By Uche Onyebadi
Americans are so used to their country being at war that one of the questions creeping up in the race for the 2016 presidential election is: Can America wage peace?
Waging peace is an old concept being repackaged by one of the politicians who hope to become the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. For a long time, it looked as if no one had the guts to jump into the ring and exchange political punches with front-runner, Hillary Clinton. That state of reticence has since been shattered, and the latest politician to declare his intention to run on the Democratic Party ticket is a man known as Lincoln Davenport Chafee.
Candidate Chafee is not a political neophyte. He had served as a city Mayor, U.S. Senator and governor of the state of Rhode Island. However, you can argue that his declaration to run for the presidency has launched him into national limelight for the first time in his political life. And he came out swinging on the dais. He wants to put American on the same metric platform with the rest of the world, something that is earning him some scorn in the media and among political comedians.
Chafee is serious about switching to the metric system. This is how he framed his argument: “Everybody measures things. It’s not a matter of political philosophy…Let’s be bold. Let’s join the rest of the world and go metric.” His message of integration with the rest of the world is more likely to resonate outside rather than inside the U.S.A. where people still buy gas for their cars in gallons, calculate distance in miles and measure weight in pounds. Perhaps, Chafee’s point is that America’s sometimes isolationist policies do not bode well for the county.
Chafee touched on several issues, including taking measured swipes at Hillary Clinton, while launching his presidential ambition. But, what attracted my attention was his insistence that America has been in so many wars and faces several ugly war consequences that the time has come for the country to wage peace for a change.
In his web site, Chafee articulates in the following words his belief that as a matter of priority, the time has come for America to actively seek peace: “The tragedies of the Iraq War are manifold; lost and injured lives, hundreds of billions of squandered tax dollars, the difficulty of providing just and proper care for our brave veterans, but maybe the most tragic, the loss of American credibility. I commit to the repair needed to all the harm done. Our credibility will be restored when we respect our world partners and truly listen when they speak. In a world of nuclear weapons, the United States must make international decisions with brains and not biceps.”
Chafee is proud of the fact that “Only 23 of 100 U.S. Senators saw the folly of allowing Bush/Cheney to invade Iraq. I am very proud to be one of the 23.” What is noteworthy about his decision to vote against waging war against Iraq is that he was a Republican senator when he took that principled stand. He has since changed his political philosophy and is now a Democrat. His position against the war was the same as that of then Senator Barack Obama. Even today, Chafee’s philosophy of waging peace is in the same mold as Obama’s constant refrain that America should relate to the world not by the force of its arms but by the power of its ideas, values and vision.
This Republican-turned-Democrat even has a more radical approach to a world without wars than Obama’s current strategies on the same objective. Chafee appeared on CNN’s State of the Union programme and challenged the need for the current U.S. led sanctions against Russia. He told the anchor of the programme that “I don’t know about these sanctions. I should think that there would be better ways of getting rapprochement with Russia.
They’re so important in the world and especially to the former Soviet republic such as Ukraine,” To Chafee, alienating Russia in the modern world is not a good recipe for global peace and security. He even went further in another interview to say that he could not rule out talks with ISIS. Chafee is convinced that the way to go is to give peace a chance. According to him, “We need to wage peace in this world.”
Chafee’s ISIS talk and the notion of avoidance of war must sound like obscenity to his former colleagues in the Republican Party. Here is how another presidential hopeful, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, framed the ISIS argument when he was asked about Obama’s approach to the on-going tragedy in Iraq and Syria: “We’re fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It’s going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy…. It’s delusional in the way they approach this…. (ISIL is) intending to come here.
So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate. This is a war we’re fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation! This is not Somalia; this is not Yemen; this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
With this type of sentiment and conviction, Chafee appears to be in a fantasy world to think that the U.S. is ripe to wage peace. Left to people like Senator John McCain, a staunch ally of Senator Graham, the U.S. should have long ago started a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and Assad of Syria. Some of these war mongers do not talk about the real cost and consequence of war. They are only interested in using America’s military might to settle any conflict. Unfortunately, their voices drown those of the less belligerent Chafees of U.S. politics; people who wish their country could wage peace, not war.