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Questioning “Peace Through Strength”

December 8, 2009

This article was previously published as part of this entry from November 8, 2009: Dialectical Problem Solving

The surprise Nobel Peace Prize for President’s Obama on October 9, 2009, not surprisingly, generated a flurry of opinions from both his detractors and supporters.  In a matter of hours after the announcement reactions from News shows appeared on YouTube.  Among them were, as expected, criticisms from Fox News including the following clip of Bill O’Reilly interviewing Conservative Radio Host Laura Ingraham.  What struck me about this clip was Laura Ingraham’s position of “Peace Through Strength” which served as her basis to criticize Obama and his foreign policy.

I am sure that President Obama agrees with Laura’s position of “peace through strength” as do, probably, every US Citizen and most people around the world.   “Peace through strength” is a common, if not a core, position of defense, protectionism and national survival. It was popularized by President Ronald Reagan and others to justify having and developing weapons, building a strong military, maintaining a level of intelligence secrecy and even launching preemptive strikes against potential threats.  It helped him win the election over Carter and has since been the Republican stance on foreign policy and anything that suggests diplomacy is considered by them to be weak.

atomic bomb blast29476In the past it was the basis and logic for stockpiling nuclear weapons during the Cold War and was the justification to maintain peace through “Mutually Assured  Destruction” (MAD) between Russia, China and the US.  It was also echoed in President Theodore Roosevelt statement, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”.  Long before Roosevelt, a similar quote in Latin “Si vis pacem, para bellum” meaning “If you wish for peace, prepare for war” was attributed to Roman military writer, Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus.  This principle seems to make sense, especially when one had less-than-friendly aggressive neighbors desiring to conquer your lands, take all your resources and enslave you, your family and all your friends.

Yet “Peace through strength” only works as long as you are on the side of “Strength”.  If you happen to be on the side of the “weak” then things don’t look so great and can be quite miserable. In fact, if you look at any historical conflict from the side of the “weak” then you’ll find every type of human rights crime possible from slavery, genocide, rape, exploitation, abuse and theft of land and natural resources.

Mahatma-Gandhi_1One exception to this was the work of Mahatma Gandhi.  Without using violence and weapons, Gandhi used the strength of  numbers in passive non-violent resistance and was able to force the more powerful British out of India. Yet, today, those of us who live in affluent countries like the US continue to uphold the creed of “Peace Through Strength” without truly considering what it’s like to be on the side of the weak and in spite of Gandhi showing a way of strength through non-violence. (Why, indeed, does India have a standing army?)

1_22_110206_missilesThe affluent nations are not alone in living by this paradigm. Trying to fill the vacuum that was created by the fall of the Soviet Union, Iran and North Korea continue to uphold their own version of “Peace Through Strength” as they try develop their own nuclear arsenal much to the dismay of the rest of the world, especially the United States, champions of the creed.  The future of maintaining “peace through strength” will only lead the entire world down a path of  detente through mutually assured destruction as it was during the Cold War.

While Obama made bold promises of nuclear disarmament, one can only imagine what the distant future will be like in arms reduction talks.  While all of us desire to live in a nuclear free world will we have the courage to do so?  Do we trust each other fully enough to be certain that no one would be hiding a cache of weapons – just in case the other guy lied about getting rid of all his weapons? In a climate of fear and mistrust no side will ever completely give up their “strength”.  This is “peace through strength.”

This detente may never be resolved unless we address the paradigm of “Peace through strength” from a dialectical point of view.  If we realize that such a position can only exist at the expense of and because of the yielding and surrendering of the Weak then perhaps we might be able to resolve this problem.  If you think about it, it is really the Weak who are creating the peace, not the Strength.  The correct paradigm is the reverse: “Peace through Weakness” and not “Peace Through Strength”.

“Peace Through Weakness” is the full yielding and surrendering of all defenses, arms, power and fear.  It is embracing all and living  from a place of unconditional love. This may seem like an impossibility given our present world that is filled with fear and aggression but that is what has been  going in every situation where the “strength” has conquered the “weak”.  But until there is a recognition and respect by all given to the Weak for creating peace then we will not have a true and lasting peace.  I believe that will change one day.  It will happen when we no longer have any choice but to live in peace and with unconditional love and, on a personal level, it can happen with any one of us right now!

Peace be with you!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2009 6:44 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. January 5, 2010 12:25 am

    Peace, like Yin-Yang, is always in imbalance. There is no such thing as perfect peace unless your dead. Some have said, and you know who I mean, that Japan had 2600 years of relative peace. That is if you didn’t mind the face that you could lose your head for just being rude. When the sword roamed the land, people were more polite. A famous gunman from Arizona named Jeff Cooper said: “An armed society is a polite society”. That was how it was in Japan until Perry came to Japan in 1853 with more and bigger guns. Had we left Japan alone we might well have not ever had a war with them. Japan thought they were the most divine race of people on the planet but found they were living in the long dead past and had to race to catch up if they wanted to be the world power they thought they already were. So ended their “peace”.
    For every time there is a season. My study of history leads me to understand it will always be this way and that the real work toward having a more mild peace the world over is going to be one of education of all the worlds children by adults who have taken their heads out of the clouds and start telling the real truth about those forces that work against the “laws of nature” such as Monsanto, Public Schools, Greedy Corporations, the Far Left and the Far Right, the uneducated voting public (how do some of our politicians ever make it to office? It beats me) but most of all…the people who have no idea about how or what to cook…many of them with children…those poor, poor children.
    I could go on forever. We have no future if we let another generation of school children go out into the world with little to no hope of being healthy adults who will then rule the world. Feeding our kids from the organic farms around their schools would do more good than an army.

  3. George permalink
    May 26, 2010 1:20 pm

    Regarding: “Why, indeed, does India have a standing army?”

    Well i have to get some facts straight as referenced in wikipedia

    The Indian Army – Its primary mission is to ensure the national security and defence of the Republic of India from external aggression and threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It also conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances.

    It would be nice to think that a country has to defend its own borders from being occupied

    Thank you for the Blog,

    George

  4. June 8, 2010 8:42 am

    A fascinating exploration of this dialectic is the book “The Strong and the Weak” by Paul Tournier. It is a deeply spiritual discussion of the psychological and social dimensions of the question.

  5. June 8, 2010 8:52 am

    Please keep in mind that:

    Gandhi was fully aware of the limitations of non-violence

    That there were saboteurs, rioters and other forms of aggressive resistance in India, and that caused the authorities to be very very wary of Gandhi and his massive following…

    That Gandhi’s non-violence along may not have had the necessary clout to win India’s independence…

    That non-violent resistance as practiced by Gandhi is one of the VERY few examples people ever cite for non-violence overcoming empire (in most cases, non-violent resistance is crushed)…

    How empires and fascist regimes gloat when they crush non-violent resistance

    For more on this subject I recommend: “How Non-Violence Protects the State” by Peter Geldercloos.

Trackbacks

  1. Questioning “Peace Through Strength” (via Phiya Kushi) « The China Rose

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