"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Talisman Saber - Anything but Charming


While most of the world has been focused on Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras... (and the list goes on), the U.S. and Australians have been getting some exercise of the military kind. Actually, they engaged in a huge joint training exercise in Central Queensland, Australia, called Combined Exercise Talisman Saber '09. Beginning on July 6 and ending July 25, the exercise involved over 24,000 military personnel, and cost an estimated $250 million in taxpayer dollars.

Why do adults need to play such expensive war games? According to Brigadier Bob Brown, "This exercise aims to improve Australian and U.S. combat readiness and interoperability across the full spectrum of operations - from humanitarian operations and peacekeeping to counterinsurgency and conventional war." So there you have it; I suspect that when translated from militaryspeak, it means, "this exercise allows us to play with every possible toy at our disposal in every possible scenario." I guess when the military is working so hard in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they need to let off a little steam and have some fun down under.

You might think that $250 million could (and should) be better spent in improving foreign relations (through foreign assistance) and conflict resolution and other vital services that are provided not by the military, but by foreign service personnel. In the U.S. we have so consistently and drastically underfunded civilian foreign policy for so many years that the foreign service is now grossly understaffed and without a mission (although some would have their mission dovetail with the mission of the U.S. military).

A few brave Australians of conscience (many of them Catholic Workers) decided to resist the militaristic machinations in Central Queensland, and (after announcing their intentions) covertly entered the restricted area where the exercise was being held. Three of them were subsequently captured, but the other four were able to avoid capture, even after searches using all the technology (and search dogs) available to the military. They evidently evaded capture for at least a week. Well done!!! You can read more and see photos of the crafty anti-war activists by clicking here.

By now you are wondering just what is the point of my rambling. The point is that if your only tool is a hammer, or in this case, bullets, bombs and missiles, that is what you are going to use. Besides the deadly violence inherent in military action, it just doesn't work (in the long run). And lest we forget, 90 percent of those who die in today's wars are civilians! The solution is civilian-based foreign policy based upon respect and applying proven methodologies of foreign assistance and nonviolent conflict resolution.

Sadly, the creative resistance of the Australian anti-war activists will go unnoticed by most of the world thanks to the news media's lack of interest. If you are interested in changing the balance of U.S. foreign engagement from military to alternative (peaceful) methods that include civilian foreign engagement (diplomacy) and assistance, check out Just Foreign Policy. These folks believe in "a more multilateral approach to foreign relations—one that relies less on raw U.S. military and economic power and more on international law and treaties, co-operation, and diplomacy." Now there is a novel concept!!!

And don't forget the Friends Committee on National Legislation's (FCNL) Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict program. Their Responsibility to Prevent report lays out a solid plan to build strong U.S. civilian agencies to better prevent wars.

And while you are on the diplomatic trail, send an email telling your Senators to increase the staffing and programs at the Department of State "and give our diplomats a clear new mission: to prevent, mitigate, and resolve armed conflict."



Note: The catchy artwork comes courtesy of the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, otherwise known as No-Bases.org. Check em out!

1 comment:

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