Time for U.S. to be bully of peace

Lin Jensen is a Zen teacher and author of Bad Dog! Love, Beauty and Redemption in Dark Places

The Bush administration’s claim of a right to overthrow any regime it considers hostile is a disastrous proposition and can be seen as such by the obvious disaster its implementation has wrought in Iraq and by the subsequent deterioration of cooperative alliances with other nations who find the behavior intolerable.

The invasion of Iraq was the first openly declared execution of the novel new American Doctrine of Preemptive War, a dangerous doctrine subversive of international order and peace. All kinds of arguments have been made in its behalf, but it is a doctrine that rests on little more than a justification to attack anyone you think might attack you. If such a principle is inherently good, then it’s universally good, and anyone experiencing distrust or suspicion is justified in attacking the offending party.

It was just such simplistic thinking that led the citizens of this nation to swallow the absurdity of the United States, a superpower with unchallenged military superiority, claiming to be threatened by Iraq, an impoverished and ruined little nation halfway around the world.

Even if you could argue convincingly for preemptive attack as a universal right, it’s not a right that’s universally available. It’s merely the right of the schoolyard bully, who, having outgrown his peers, can beat up on them without fear of retaliation. Preemptive war can be exercised only by a nation possessing an overwhelming military superiority that discourages any hope of retaliation. The Bush doctrine of preemptive war is the policy of a bully who can act unilaterally because he’s big enough to get away with it.

What if our nation quit being the bully of war and took up being the bully of peace? What if we made the unprecedented move of threatening the world with unilateral peace? In Thailand recently, the Thai air force sent its warplanes aloft on just such a mission of preemptive peace. Encouraged by the government, Thais across the country—cabinet ministers, office workers, schoolchildren and even convicts—had been busily folding Japanese style origami birds as peace messages to be dropped instead of bombs on warring factions in the south of the country.

It was a classic peace attack. It didn’t immediately end all hostilities, but it’s as if the schoolyard bully reached out with a helping hand instead of a fist of knuckles. Sound naïve? Just so much wishful thinking? Not if you know something of the persuasive power of simple kindness.