Post 9/11: Questioning the Ends and Means of Violence

The Iraq quagmire is in large part the result of the absence of intelligent discussion and debate about U.S. foreign policy post 9/11. With the exception of the ostracized and largely disregarded anti-war community, few Americans dissented or as bravely raised the right questions about their nation's violent response toward the people of the Middle East . The work before us now, as we confront a more hostile region, is to replace violent strategies with means that value, on an equal basis, the human rights of all world citizens. The need is to recognizes and expose the inherent paradox of employing violence to stop violence; of waging war 'for peace'; of condemning terror while conducting terror.

The prevailing notion that moral foreign policy ends can be achieved through military means in which any 'acceptable number' of civilian casualties and injuries necessarily occur remains bankrupt on all levels. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left several times as many innocent civilians dead than were killed on 9/11. The region is more unstable than before, more disillusioned. The futility of pursing policies where 'the ends justifies the means' reflects all around us. The violent strategies chosen by our government, not properly questioned by a compliant and uninformed mainstream, will blow back to haunt us, for in destroying human lives in other parts of the world, we destroy parts of ourselves; ultimately, we sow our own destruction.

National strategies must recognize the affinity of humankind. All human life is sacred. No nation or cultural community has the empirical evidence to name itself, its occupants or its proclaimed values as superior to other nations or cultural communities. Values of love, compassion and self-determination are not rooted in any particular people, religion or culture; they do not reside in just one country or in just one portion of the world, they were not born of a particular group within a particular timeframe in history. Certainly, it is questionable whether a nation founded on the genocide of Native Americans and three centuries of slavery has any moral pulpit whatsoever.

In offering foreign policy alternatives, we must have the courage to address problems of violence and intolerance without participating in the same abhorred systems. Our government and prevailing 'think tanks' fail to understand this. The truth is, war always claims the lives of innocents and thus invalidates and clouds 'justifiable' ends. We must reject the violent, morally bankrupt means that are promoted by the prevailing order. It is a ludicrous concept, the attempt to secure peace through its polar opposite: war. The brilliant scientist Albert Einstein was correct when he stated 'You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.'

Evidenced by the world's current most unstable and terrifying state of affairs, we must challenge the imperialist mindset of the status quo. Strikingly, the dominant ideologies of those who today 'lead' us in fact are leading us astray. Our work will be to reverse the damage caused by the counterproductive cycle of violence. Peace is achieved through justice. Without justice for the world's aggrieved, peace is simply not achievable. Can the families of the victims of 9/11 possess any peace of mind knowing that at least ten thousand innocent Afghans and Iraqis were slaughtered, when bin Laden himself has not been brought to justice?

We can and will oppose the futility of war, military occupations, violence and terror, in all its forms. The institution of slavery was once considered moral, and is now abolished. In a similar vein, let us next move to abolish war. Let us challenge our government and prevailing think tanks which, in their obtuse inability to change mindset, have dreams or embrace any semblance of idealism, are only able to support the self-perpetuating policies of war, killing, and increased planetary destruction. We must courageously expose the failure of prevailing institutions (think tanks, academia, media, churches) to condemn our government's violent tactics. We shall then ardently and passionately replace violent means with radical and enlightened foreign policy alternatives.

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Kristina M. Gronquist's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Kristina M. Gronquist is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She specializes in foreign policy analysis and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota.