"Atomic Agency Says Iran Is Making Fuel at Protected Site" and "Syrians have risked a violent crackdown to express their opposition" and "Palestinian leaders plan to seek recognition of statehood at the United Nations this month."
Three seemingly intractable problems. Three conflicts people only seem to respond to with violence (or threats of violence). Three questions no media reporter seems to have asked a pacifist her opinion on!
Plus, recent conversations with smart, news-reading friends have proved to me that no one is thinking about realistic, nonviolent action as a solution to these three problems.
Allow me to explain my point of view.
1. Iran. The U.S., Europe, and Israel are beating the war-drums with increasing fury. We are ignoring the lessons from Iraq and rushing headlong into assuming the Iranian government is planning to kill us all (or at least Israel). We're brushing off stories showing that Mossad has been succeeding in derailing Iranian nuclear facilities' efforts to produce weapons-grade material. According to experts, Iran will not be capable of a weapon for at least five years—doesn't that buy us some time to get sane about this and call off the cannons? And so what if they do develop a nuclear weapon? Won't we have more than enough fire-power to deter them from actually using it? With an arsenal of 8500+ nukes under our belt (not to mention Israel's launching pad) isn't deterrence enough? Didn't it work (for the most part) during the cold war? Not to mention that the more we beat our chests, the more defensive Iran will get—and how could anyone blame them. The positions our politicians and diplomats are taking on this issue seem entirely divorced from reality. In other words, the only reason we might go to war with Iran is to appear tough and strong (when really, isn't the opposite likely when our budgets are so strapped and our military so stretched?) So, in my humble opinion, there's really no reason to get all itchy for another war in the Middle East. Let's just put our knives in our pockets and go home, boys: There will be no rumble tonight...if we walk away.
2. Syria. Here's what we should do about the awful situation in Syria: encourage the opposition to surrender. Yes, I said it. Wave the white flag. Assad owns the military; this is not Egypt where the army will back the protesters. All the powerful men in the country are related by blood or debt to the government, and the military will do whatever Assad wants to squash the rebellion. This is not the right time for a revolution, so protesters should save their children and themselves and declare the protest effort a flop and give up. For now. Hunker down for six months to a year. And while the government thinks it's won, start organizing. From what I've read, the opposition is fractured, disorganized, and lacks a clear mission. Some groups want to overthrow Assad, others want to work with Assad on reforms. Some want an Islamist society, others want American-style democracy. According to the BBC, the "Syrian National Council (SNC) is a coalition of seven opposition groups aimed at offering a credible alternative to President Assad's government"—but the international community would be foolish to arm them. What happens when you give weapons to a group of people who lack leadership and a clear mission? You encourage senseless killing and suffering. You fail to fix the problem. Once these various groups have a credible organization—perhaps only possible if exiles and expats help by being the voice of the opposition to the outside world while inside Syria the movement remains secret for a year or so—then they can start again. We should encourage them to use nonviolent methods like those expertly delineated by Gene Sharp in “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages.
3. Palestine/Israel. I'm not going to say I have all the answers to this one; it's a doozy. But let me just say that suicide bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and other terrorist violence have not worked. Palestinians: you are still screwed. Pick up your signs and stand in front of the bulldozers like they did in Budrus. (Nonviolence worked! The Israeli government redrew the border line so it would not go through the town.) And Israelis: if you keep on fighting violence with violence, you will continue alienating the world and losing on the PR front. You will also continue to fail at your mission, which is having a stable country where people feel safe. That is the whole point, right? To have a homeland where Jews can feel safe. Well, that's not going to happen when you point your big guns at people. Those people will feel threatened (see my points on Iran, above) and when people feel threatened, they fight back. Let me ask a stupid question: What would happen if Israel slowly lifted all the checkpoints and let Palestinians (including activists) come into Israel at will? I propose that not much would change. The Israeli army and police are well-informed and would respond immediately should anyone try anything. In the meantime, the international community would let up, Palestinians could feel like human beings again, and Israelis would start to feel safer, little by little.
So, there it is: a pacifist's view.
I welcome an open dialogue about these opinions and will not be offended if you disagree with me. :)