Local view: Breaking things, hurting people not best way to solve global problems

"America knows war. They are war masters. They know better than me. They know how to fund a war. They are great teachers."This is from Mohamed Qanyare, a Somali warlord who once was "Washington's man in Mogadishu." Qanyare is featured in "Dirty W...

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“America knows war. They are war masters. They know better than me. They know how to fund a war. They are great teachers.”
This is from Mohamed Qanyare, a Somali warlord who once was “Washington’s man in Mogadishu.” Qanyare is featured in “Dirty Wars,” an award-winning documentary about America’s covert wars in the Mideast. The film is based on the book of the same name by Jeremy Scahill.
The point that Scahill (and others) make is that America is becoming known by many as a militaristic nation, one that sees the whole world as its own war zone, one that has no compunctions about outsourcing killing to questionable contractors, one with seemingly unlimited resources to use violence to serve its national interests.
This is hardly the view most Americans have of themselves. Many see America as the defender of the oppressed and as a model of liberty for the rest of the world.
An argument can be made for both pictures of America. Most Americans are well-meaning and see themselves as fair-minded and just. At the same time, our leaders seem to value violence as an approach in global affairs. An Air Force general once reminded me that the primary role of the military is to “break things and hurt people,” not to explore more challenging and nuanced nonviolent solutions to global problems.
Our military expenditures exceed those of the next 12 nations combined. Our military presence casts a long shadow over the entire globe. This is not to say there is not a place for our armed forces. But violence and force seem to be our favored response to conflict, considering the resources we allocate to defense and war-making.
Yet there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that nonviolent solutions to conflict may be twice as successful as violent campaigns. This is the conclusion Erica Chenoweth drew after an extensive study of conflict from 1900 through 2006. Chenoweth is based at the University of Denver and has spent several years as an associate senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.
Certainly our violent approach in the Mideast since the American invasion of Iraq has been less than successful. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Mazzetti worries about “metastasizing of the problem of radicalization in the Muslim world” because of our drone strikes. He worries that these strikes may be creating more terrorists than they are killing.
There has to be a better way. We must resist the temptation to resort to violence in dealing with complex problems that may be the result of a century of bad decisions.
Memorial Day was created after the American Civil War to honor and remember the dead following that tragic episode on our soil. But it was not intended to be a second Veterans Day or an opportunity to create support for current or future military ventures. Such a use of the holiday does not honor those who died in past wars.
Former war correspondent Chris Hedges believes that the “constant act of remembering and honoring the fallen during war” may actually be a device to exploit the memory of the war dead in an effort to gain support for current military ventures. We are in danger, he fears, of using Memorial Day ceremonies to sanctify the next war.
Please join members of Veterans for Peace and others this Memorial Day at 11 a.m. to “Honor the Fallen, Not the War” at Lake Place Plaza. We will appreciate your support in making a statement for peace.

Tom Morgan is director of the Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice at the College of St. Scholastica. He’s also a veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of the Twin Ports Chapter 80 of Veterans for Peace (


Get involved
* What: “Honor the Fallen, Not the War,” a Memorial Day event
* When: 11 a.m. Monday
* Where: Lake Place Plaza, which is above the Lakewalk at Michigan Street and Second Avenue East
* Who: The event is public, hosted by members of Veterans for Peace

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