As of May, 2003, I have decided to no longer run for this office. I am maintaining the website for several reasons, not the least of which is that the effort expended in developing the ideas was clearly worthy, and the work produced should therefore be preserved. My further reasons for no longer seeking elective office can be found in this essay - Saving America from Ourselves.
from the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Joel A. Wendt: working paper #4
The Problem of Terrorism
- in the light of a reconsideration of the nature of
foreign policy -
Before we enter into a more detailed dicussion of foreign policy, let's think about the events of 9/11 and what really changed.
For people living in Israel or Palistine, not all that much. Hatred and violence are there almost a way of life. For Americans, who managed to go through two World Wars without really any serious domestic impact (outside of our children, husbands and wives dying in foreign places) 9/11 was a major shock to the system. Those, who had found reason to hate us, now made war upon us right in our backyard.
One way to look at this is: "how could they?" Another way is to realize we having been living under the benefit of a remarkable Grace that it took so long before we had to face what other parts of the world live with on a daily basis. We really should be thankful, given how open our society is. In many ways we are much more vulnerable than other places in the world, where many guards and over cautious suspicion are the norm.
The response of our leaders has been somewhat predictable (see discussion below). But has it been wise?
Ask yourself the question of how far will we have to go, in terms of sacrificing our civil rights, before we could make our society completely free of the dangers of terrorism. Should we close all our borders, erect walls and fences, make national IDs required for everyone, station check points at the edge of every city and town, turn all our neighbors and friends into secret spys, watching each other for the smallest deviation from right thought and deed? How far to complete safety?
The reality is that complete safety is not possible, anymore than ending the drunken driving deaths on our highways. We can no more prevent any and all acts of terror, than we can prevent cancer. Would we be right in making all Islamic peoples live in concentration camps?
The fact is we cannot make life completely safe. Such a goal requires fantasy thinking, thinking disconnected from reality. Further, if we sacrifice any civil rights, any at all, we do for the terrorist what they seek. We become terrorized. We react to their terror and out of fear make our society less open, less free, less what makes it what it is. If the terrorists make us live in fear, than to that extent then have already won the war. Terrorism is not about physical damage, death and destruction. It is about destroying something inside of people - it is entirely psychological in nature.
This being the case then it must be fought on that level - inside us. We defeat the terrorist by not being terrorised. We obtain our victory over this psychological crime by not letting the fear build prisons in our minds, or by not letting the fear build mistrust in our hearts. Nor do we reach out into the world and commit similar acts against others, using the terrorist as an excuse to sink to their level of violent approaches to the solution of poor relations among Peoples.
This again is an inner work, a work of discipline. Think of it as a kind of mental Kung Fu, or Aikido. The terrorists attacks us with violence in order to influence our inner stability, to throw us off our inner center and into a state of fear from which we will react without conscience, attentiveness or wisdom. We defeat the terrorist by maintaining our inner equilibrium and by being even more thoughtful and generous as a People. We say: "Yes, you can kill a few of us, and yes you can cause death and struction, but NO! you will not destroy our spirit, and NO! you will not turn us from the better Angel of our nature, and NO! you will not cause us to dishonor our hard won freedoms by putting them aside for either ourselves, or any others who have come to our shores seeking freedom, equality and brotherhood. Take your best shot, but you can be certain that we will not let you destroy that inner ideal which is the heart of America, and the true strength of the American Spirit."
This being the case, now let me go to the main theme:
It would be entirely false for me to suggest that I know even the basics of what is normally called foreign policy . At the same time, after sixty plus years on this planet, I do know how I think about this realm as a citizen of the United States, a citizen of the World, and as a father. And, one of the things that I think is that politicians, professional diplomats and many world leaders have lost their way.
Let me see if I can demonstrate that idea.
The world of expert and professional thinkers of foreign policy is like a created environment of ideas. All manner of ways of thinking and habits of thought have grown up within this environment, almost as if there was a natural ecology which we could call: t he understanding of the issues of foreign policy and diplomacy . I realize this is for some an odd way to express this, but in those areas in which I am more familiar it is quite clear that the whole language in which problems are expressed and analyzed is itself a kind of environment of ideas that sometimes can become separated from the reality of ordinary lives and needs.
Similar to the world of finance, the whole realm of the relations of nations is often approached as some kind of game or contest in which there are winners and losers (usually the leaders and the diplomats), while the lives of the ordinary people are incidental. Of course, to ordinary people these matters are of the greatest import, and truth to tell in most instances the ordinary people would be quite content not to have wars over ideas, or territory, or personal slights.
Yet, the structure of the world is such that ordinary people's wishes are seldom considered. Leaders arise through various processes, most of them not at all democratic (even in Nations that think of themselves as democratic). In a language that often sounds as if the purpose of the alignments and treaties was all for the benefit of the ordinary people, the reality is that their real needs are quite secondary. The truth is that an elite class sits astride world processes, imposing their values and rules heedless of the cost to the rest of us.
In terms of human history there is nothing surprising about this. The question, being put by this paper, by the citizen governance movement and by my candidacy, is should this situation be tolerated or continued. Nor am I the only person asking this question. The whole Civil Society phenomena , the anti-globalization movement and all manner of other world-wide social dynamics clearly indicates that ordinary people are not willing any longer to be passive in the face of the rule of elites.
