‘There never was a good war or a bad peace.’ – Benjamin Franklin
‘It should be our endeavour to cultivate the peace and friendship of every nation, even of that which has injured us most.’ – Thomas Jefferson
Peace through strength is a favourite maxim of the Neoconservative movement in the United States. They make the rather unusual claim that lots more guns and ammo will make the world a safer place. There is, however, one problem: this claim has all the purity of excrement.
How do I know this? Or rather, how does any sensible human being know this?
Firstly, US military spending has steadily grown since World War II. Their army has grown ever stronger. They spend more than everyone else and they always have the best weapons. Unfortunately, as their arsenal has grown, Americans have become ever less safe. The only way this whole peace through strength lark holds up, therefore, is if foreign folk have become even more mean and fightey. If this is true, America better get its act together and become even stronger. But it is not. Human beings all across the world have been consistent in their levels of barbarism.
On top of this, it’s only peace through strength if you follow this massive build-up of arms with restraint. Lately, America has been slow to oblige. President Reagan more than any other Commander-in-Chief liked this phrase- see his budget deficits for more information. But at the same time as spinning a good yarn about peace, he was arming contras in Nicaragua. Where was the peace? At the very best, this situation is evidence of a Neoconservative desire for America to feel peace, regardless of the cost for other nations. It is a similar motive which drives the US sympathy for Israel- they recognise a fellow peace through strength buddy.
|Reagan on his dinosaur, Eugene.|
In reality, the principle behind peace through strength is a questionable one. It is very similar to the philosophy of the mafioso at the centre of the classic film ‘A Bronx Tale’. Robert DeNiro’s character explains to his son that the mafioso is not respected or liked, but feared. America seeks to strike fear into other nations. When Thomas Friedman told Charlie Rose that America needed to go to Iraq, so as to tell the Islamic world to ‘suck on this’, he was very close to the truth. And President Bush took the cake when he proclaimed that if nations were not with America, they were with the terrorists. The US has a my way or the highway approach to world affairs. Hence the need to scare people.
Accordingly, peace through strength would only hold water if people all over the world were spineless in the extreme. Human beings do not like being forced into anything. The Pax Americana, therefore, cannot but lead to violence. The saddest part of all this is that the US has forgotten the story of its own birth. Americans quite rightly founded their own state because they had had enough of being told how they should run their own country. Remembering this would be helpful.
Do they think so little of other peoples that they would not expect a similar reaction when they take on the role of oppressor?