wildfires, droughts, and storms.
We continue to spend $1 trillion/year on war and militarism when we know from experience that the military cannot protect us from the real threats that we are now facing. In fact, war exacerbates these threats. War is the worst investment ever.
We must start with a reassessment of U.S. foreign policy and draw down our overreaching military with its expensive and ineffective 750 bases on the sovereign soil of some 80 foreign countries.
If we are to survive and help head the world in the right direction, we must join treaties for nuclear weapons. We must create strong democratized international institutions.
The clock is ticking.
Someone needs to take the lead and break the cycle of mistrust we helped create. It takes courage to do this. We must realize that only peace serves our interest and the interests of all our fellow inhabitants of earth.
I believe people can change. People do change. But not everyone will change. There were people who believed that owning slaves was morally acceptable even after slavery was outlawed.
That’s the way it will be with war and militarism as well. Even when it becomes quite obvious to most of us that the only way to deal with the global threats we face is through international cooperation, I suspect that Joe will believe that wars are still the preferable way to resolve our differences. I suspect he will always believe that all US wars are good and noble even though they kill civilians, create refugees, result in war crimes, and creates poverty, trauma, and desperation just like all war does.
Fortunately, we don’t have to convince everyone that war is barbaric and destructive. We only have to convince enough of our fellow citizens. When we reach a tipping point, the old paradigm will come tumbling down like the Berlin Wall.
Joe prefers to cling to his childhood games where he played the “good” cowboy that killed the “evil savages.” I’ve got some bad news for him about that story as well.
Joe is scared to death of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
I am scared to death of Joe.
Joe thinks that we should continue fighting over slivers of land on the other side of the planet.
I think we should be fighting to save the planet and all living things.
Joe thinks that nuclear war is on the table.
I think we must do everything in our power to reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Joe’s fear of other nations brings us ever closer to nuclear annihilation while distracting us from dealing with impending climate collapse and future pandemics.
I believe we need international cooperation for the safety, security, and well-being of all people.
Joe’s actions jeopardize the health and well-being of all people.
I believe we need to send an unequivocal message to Joe and the many other warmongers in Congress that they need to give peace a chance, not someday, but now.
John Miksad is an organizer with Veterans for Peace and Chapter Coördinator with World Beyond War.