[As this paper continues, please keep in mind the idea expressed right in paper #1, concerning means and ends .]
The fact is that the world has changed radically in the last 100 years, and the language environment in which foreign policy is usually discussed has failed to keep up with certain elements of these changes. Let us look at the issue of terrorism as a specific example of how this dissonance between reality and language arises.
On September 11th, 2001, so we are told, the world changed. This is both true and not true. Certainly the degree of destruction terrorists where able to effect reached new levels, and clearly this was an escalation of this kind of activity for people living in the United States. Not too long after this event the United States government (the administration of President George W. Bush) declared a War on Terrorism
This, in itself, is kind of frightening, given that previous administrations have declared Wars on Poverty, and Drugs, and not only have those problems not disappeared, they have grown quite worse. Based upon prior performance then, we can see this so-called War on Terrorism as entirely a political ploy lacking in any serious ability to actually change the world in the way indicated. Terrorism will not cease. In fact, there is every indication, given what the administration has done since September 11th, that terrorism will increase. Why?
First of all there is no clear analysis of why the United States is being attacked by terrorists. It doesn't take much brain power to wonder if there is something we have done that we could stop or change in order to undercut the motivation of terrorists. Instead the impulse is to attack and punish, as if somehow we will stop terrorism (after all what is the point of a War on Terrorism if not to stop it) by making the potential terrorists afraid of the consequences of their acts. This of course makes no sense at all since many terrorists, and certainly the terrorists involved in September 11th, sacrifice their lives in the act of terrorism. These kinds of terrorists are not going to be afraid of us. If we really think through the War on Terrorism, we will find nothing being done which clearly offers the hope of ending Terrorism. Rather all that has happened at the level of foreign policy and diplomacy is that a new way of hiding our real intentions (more lies) has arisen.
Just follow in thought these facts: the administration attacked Afghanistan, while the home of all the terrorists was elsewhere (most were from Saudi Arabia). Reasons were given, of course, but anyone who is paying attention realizes that what really happened in the first stages of this so-called War on Terrorism was the destruction of a government that supported the training of terrorists, and which also was opposed to the administration's oil policies. How fortunate for the administration that they could eliminate a government that stood in the way of economic benefits for the administration's elite friends in the oil business.
What is even worse (based on facts now coming to the fore) is th at the main forces of the terrorist netw ork al-Qa'ida left Afg h anistan in a truck convey of several hundred vehicles, crossin g over into Pakistan at the same time we were conducti ng the early stages of our offensive. The reality is that al-Qa'ida and a spects of the Pakista n 's own Islamic terrorist organizat ions were comb ined, and through diplomacy this group was allowed to flee Afghanistan un h armed . Quite probably Usama Bi n L aden esc aped at the same time.
What is going on here?
We all know what is going on. Governments do not tell the truth about their motivations for their actions. Foreign policy and diplomacy are about the art of lying, not about facing truths. Hidden in this process of lying is all manner of justifications, which usually take the form of some kind of presumed higher end (" in the interests of national security "). It is a kind of snake eating its own tail, because the consequences of the lying and the process of the " ends justifies the means " is an ever recurring action and reaction.
Consider the Palestinians and the Israelis. Death, death and more death, with all manner of governments with foreign policies and diplomatic activities. Where is the evidence that these processes work, or even that what is said for public consumption actually represents what is really thought.
Something new has to intervene.
Let me tell you what I think is happening .
Slowly, very slowly, humanity is maturing. I don't think the concept progress names what the reality is, but such a term certainly is part of it. There is a kind of feedback loop interaction between historic events and human nature, and human nature evolves. At this time, the ordinary people are waking up to certain aspects of the dynamics of history which we no longer are willing to tolerate. This is so not just in the United States, but everywhere.
There was a movie, Network, in which one of the characters says something on the order of: " I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. ". And who are we mad at? The elites, the people who assert their right to rule, but do so in such a way that abuses the rest of us. Not only abuses, but misrepresents. How often do we hear a political leader say something on the order of "...the American people ...." believe or want or demand or insist or think, and what has been said is not true?
Something living in us is refusing to accept the situation anymore and wants to insert itself into the processes by which decisions are made that effect us, and our fellows. We don't include (in general) the elites in that equation - they are not our fellows, having taken the course of seeking to rule, largely for their own benefit (there is a problem here we have been addressing all along, the problem of inclusion, but at this point we can just keep it in the background).
How do we assert ourselves into the realm of lies and confusions we call foreign policy and diplomacy?
Consider this material reported about a speech made by George W. Bush to the students at West Point:
(WASHINGTON) - The United States must be prepared to take the War on Terror to up to 60 countries if weapons of mass destruction are to be kept out of terrorists' hands, President Bush said at the weekend.
His impassioned speech to 1,000 graduates of West Point Military Academy in New York State on Saturday marks a watershed in the Administration's foreign policy.
Mr Bush said that terrorism cells in countries that make up close to one third of the globe must be actively sought and dismantled. " We must take that battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge," he said, adding that Americans must be " ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
He said: " In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."
