Restraint and cooperation not violence

The slaughter of innocent people in France last week has rightly earned worldwide condemnation.

Such immoral actions have no place in this world. Everyone agrees that a response to the carnage in Paris is imperative.

But beyond bringing the executioners of this grisly massacre to justice, the overarching question is: what else should be done? Here is what I think.

The sweeping curtailment of democratic and privacy rights, the racist stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims, xenophobia, closing borders to refugees, and putting boots on the ground won’t end terrorist attacks. In fact, such a response, if experience is a guide, will likely set in train a new round of violence and counter violence that will further fray the fragile bonds that bind humanity together. It will bring neither peace nor stability nor safety.

Only a turn to restraint, diplomacy, cooperation, justice, anti-racism, and the language and practice of non-violence stands a chance of eliminating terrorist attacks and defeating terrorist organizations, like ISIS. In this effort, Russia has to be a full and equal partner. Diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government, building on recent successes, is necessary too, as is the full participation of other Muslim led governments. The international community must ramp up the pressure, on Saudi Arabia to end its funding of extremist groups, and on the Netanyahu government, whose actions in the West Bank and Gaza fuel rage across the Middle East and into the Muslim/Arab diaspora. New political initiatives to resolve divisions between Shia and Sunni in Iraq and Syria are crucial as well to weakening terrorism in general and ISIS in particular.

Another dimension of this effort should be a 21st century global “New Deal,” at the core of which is a special and sustained focus on the countries of the global South and communities of immigrants in the global North. Even though poverty, unemployment, economic inequality, and scarce opportunities aren’t the organizing rationale behind terrorist actions, it seems indisputable that these conditions make it easier for extremist movements to offer rootless, angry, and racially profiled individuals a sense of self-worth, of belonging to something bigger, with the promise of a redemptive and glorious future.

Another crucial element in any international effort to end terrorism is welcoming immigrants with open arms and appreciating the material and cultural contributions that they make in their new homes.

Finally, the United Nations should play a commanding role in this undertaking, including in situations that require military responses, as is probably the case with ISIS and Boko Haram.

Of course, war hawks, right-wing and misguided politicians, and the military-industrial-energy complex will resist such an approach. They thrive in an environment of fear, hatred, suspicion, and threats. It conceals their global economic and political ambitions and becomes a rationale to build up military capacity and presence around the world. It also amplifies the voices of the right wing in the U.S. and elsewhere, and positions them to win complete control of the levers of political power.

We shouldn’t allow them to use the horror and tragedy of terrorist attacks for these ends. It’s time for restraint, cooperation, inclusiveness, economic, racial, and gender justice, peace, and a heightened appreciation of the preciousness of life.


The Good, the Ugly, and the Uglier

The Good: Washington State governor, Jay Inslee, who urged open doors for Syrian refugees. He cited the Japanese-American interment camps in WW II as a dangerous precedent. “We regret that … We regret that we succumbed to fear.”

The Ugly: GOP presidential candidates and governors (30+) are saying that they would allow only Christian refugees from Syria into the country in reaction to the terrorist attack in France.

The Uglier: GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s call to register Muslims in the U.S.

Game of the week

Since I just came back from a visit to Michigan and since I lived there at one time, the Game of the Week is – what else – Michigan State vs. Ohio State. Ohio State is undefeated and last year’s NCAA football champion and Michigan State has lost one game this season, thanks to a very bad officiating call in a game against Nebraska. Both teams have under performed however, despite their records. When I was a boy I was an avid Buckeye fan, but now that I’m a man, the Spartans and all things Michigan command my loyalty. The game is in Columbus, making a Spartan victory uphill. Nevertheless, (and here’s too hoping), Spartans squeak out narrow victory 27-24 as Buckeyes under perform once again.

Bernie Sanders, socialism, and the 2016 elections

Little surprises me these days — I don’t know if it’s age, or what. But the long quote below from a recent post in Jacobin has me shaking my head.

“We need to understand this point well if we want to make the most of the opportunities presented by the Sanders campaign, especially if Bernie follows through on his plans to give a “major speech” about socialism. [This] will be a great occasion for the Left to debate our own meanings of socialism — but only if we silence our inner Anderson Coopers and discuss Bernie’s ideas on their own terms without worrying about how they impact his electability.”

This week’s good, bad, and very ugly

The Good: The coalition of students, graduate students, faculty, and football players that forced University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe to step down. Wolfe had become an obstacle to addressing issues of racial justice and other student concerns in a timely and robust way.

The Bad: The Republican Party presidential debate. Instead of attacking each other as happened in earlier debates, each of the candidates offered solutions to today’s problems and crises that ranged from the outlandish to the ridiculous. Wage cutting was a universally popular prescription among this motley, but very wealthy bunch.

The Very Ugly: The vicious killing of innocent people in Paris. So far 160 are reported dead, according to the Washington Post. Time to “give peace a chance.” Don’t see any other solution to the cycle of violence and counter violence that is gripping and crushing our interconnected and increasingly fragile world.

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