Sunday, May 11, 2008

Send in . . . the Musicians

May 11, 2008, 7:30 a.m.

Best Mother's Day Gift? World Peace
So, Don't "Send in the Marines," Send in the Musicians

At the risk of sounding like a candidate for Miss America with my appeal for "world peace" here are some thoughts during and following a CNN presentation last evening (Saturday, May 10, 7:00 p.m. CT). The program is scheduled to run again this evening (May 11) at both 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. CT.

[Photo credit: BBC.] It was a follow-up by Christiane Amanpour -- a reporter for whom I have enormous admiration -- on the dramatic story of the New York Philharmonic's performance in North Korea earlier this year. CNN Special Investigations Unit, Amanpour Reports Notes from North Korea. And see, Christiane Amanpour, "Behind the Scenes: Amanpour's Notes from North Korea,", May 8, 2008, with links to photos and videos. Here is a video of the concert.

I've come to have a lot of respect for the best and the brightest in our U.S. military -- largely for the informed, rational and analytical approach they bring to issues of war and peace. It is the civilians in the White House and Congress who want to "send in the Marines," "kick some butt," or "nuke 'em" at the slightest provocation who most concern me. Notwithstanding our constitutional tradition of "civilian control of the military," the contrast between those approaches is what's given rise to my mostly joking suggestion that what we need is "military control of the civilians."

I wrote at length echoing their cool caution prior to our latest foray of folly into the Middle East. (See, list of my articles and speech texts at "Terrorism and the War in Iraq.") The military knows better than most of us that "the military option" is simply not appropriate for many of the international missions our country needs to undertake. (It is in some instances, as I once described for an earlier president, "like trying to play basketball on a football field.") It can even be self-defeating -- as in Iraq, where our presence has ended up encouraging the recruitment of terrorists and increasing the number, reach and force of their tactics -- thereby further destabilizing the Middle East, harming our national security and making us less safe rather than more.

No less a military expert than General David Petraeus said over a year ago, "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq . . .." "No Military Solution to Iraq, U.S. General Says,", March 9, 2007. [Photo credit: CNN.]

Senator Barack Obama shares this perspective and insight:

“I think we all have to recognize that we’re not going to achieve a military solution in Iraq, . . .. We have got to redouble our diplomatic efforts, internally as well as externally. . . . It is my judgment—and I think it’s the judgment of most military and political experts—that the best we can hope for, at this point, is to make sure that we are seeing some sort of accommodation [among] the various factions. The only leverage we have to encourage those factions to start coming to the [negotiating] table is if we say we are not going to be there in an open-ended military commitment.”
Joe Conason, "Bush Fantasy, Obama Reality," The New York Observer, March 25, 2007 (quoting from a Larry King Live interview).

Meanwhile, Senator Clinton, presumably in her effort to demonstrate that she has "passed the commander in chief test" -- although possibly just in an effort to put the lie to Elayne Boosler's assertion that, "When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country." -- expresses a different view:

Mrs. Clinton . . . in an interview on ABC last week [said], “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” . . . when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.
Nazila Fathi, "Iran Protests to U.N. About Clinton Comments," New York Times, May 1, 2008.

Ms. Amanpour's shared insights about North Korea involve far more than one evening's concert -- indeed, among other things, she was invited to see a nuclear facility. It's a country about which we all need to know a great deal more than we do -- as we recently discovered about a number of countries in the Middle East. One hour of television -- even an hour with Christiane Amanpour -- won't tell us all we need to know. One concert won't bring "peace in our time," an open society in North Korea, or feed millions of North Koreans. But it's a start, a useful start.

North Korea and Iraq were both on President Bush's list of countries in "the axis of evil" (a characterization, incidentally, we should not be surprised to discover was not well received by the North Korean people). For one we said, "send in the Marines!" (over the protest of the Marines). For the other we said, "send in the musicians."

Which do you think has worked best?

Senator Hillary Clinton aside, it does seem that Elayne Boosler is closer to the truth. Women have tended to be in the forefront of peace efforts around the world and over the years. I don't know why. It may be because of something related to what I call "the natural superiority of women." It may be that if men had to go through childbirth to bring those young soldiers into the world they, too, would value their lives more highly.

In any event, there it is. Hats off to Christiane Amanpour, Elayne Boosler, and their three billion female colleagues around the world.

Thank you all, and

Happy Mother's Day!

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