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Blog item: 9 Steps to Peace for Obama in the New Year

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5 comments, last: Jan-15-2009   Add a comment   Author: GuestWriter (Jan-10-2009)    Play a Video
Categories: Economic/Financial, Philosophical & Quality of Life

Deepak Chopra, who has requested Barack Obama to re-position the USA as a peace-based countryby Deepak Chopra on AlterNet (with permission)

Steps the incoming president can take to build a peace-based economy.

You have been elected by the first anti-war constituency since 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected after promising to end the Korean War. But ending a war isn't the same as bringing peace. America has been on a war footing since the day after Pearl Harbor, 67 years ago. We spend more on our military than the next 16 countries combined. If you have a vision of change that goes to the heart of this country's deep problems, ending our dependence on war is far more important than ending our dependency on foreign oil.

The most immediate changes are economic. Unless it can make as much money as war, peace doesn't stand a chance. Since aerospace and military technologies remain the United States' most destructive export, fostering wars around the world, what steps can we take to reverse that trend and build a peace-based economy?

1. Scale out arms dealing and make it illegal by the year 2020.

2. Write into every defense contract a requirement for a peacetime project.

3. Subsidize conversion of military companies to peaceful uses with tax incentives and direct funding.

4. Convert military bases to housing for the poor.

5. Phase out all foreign military bases.

6. Require military personnel to devote part of their time to rebuilding infrastructure.

7. Call a moratorium on future weapons technologies.

8. Reduce armaments like destroyers and submarines that have no use against terrorism and were intended to defend against a superpower enemy that no longer exists.

9. Fully fund social services and take the balance out of the defense and homeland security budgets.

These are just the beginning. We don't lack creativity in coping with change. Without a conversion of our present war economy to a peace economy, the high profits of the military-industrial complex ensures that it will never end.

Do these nine steps seem unrealistic or fanciful? In various ways, other countries have adopted similar measures. The former Soviet army is occupied with farming and other peaceful work, for example. But comparisons are rather pointless, since only the United States is burdened with such a massive reliance on defense spending. Ultimately, empire follows the dollar. As a society, we want peace, and we want to be seen as a nation that promotes peace. For either ideal to come true, you as president must back up your vision of change with economic reality. So far, that hasn't happened under any of your predecessors. All hopes are pinned on you.

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Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Jan-15-2009)   Web site
I agree, David. As well as the environmental arguments, there are many other arguments for reducing military expenditure - particularly in the USA. US military expenditure is about 4% of GDP. Do Americans feel safer from attack than, say, Russians (about 3%), Brazilians (about 2%) or Canadians (about 1%)? I doubt it.

And one mustn't forget that the arms industry is, by definition, unproductive. While a defence firm may make a profit for its investors, provide jobs locally and even benefit the national economy, it is a drain on the world economy. Globally we would be better off paying people to build sandcastles; at least sandcastles do no harm.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Jan-15-2009)   Web site

Thanks, WH and CW. I think that there can be a role, and should be a role, for a defensive military. In today's world it appears diplomacy and persuasion or pressure can generally achieve the needed effects. If not, a unified military and diplomatic effort of multiple nations (as in the Serbia aggression) seems effective. The United States is acting as if it has to carry the weight of the whole world single-handedly. Lifting that much weight will cause real back problems - and appears already to have done so.

So, we should have a modest military so as to be part of a community of nations that can protect themselves or provide a strong unified deterrent to occasional crazy national leaders.

The savings for the environment, the economy, and for peace on the planet would be tremendous. Let's launch a diplomacy offensive spread over the next 10 years and see what the results are. As the article points out, this will require a special restraint by the United States as weaponry is such a profitable business.

With the human mind, all things are possible.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Jan-14-2009)   Web site

I agree entirely with Deepak Chopra. The USA could reduce its military budget by 80% and it would still spend twice as much as any other country in the world. (The second highest spender is the UK and, after 200 years of friendly relations, Britain is hardly likely to be a threat to America now.)

In purely environmental terms, much of this military spending is a disaster - and this point applies to virtually all countries. Imagine a civilian Hummer, bette noire of the green movement. The environmental costs of building one and running one are huge, but it does serve a useful purpose. Now imagine a tank. Compared to the Hummer it requires more material to build it and more petrol to move it, and then if it is used it will destroy something that will need to be rebuilt, using even more resources.

Cruise missiles and fighter jets are even worse. Flying them, whether in tests, combat or training, requires vast amounts of aviation fuel. And then, once again, their role is to destroy.

Environmentalists say 'reduce, reuse, recycle'; the role of the military is 'destroy, destroy, destroy'.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Jan-11-2009)   Web site

I don't know in detail the views of Deepak Chopra beyond what he wrote in this article, but it seems he allows for the military to have a role (item 8 says "reduce", not "eliminate"). The nine points seem a bit unclear about whether it is a total focus on peaceful activities, or just a deep reduction in the military-industrial complex to change the economic equation.

He seems to be clearly against the excessive focus on military solutions to all problems, and to the selling of weapons to the highest bidder as a major economic foundation of our country, with frequently deadly and unintended consequences.
Comment by: City Worker (Jan-11-2009)   

Peace is great. I Iove peace. But I don’t understand the planned course of action if we rid ourselves of things and don’t update them, and others continue to develop weapons, etc. and choose to use them against us. Let’s say, for instance, they decide they would like to completely destroy our country. If we have not built up a defense against things like this, are we to just lie down and say: “it’s been a nice life”?

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