Lets translate this out of the language of foreign policy and diplomacy, into a form to which we can apply common sense. What Bush said was: be afraid, this new bogeyman is terrible and everywhere, and we can only save ourselves by making large numbers of nations our enemies and sacrificing even greater numbers of our children in wars in foreign places .
You know who scares me the most? It's not the terrorists, that's for sure.
Lets see if we can find a way to sanity.
To begin with, we should honor all the work that foreign policy and diplomacy has done in the past. In spite of the problems we can find within it in the present, this realm of human activity has no doubt been the place where all manner of sane and healthy and good human impulses have tried to work to solve various problems. But like much in modern times, it has become the prisoner of its own language and the limitations that imposes. Further, governments continue to represent the interests of elites at the expense of the common people. If citizen governance is to make a contribution to this aspect of human affairs, we will have to forge a new path.
I think we can do this if we work from very basic principles and their related questions. What follows is my own thinking, as is the case in all my working papers,. Even so, the citizen governance movement should not consider my thinking the limits of its own inquiries.
It is necessary to make a distinction between sitting governments and the people they either pretend to serve, or admittedly rule. Americans and the American government do not necessarily want the same things, or have the same values (although in democracies sitting governments work very hard to appear to have the common values). Unfortunately, in the Third World this distinction tends not to be made, and what American corporations and governments do in such places is assumed to be work of the American People. If our government and corporations participate in oppression, we are blamed, and with good reason for especially in America the People are understood to be the true source of power.
What this means, among a number of other realities, is that the citizen governance movement is not an option, but a necessity. If we do not insert ourselves into the processes by which macro decisions are made, the most undesirable consequences will fall upon us (which is clearly the testimony of 9/ll). The reality of the American Spirit, as it resides in us as a People, is not understood by our corporations or sitting governments, as these tend to be exclusively the representative of the views and needs of elites.
If this is true for us, it is basically true everywhere else. What I am suggesting is that we set aside the ideology of foreign policy and diplomacy created by years of control by the ruling elites, and seek to have relationships with other Peoples and other Nations, from us to them, outside the constraints imposed by the Past form of rule.
In the light of this basic principle and its related questions, let us consider a n example of a problem which modern international life force s into the foreground.
Should the United States be the policeman for the world?
Now in order to do such an act, it is necessary to have some of criteria by which we judge other nations. In reality, however, we are not really judging other Nations or Peoples, but their governing elites. In the current drum beating for an invasion of Iraq, it is the bad guy at the head of the government who is the excuse, while the ordinary people will only end up as collateral damage. When was it different?
If we look at the history of the middle East over the last two hundred years, we will see the effects of constant manipulation by outside (mostly European) governments. All of this geopolitical game piece maneuvering has been done for the self centered interests of the ruling European (and now American) elites, and at the expense of the lives of the mass of ordinary human beings living in this region.
So perhaps we could change the question - do we, the American People, want to be the policeman to the world? And, on what basis would we make such judgments? In fact, who are we to judge in any case? The ruling elites do this as a matter of course, for they have very clear ends in mind. But if we want to offer some alternative, out of the impulse of citizen governance, certainly we can seek a more fruitful means than judgment and manipulation.
The fact is that we are already acting in such a way. We just don't really notice it always as a political act, or as an act of citizen governance. Think of all the charitable groups of which we are members and to which we contribute. Greenpeace, Doctors without borders, even the venerable Red Cross - we give (as do many people all over the world) of ourselves (personal time often at a great risk) and our wealth. This giving, and its political variations, has reached such an intensity world-wide that it has been given a name, Civil Society; and, is considered by many to actually be a force equal in some instances to corporations and governments. Academics and ruling elites are not unaware of this early iteration of the citizen governance impulse, and if one searches the internet for the term - civil society - the whole debate can be discovered.
The question then can be asked, what is the nature of this impulse, in that it is contrary to the ends directed rule of the elites? In the main , the object is the relief of the suffering of others. It is completely a generous act, at much self cost, and lacks totally the self serving manipulation of the elites.
If we understanding correctly the situation in America, with the 2004 Presidential election as I outlined in The Plan, the citizen governance impulse (which is international in scope) can first experience its self aware maturation in this place and time. What has been struggling to emerge, in the anti-globalization efforts (the Battle in Seattle, etc.), as a movement contrary to the Past, can now mature into something that honors that Past, and seeks to forge with it the means to a coherent and sane future. Pure opposition to the rule of elites only serves to perpetuate the polarity, while a concentration on a politics of inclusion will lead to healing.
A War on Terrorism then is calculated only to continue the manipulation by elites, while the growing self awareness of the citizen governance movement (Civil Society), and its impulse of generosity, is a foreign policy directed from People to People. In fact it is not a foreign policy at all, but just the natural development of good relations among neighbors. For the main change in the last 100 years is that the world has become smaller, much smaller. In the dev el o ping of a People to Pe ople world community we step past the rule of elites as if it wasn't there. Then, on such a basis we can address those most crucial issues of the commons - of our shared Earth and the real shape of the future for our children's children 's children.