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Force Isn’t Enough: U.S. Must Make Friends

Force Isn’t Enough: U.S. Must Make Friends
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For the past decade, I’ve thought that America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere would cause us to fundamentally re-appraise our presence in the world and realign our priorities to reflect modern-day threats. Some hopeful signs of change exist, especially among military professionals who have first hand experience. They understand more than anybody the limits of force and the need for other strategies — like helping people build resilience.

The Need for Resilience

Resilience is a word that you’re going to hear a lot in the wake of Tuesday’s awful episode in Libya. Think of resilience as a broadly inclusive and “bottom up” ability to adapt, persevere and prosper in an uncertain world. It’s what leaders in the military are pursuing for both the United States and for Afghanistan. It’s the concept at the heart of much of Hillary Clinton’s leadership at the State Department. I’m pretty certain it was also the long term goal of our murdered Americans and their Libyan security colleagues in Benghazi.

The key to successful resilience is local community strength and being prepared. These are tricky qualities for a U.S. national security policy that remains stuck somewhere between the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the 2006 Youtube IPO.

The violent action in Libya on 9/11 and the inflamed masses that continue to congregate at U.S. Embassies across the region illuminates just how complex the world has become over the past 20 years.

It is important to distinguish between the contagious infuriated protests about an Islam-slandering video and the murder of our Ambassador and his colleagues. As of today, evidence points to the Benghazi consulate attack being the result of a group skilled in lethal coordination.

Use of Force Must Become Less Important

If you are paying attention to any campaign-related talking points about this incident, do yourself a favor and turn the volume down. The truth is, we are in an era where we need to figure out a better risk management strategy for our national security. This will involve thoughtful leadership and tradeoffs. The use of force will remain important, but must be moved to the margin.

Unfortunately, the political fight over budget sequestration is vintage 1985 on the Right. The Ryan/Romney position is to pit American domestic resilience against their vision of national security, i.e. a world where a combination of bullying and hardware equals safety. President Obama’s positions are more modern and more subtle, yet even this administration’s signature platform is the drone strike.

Neither of these positions is adequate in today’s world. You can’t meet the demandsof distributed power with distributed violence. It is not sustainable in the long run. In a world of individuals who have been led to believe they are our peers (by our own insistence), “do what I say” is an insult and “I’m going to kill you” is not an effective argument. Today, our credibility matters. It builds our social capital with the relationships that matter — the masses. Carefully stockpiling it is a wise move.

Retaliation over what happened might be a necessary response to armed militias who attacked our diplomatic corps. But we must have an eye to the future where the Libyans themselves control this matter. Persuading millions of demonstrating Arabs and Muslims about the benefits of open society is another challenge altogether.

Egyptian President Morsi called on U.S. officials to prosecute the producers of the slanderous video. People who have lived under dictatorships assume that the government controls such things. The Bill of Rights is unfamiliar to the millions of people we need on ourside in that part of the world. We would have to rent space from Canada if we were to prosecute everyone who posted an idiotic rant online.


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AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.

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2:22AM PST on Nov 26, 2013

If the US continue with force, then everyone will be against them. Try to think :)

7:16AM PST on Nov 29, 2012

"...Is it time for the U.S. to use measures other than force?..." -YES, INDEED!!!

6:31PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

I support ALL people's right to live in peace regardless of religion (or lack thereof), I just happen to believe that it can't (and won't) be accomplished though force and aggression. And I think the sooner we in the US grasp and embrace that concept, the better off not only we here in the US, but all other countries in the world, will be, as so much of the world sees our force as a problem rather than a solution.

6:25PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Thanks. Beth talk about an "independent" news source and dismiss the BBC, Washington Post, and the New York Times, then you talk about how Islam "is one of the cruelest and violent ideologies in the world to date on an incredibly large scale." Does that narrative on Islam come from an "independent" news source? By "independent" I assume you mean, perhaps, Fox News? A very poor and sad choice of words, in my opinion, for a religion (Islam) that actually does teach peace and love and one that has a lot more deference to Jesus Christ (they view him as a prophet, like they do Mohammed), than does, say, Judaism.

8:56AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012


7:11PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

The BBC is a very pro-Arab source, as the BBC itself has admitted. It may be true, it may not be. Best to get it through an independent source, including NOT the Washington Post, NY Times and the like.

Hopefully, the Arabs Muslims have truly had an actual taste and appreciation for free speech that can last and change its very ugly, dim, violent and backwards world, and stop making everyone miserable telling us how great Islam is, one of the cruelest and violent ideologies in the world to date on an incredibly large scale.

9:23PM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

Me too Pam, me too!

9:19PM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

"According to the BBC, a huge demonstration against Islamic militants in Benghazi ended when ordinary citizens stormed the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, the Islamist militia responsible for an attack on the US Embassy. 30,000 protesters marched today against the Islamist group, with the march culminating in a spontaneous attack on the Militia Headquarters. A number of buildings and vehicles have been torched.

The BBC Also Reports that Libyan Security forces joined in with the protesters, attacking a number of militant facilities and forcing the Militia to flee.

The story is still breaking, and there aren't a lot of details yet."

++++++++++++++++++ Well, well, WELL! We need to see more of this...more clear proof that there are still responsible people in Libya who aren't afraid to stand up and USE THEIR DEMOCRACY to SPEAK!

We all need to remember that Libyans haven't had free speech or a direct voice in government for decades! They've no idea how powerful one person can be....Gadafi took care of that for them! They're so used to being TOLD how to think by imams and the government that this kind of action is brand new and very significant!

Perhaps this will be seen as "a good thing" in years ahead.....I hope so!

7:20PM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

Thank you for the link Dorothy, this is an important development.

7:15PM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

I hadn't heard of it, Dorothy, but I'm just getting in from a dinner date. Thanks for posting the link.....will go to it now.

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