Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finding a just Peace

America currently struggles to find a policy for terminating the Iraq War and establishing a just peace. David Andleman offers some lessons from history (David Andleman, A Shattered Peace. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 2008).

The armistice of 11 November 1918 ended WWI fighting. Six months later, at the conclusion of the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles took effect. The war officially ended 28 June 1919--5 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, one of the events triggering the war

One of the more important and controversial provisions required Germany and its allies to accept full responsibility for causing the war. Articles 231-248 demanded that they disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to those nations forming the Entente powers.

Historians suggest this Treaty was undermined by subsequent events. International competition began about 1922, and was widely flouted through the mid-thirties. The resulting competition resulted in sometimes incompatible goals and brought about compromises that satisfied no one.

Germany was neither pacified nor conciliated. It did not offer a promising future for either Germany, Europe, or the world. Eventually, Charles D. Teney, United States charge’ d”affaires in Beijing, cabled Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, who succeeded Lansing during Woodrow Wilson’s last year as president, warning that

“The Japanese government and nation are drunk with ambition, They aspire to control the western share of the Pacific Ocean and the resources of the hinterland. . .[and seeking to control the trade of Asia, they dream] of the day when they can humble the United States and are systematically preparing for it” (Andleman, 281).

That conclusion, and reference to the conflict that eventually followed, comes from an observer of the process. E. J. Dillon described the signers of the Versailles Treaty as “a gang of benevolent conspirators, ignoring history and expertship, shutting themselves up in a room and talking disconnectedly” . . . each of them “striving desperately to come out on top over the other--but particularly over that paragon of virtue, and naiveté’, Woodrow Wilson” (Andleman/289).

They called Wilson many names, many of them for being whatever his critics considered politically unworthy. Much of the criticism was undeserving, whatever the politic. The powerbrokers considered him politically naïve for recognizing our need for world community, abusing him for his attempts at establishing accountability among nations through his so-called League of Nations.

“Each of the European Allies,” reported Andleman, “was determined to take care of the needs and the security of his own nation, as he perceived it--and everyone else be damned. Bismarck, in an earlier era, had tossed off the perfect description of all their feelings: ‘The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier’” (Andleman/290).

“The aim of most of the victors who began arriving in Paris after the armistice in November 1918 was to create an imperial peace (emphasis added). This was tailor-made to maintain British hegemony on the high seas, thereby protecting its global empire.

“It helped France dust itself off and establish its claim as the preeminent Continental power. And it mandated the rest of the world--especially those least powerful but no less endowed with natural or material wealth--to dispatch their tribute to the victors in the form of commodities, cheap labor, and expanding markets.

“We have paid the price for many decades now, “for all these. . . Who with great insouciance, dismembered nations and divided peoples carelessly and thoughtlessly according to a simple whim, or worse” (Andleman/13).

Some Americans like riding around the world like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, doing good works according to our standards. Others recognize the need for our nation, as well as all nations, to become accountable to each other on behalf of humanity’s common good. At the core, there are only two kinds of human beings, takers, or givers.

I did not know of David Andleman, when I picked up his new book. However, I found him to be a reputable journalist, a reporter with a long resume in international affairs. He documented his sources, like good writers do, and I found his descriptions relevant and his conclusions provocative of further thought.

The shattered peace he describes, which we endure as if a seeming necessity, offers legitimate charges against the much self-seeking of private interests. Andleman thoughtfully reminds us of our continued need to press forward with renewed peace efforts toward the common good.

During much of my life political powerbrokers and private interests have struggled for control of the political processes. The takers were more obvious than the givers. Most of all, Versailles proved to be a political power struggle where the biggest players controlled the deck.

By forcing smaller economic and political players (and the givers) to go along with their socio-political gaming, they produced no lasting peace. I can only imagine the frustration of a Palestinian, trying to get a hearing, finding no other “last resort” of protest than to self-destruct. Men like Father Elias Chacour help us understand Palestinian life under Israeli occupation--supported by the world powers. I do not wonder at all about Middle-east unrest!

I don’t approve of much of today‘s political conniving, but I try to understand (I too would want a political hearing). As Americans, we are experiencing a meltdown of unleashed capitalism. Commercial greed gobbles up everything in sight and threatens to self-destruct--taking the economy down with it.

Professor E. J. Dionne recently described this unvarnished greed as the biggest political story of 2008--getting very little media coverage. “It involves” wrote Dionne, “the collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economic debate for three decades. Since the Reagan years, he concludes, “free-market clichés have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing.

Nothing works, either politically or economically, as well as the principles of the Prince of Peace, who came blessing peacemakers and instructing his followers to practice God’s fundamental law of human relations - love one another---as I have loved you (John 13:34).

Thomas a Kempis concluded “In Jesus and for Him, enemies and friends alike are to be loved.” I agree.


Jonathan said...

Question: who are you referring to when you say, "But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing." Can you give the source on this?

Not all conservatives are capitalists.

Wayne said...

Jonathan, I am certain that was an E J Dionne editorial in the Wash Post, but I don't find it at the moment. There is an outside chance I could have read it in Kevin Phillips BAD MONEY, but do not believe so. And no argument--"not all conservatives are capitalists." What I got most from it all was the rampant greed that capitalism ultimately reveals, unless bridled. Wayne