Opinion Society

10 Ways for Defense to Wage Peace, Not War

Christiaan Briggs, Hustvedt, Wikimedia Commons
Written by Vera Wilde

As we’ve seen, growing mass security screenings pose a growing security threat according to the math, the feds violate equal opportunity law and lie to Congress about it according to open-source documents, and on top of that the surveillance state that probably costs trillions and institutionalizes bias in various ways yet doesn’t effectively exist.

In 1975, Senator Frank Church appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, and said the following,

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything — telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

The good news is that if we respond to these established facts with the Congressional inquiry and defunding of backfiring programs that would be the logical response, it frees up billions in federal funding for a range of other, important programs. Here are a few ideas how we the People can spend our piñata state funding.

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They’re all about waging peace, not war.

  1. Justice as Forgiveness — national policing and intelligence reform.

Instead of seeking justice as fairness by asking how rule-abiding police and intelligence folks are being — when following the rules can mean engaging in torture or homicide — we should be seeking justice as forgiveness. The first step in this alternative process is to build consensus during a Congressional Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressing American post-9/11 violations of rule of law at home and abroad.

We already tried this during the Vietnam Era, after Mark Felt — then-FBI Deputy Director opened his Deep Throat, supplying information to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about illegal domestic surveillance and due process violations involving peaceful protesters. This eventually culminated in the Church Committee and its fourteen published reports on U.S. intelligence agency abuses of law and powers. A good start, in theory, but here we are again. So instead of retaining a critical focus like the Church Committee did, we need to build a new national consensus about justice that is truly conciliatory. We can learn a lot from successful programs that have already done this, Boston’s Operation Ceasefire — which also showed that gun control can work in America.

  1. Gun control on the Australian model.

Over 30,000 preventable firearms deaths — 10,000+ homicides and 20,000+ suicides — annually make this a national security and health & safety issue of the first order. Addressing our gun violence epidemic has the potential to save more black and blue lives than any other potential policing reform.

  1. Public transportation infrastructure.

Over 30,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents annually make building adequate public transportation infrastructure another national security and health & safety issue of paramount importance.

  1. Overhauling the Declassification System to Deliver on Transparency.

As I’ve written before, the system for ensuring Americans know what is happening in their name is broken. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) apparatus has become so overloaded and nonfunctional that leaks have become an even more integral part of our built-in system of checks and balances. Although a rapidly growing volume of FOIA requests has changed the game since the Internet revolution, this is not a new problem, it’s getting worse instead of better, and governmental nontransparency threatens our democracy. So our democracy should threaten governmental nontransparency.

  1. Leading the world in responding to the global refugee crisis.
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Evidence-based public works projects helping researchers and practitioners collaborate on a range of projects giving others needed sanctuary and celebrating life have the potential to educate, employ, and otherwise enrich a diverse range of Americans while helping the nation exhibit global leadership in a mass humanitarian crisis affecting tens of millions of people worldwide. Research on the flow of small arms globally also suggests that the U.S. contributes more than any other single actor to the weapons that might keep the conflicts that created the refugee crisis, high-fatality and growing. Just as we might consider deescalating the police-people mistrust spiral domestically by implementing gun control, and building more organizational trust to make security agencies safer from insider threats, so too might we consider helping to de-escalate proxy conflicts in the Global War on Terror by stopping the flow of weapons from America.

  1. Minimum income.

People from very different ends of the political spectrum, like classical liberals F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman along with communist Frances Fox Piven, have proposed a minimum income or negative income tax. This type of welfare state cuts a lot of red tape and waste by getting rid of qualifications for assistance. And it frees more people to take the kinds of risks bringing their passions to the marketplace that free societies are supposed to support and reward — because when more people thrive doing what they love, more people benefit from their thriving in the marketplaces of ideas, goods, and services.

  1. Caring for the carers.

Housing for the homeless, who are disproportionately veterans, works better and more efficiently than any other strategy we have tested. Similar strategies can be applied to testing new solutions to revolutionizing veteran and other caretaker care.

  1. Growth mindset education reform.

Despite education research showing the growth, “learn and help learn” mindset correlates with better outcomes across educational, personal, and professional realms than the fixed, “judge and be judged” mindset, recent education reforms have promoted fixed mindset testing metrics and other standardized approaches. But education reform advancing math and science literacy — along with the use of positive psychology tools and creative as well as scientific methods of engaging with the universal human search for the truth — needs to get away from that testing model of judging metrics, and advance the science of science education in new, growth mindset-oriented ways.

  1. Better whistleblower protections.
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—including national security whistleblower protections that are currently nonexistent for the people who try to keep us safe by guarding the guardians. We need more research, too, as a matter of national security and public health & safety, into how to help people who are trying to help make their organizations more law-abiding do so in ways that are constructive for all parties.

  1. Protections for the EDTR/Other Web.

Internet freedom is essential for the universal human rights to express, dissent, teach, and resist. The U.S. has often led the world in protecting these universal human rights, but lately we’ve fallen behind. It’s time to reverse that pendulum swing.

Small Wrists, Soft Bellies

Goodness is indefensible. Harbors are indefensible from small-boat terrorism in game theoretical terms — without destroying the free trade that makes ports vibrant. Open-air markets are indefensible from soft terror attacks — without destroying the freedom of movement that makes them open in the dual sense. Our fragile human bodies are indefensible — small wrists and soft bellies making us all vulnerable to restraint and attack. Liberty, like life and the pursuit of happiness, is an improbable agreement we seem to have reached with one another, for a time. It’s statistically improbable. Trying to control it, destroys it. But we can defend it with our goodness. Or die trying.

If you want to stop terrorism, don’t be evil. If you want to make people feel safe, be kind. And if you want to defund a few dozen billion-dollar programs to make our beautiful future together better, take me to Church.


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About the author

Vera Wilde

Reformed Harvard Kennedy Fellow, wondering artist, wandering artist. www.wildethinks.com

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10 Ways for Defense to Wage Peace, Not War

by Vera Wilde
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