It is the Christmas season, the season of peace. But, of course, there is no peace.
For Americans, the last half-century since the catastrophes of World War II has been one war, invasion or intervention after another: Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Haiti (twice), Lebanon (twice), Somalia, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Kosovo, Afghanistan and, of course, Iraq — twice.
And I’m not counting the Cold War.
But we cannot allow peace to be a fantasy. In fact, there are imaginative paths to peace, or at least ways to give it a jump-start. So here are five that Barack Obama might want to consider.
1. For America to lead the way in a campaign to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. That’s right, all.
2. To give up on trying to win a military victory in Afghanistan and begin to withdraw American troops rather than adding more.
3. To immediately open negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation once and for all — and not stop until an iron-clad treaty is signed. How? Put Bill Clinton in charge.
4. To scrap the nonsensical “Star Wars” missile defense program — demonstrably one of the great military-industrial boondoggles of all time.
5. To end the ridiculous economic boycott of Cuba and start negotiations on resumption of full diplomatic relations.
Let’s take them one by one.
Point One: Rid the world of nuclear weapons.
This is not a fantasy. In fact, getting rid of all nuclear weapons, including ours, has been advocated for years by many of the most sophisticated and experienced foreign policy experts in the country.
Two years ago, four of them — Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, both former secretaries of state; William Perry, a former secretary of defense; and Sam Nunn, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee — publicly called for just that.
The U.S. objective, they said, was “ultimately ending them (nuclear weapons) as a threat to the world.” They said it would be tough, but possible.
Most important, we would provide an incentive for countries that don’t have nuclear weapons to abandon any plans to acquire them. That’s the answer to the problem of Iran.
Barack Obama has publicly supported this concept. He should move on it.
Point Two: Get out of Afghanistan. This is one area where I strongly disagree with Barack Obama.
Afghanistan is not just our problem. It is a political and intelligence problem for the international community. Our effort should be to cooperate with our allies in addressing it — not to send more American troops. The Soviets learned that raw military force could not subdue Afghanistan, but we are repeating all of the Soviet mistakes.
Even Obama’s choice as defense secretary, Robert Gates, has said it would be a terrible mistake to let Afghanistan become an “American war.” But it is already an American war, and Obama is threatening to make it worse. And even Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, has said he doubts if sending more American forces into Afghan villages will tamp down the insurgency.
Point Three: The Israeli Palestinian problem. This is the perfect job for former President Bill Clinton, who in 2000 at Camp David presided over the most promising effort since the birth of Israel to find a solution — and almost pulled it off.
Most important, his Israeli counterpart at the time, Ehud Barak, is now Israeli defense minister, and the two of them know the necessary formulas.
It will require formation of a Palestinian state, an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, dismantlement of thousands of Israeli settlements and a grand compromise to share Jerusalem and the sacred soils of the Temple Mount. If it isn’t done, there will be no peace in the Middle East for another generation.
Point Four: Scrap the impossible dream of missile defense. The United States has poured upwards of $80 billion down this rathole over the last 25 years and has never had a successful test that wasn’t rigged.
It’s time to give it up. Countermeasures to foil the system are too easy to develop and very cheap.
Point Five: End the economic boycott of Cuba.
If ever there was a failed policy, this is it. We’ve tried for 45 years to embarrass and cripple Castro, and our major achievement has been to impoverish the Cuban people.
It’s time to acknowledge failure and build a new relationship with Cuba.
None of these suggestions would cost money — in fact, they would save billions.
Barack Obama does seem to understand something that George W. Bush and his cohorts never understood: that diplomacy and compromise can be more effective in producing real change than military force.
He should put his theories to work. We should wish him well.
James McCartney, a Holmes Beach resident, is a former Washington columnist for Knight Ridder Newspapers. He writes this column for The Bradenton Herald.