Give peace a chance

Published 12:21 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

By Staff
On Monday, amid stories about the financial crisis and the unending noise in the news about the upcoming election, the U.S. Army unveiled what is described as an “unprecedented” doctrine declaring nation-building missions to be as, if not more important than warfare as we know it.
While there is a lot of debate about the rightness of this idea, I like what one commander says about the manual containing the doctrine.
According to a story in The Washington Post, the manual elevates stability operations to a status equal to offensive and defensive operations. It further describes the move as a “fundamental change in emphasis.”
As I read about this, I felt hopeful that maybe, even if it is not a perfect doctrine, it is at least a shift toward looking for less violent ways to arrive at peace, which makes perfect sense to me. The ideas seem to offer a more compassionate, humanitarian way of acting and reacting to situations.
The focus is as much on caring for people in a troubled region as it is on using military might and warfare. That can't be a bad thing.
Wording in the doctrine talks about protecting the people; providing aid and public services; directing the Army's medical command to develop plans advising foreign health ministries, all actions that seem to point toward finding common ground and moving beyond differences to understanding that people want the same things. And it seems to acknowledge that helping a country move toward a better, safer, more peaceful way of living in the end benefits our nation as well as theirs.
I understand many, many people, a lot of them in top positions in the military, have misgivings about this doctrine, but we have to start somewhere and this is perhaps a good first step.
The manual's lead author, Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, had this to say about the challenges faced in many places in the world: “Today, such fragile states, if neglected, will pose mounting risks for the United States. Weak states create vast ungoverned areas that are breeding grounds for the threats that we fear the most, criminal networks, international terrorists, ethnic strife, genocide.”
It does not appear the way of war is truly making anyone safer and I believe as H.G. Wells said, “If we don't end war, it will end us!”
That our world is a smaller place is not something anyone argues. You only have to look at how the financial crisis in one country affects so many other countries to see we are joined at the hip in many ways.
Surely, the time has come for changing how we look at each other and perhaps a shift in consciousness is what we see in the Army's new doctrine. Hopefully, the thinking reflected in this manual, no matter how imperfect some say it is, will move us closer to more peaceful choices when action is required.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi.
The Army, by being open to a different way of thinking, will, I hope, be a major player in bringing about the positive change we all want to see in our troubled world.
Nancy Blackmon
is a columnist with
The Andalusia Star News.