Four months ago, inspired by reporting from Craig Whitlock and The Washington Post, this newsletter zeroed in on a simple deficit of consciousness — a dearth of clear intentions — to explain why an “endless war” appeared to be such a, you know, cluster-fuck. The piece aimed to underscore how very much intentions matter in issues large and small, for people and governments alike. I said at the time, “Simply, a conscious government would never have conducted ‘the war in Afghanistan’ the way America conducted it.” Nobody called me out on it. Nobody said hey, conscious politics writer hotshot idiot: a conscious government would never engage in war, period. It was a trick statement! You’d have been right, of course, and you might have shut me up. But you missed it so here I am in your inbox. Again. On the same-but-different subject.
Today, conscious politics practitioner, we are blasting right through the incessant handwringing and haranguing over how our twenty-year military adventure in you-know-where is coming to an end because, frankly, garbage in, garbage out. Or, perhaps more charitably, unconsciousness in, unconsciousness out. The point is the consciousness that undergirds the very notion of war is in hospice, actively dying, as we know. There is no reason, then, to feed it or otherwise prop it up. We should infuse it with as much political morphine as it needs, add a little extra for good measure and, for the sake of humanity, let it fucking go. Already.
What we should be talking about as this adventure comes to its logically dissatisfying conclusion, what we should be seeing on the tee-vee and hearing on the radio, streaming online, scrolling on our phones, and reading in the papers is wall-to-wall coverage of peacebuilding. Sear this word and concept into your psyche starting today. Peacebuilding. Is that one word or two? Is it hyphenated? Is it the same thing as peacemaking? Or peacekeeping? Wonder and ponder. Let the very notion and all it inspires marinate and take hold in your heart and mind. Play with it. Entertain it. Give it other names. Look for examples of it. Create it where you are. Peace, justice, cooperation, harmony, healing — it’s all the same thing and from a new-consciousness perspective, it’s the only game in town.
Just two months ago President Biden, in Brussels with our closest European allies, declared “America is back” and said, “I have a very different view than my predecessor did.” Whoops. Whatever one thinks about what is or isn’t happening in, with, and about Afghanistan right now, it’s not looking like our president or America itself is on solid ground on the world stage. Moscow and Beijing are licking their chops while the Brits and the European Union — first because of the former guy and now because of now — are continuing their reassessments of their relationships to and with America. They are seriously questioning their decades-long reliance upon us for global leadership in general and are looking elsewhere for it. Nature, vacuum. Meanwhile, billions of people have been suffering and are suffering today from physical, emotional, environmental, economic, racial, ethnic, and every other form of violence there is — in Afghanistan, in America, in Europe, and everywhere.
He could declare, today, that this is America’s last war. He could announce the inauguration of a years-long period of transition from America being on a war/defense footing to America being on a peace/healing footing. He could invite every other nation to join us in this life-changing, shape-shifting mission.
So what’s an American president to do? Or what might a conscious politics practitioner who happens to be president do? He could declare, today, that this is America’s last war. He could announce the inauguration of a years-long period of transition from America being on a war/defense footing to America being on a peace/healing footing. He could invite every other nation to join us in this life-changing, shape-shifting mission.
He could hold a press conference this week with Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and every member of Congress currently co-sponsoring the perennially-introduced, never-heard-about Department of Peacebuilding Act (now “of 2021”) and present it to the nation and the world. He could describe how the act will establish a U.S. Department of Peace whose raison d’etre will be as a catalyst — large enough, powerful enough, and credible enough — for peace and healing at home and worldwide. He could talk about how the legislation would establish a U.S. Peace Academy to stand aside our U.S. Military Academies at West Point and elsewhere in funding, stature, and quality of cutting-edge education. He could campaign for its immediate passage, nominate its secretary, send the nomination to the Senate for confirmation, and set the stage for monies to be appropriated.
He could announce the formation of one of those Blue Ribbon Presidential Commissions to review — concurrent with top-down and bottom-up reviews within the Defense and State departments — the placement and intention of every military base and every military operation on the globe. He could empower it to make recommendations about what to keep, what to transform, what to shift to the new Department of Peace, and what to relinquish. To prove his resolve, he could echo FDR’s attitude toward the monopolists, banking tycoons, and war profiteers of his day, “welcoming their hatred,” by putting the defense industry and the military industrial complex writ large on notice. They’re not the enemy, he could say, but fewer and fewer of their goods and services will be needed the deeper into this transition we go. He could do his part to inspire them, like our most industrious entrepreneurs, to pivot and innovate and turn their businesses and industries into the very engines of change we need for this transformation to happen and he could support their efforts to do so.
He could declare America’s intention to re-imagine its defense alliances to mirror this transition, shoring up the military components where called for while cultivating within those alliances a greater emphasis on peacebuilding. He could encourage the ongoing recruiting of new peacebuilding partners worldwide — from national governments and non-governmental organizations to religious and academic institutions to the smallest of organized programs anywhere to an international corps of individuals and activists who are eager to play a role in a grand, ever-expanding, interconnected network of global peacebuilding alliances that welcome all.
Or he could poke at and prop up the hospice patient.
NOTE: Craig Whitlock’s book, “The Afghanistan Papers,” publishes on August 31.
NOTE: I have loosely tracked the proposed legislation to create the U.S. Department of Peace for 20 years and it’s not easy. At the time it was Rep. Denis Kucinich (D-OH) introducing a bill at the start of each legislative session and while I’ve seen it reported that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced it when the current Congress began, I don’t even see reference to it on her own site.
The Peace Alliance is usually fairly up to date on the project; 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson talked about it on the campaign trail last year and has an OK write-up of the plan here.