This is a time in history unlike any other. A post-WW2 order that was built with great care and which mainly held for most of the last 75 years, now appears to be eroding.
Heroic attempts are being made to shore it up, particularly in light of the American president’s failure to appreciate the role of a European Alliance in maintaining such an order.
But be that as it may, and for whatever reasons, the templates have shifted underneath our feet and nothing is at all the way it was.
The Twentieth Century is no more, and with it have gone not only the conditions that defined it but the attitudes that prevailed within it. A sophisticated observer of the world today is dealing with a much different set of questions than that which leaders in the last half of that Century faced. Leaders then were trying to discern what kind of world they wanted to create; leaders today must discern what kind of world will be habitable and survivable in another fifty to a hundred years.
Twentieth Century leaders had nuclear bombs yes, but not many of them -- while leaders today are dealing with a plethora of nuclear bombs, and criminals around the world who are working around the clock to get one into their hands.
Twentieth Century leaders might have had concerns about what we might be doing to the planet. But they didn’t have to worry about what the planet might be doing to us over the next few years, given the irresponsibility we have shown toward it.
Both of those things represent historically different kinds of challenges. They also bring with them the necessity that we find new ways of dealing with those challenges, a new kind of problem-solving as different from twentieth century problem-solving as are the problems themselves.
Power in the 20th Century, and thus problem-solving in the 20th Century, was primarily an expression of brute force. In the 21st Century, it is not brute force that will save us, but rather soul force. It will not be our ability to kill one another but rather our ability to relate to one another that will save our species from extinction. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
And that is what a 21st Century leader must understand. She must leave behind the cowboy image of bang bang shoot 'em up, and preside over an entirely new modality for foreign affairs. She must prepare her country, and help prepare the world for a new kind of unity – or our disunity will kill us all.
I am neither unsophisticated nor naive about the dangers of the world. I acknowledge the need for military preparedness, and I have deep respect for the US military. But just as you can’t rely solely on medicine but must also cultivate health, we need to not only be prepared to wage war; we must also learn how to wage peace.
Our military should be like the best surgeon in the world. Of course, we want to have the very finest surgeon available if we need surgery. But any sane person tries to avoid surgery if possible. We should go to war only because we need to go to war. Our defense establishment should not be a self-perpetuating war machine.
Why? For one, with 53 cents of every dollar of government spending spent on defense, too many needs of too many of our people go unaddressed. And two, because the recklessness of our military misadventures – yes, our military misadventures – are literally an increasing threat to the world. This is not our military’s fault; it is simply the nefarious influence of the military industrial complex.
A quick look at America’s national security makes it obvious that the attainment of peace is not actually our nation’s direct goal. Peace is just something we sort of hope we’ll back into.
Our Defense Department now functions in a role of dual advocacy, both for America’s security interests and also for the economic interests that accrue to military defense contracts. Where the interests collide, at present the defense industry tends to win out. A case in point is America’s current relationship with Saudi Arabia. For the sake of more than $330B in arms contracts, the United States is providing arms to the kingdom in a genocidal war in Yemen that has led to the starvation of tens of thousands of people, including children. Challenged about this, the State Department issued a statement saying it’s possible for us to have “strategic partnerships” with people who do not share our values.
But no, it is not. It simply means that for all intents and purposes we have no values at all. In the 21st Century, the people who are the most dangerous to the world order are those who have stripped the foreign policy of the United States of any real commitment to moral values.
Since WW2, nothing has been a more stabilizing factor in world affairs than that. With notable exceptions, America at least tried to be the good guy. God knows we often failed – even spectacularly - yet until very recently people still gave us high marks for at least trying. There was always a sense that we were prone to goodness and would somehow get back to it. Yet not anymore. In one of the most tragic reversals of the modern era, America has become known more for flirting with imperialism than for championing democracy, and less a champion of peace than a champion of war.
One can only imagine what Dwight Eisenhower would be thinking today. His warning us of the “military-industrial complex” seemed, at the very least, not to have stuck. And for those of us who bemoan the role of the military-industrial-complex in turning our national defense strategy into a multi-billion-dollar piggy bank for the defense industry more than a force for democracy and peace around the world, another president’s injunction is equally relevant. Franklin Roosevelt wrote, “We must do more than end wars. We must end the beginnings of all wars.”
I am not interested in perpetuating the reckless foolishness of the military-industrial-complex, and as president I will not. With the establishment of a United States Department of Peace, I will make peace-building my highest priority for just that reason. I will transform the culture of the State Department, re-aligning its mission with what I see to be the most important items on a peace-building agenda: diplomacy, mediation, support for democratic institutions, expansion of economic opportunities for women, providing educational opportunities for children, reducing violence against women, and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering. For when those factors are present, the statistical incidence of peace increases and conflict decreases. In a Williamson Administration, desperate people will be seen as a national security risk. For desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces. Those kinds of things are not a matter of corporate profits, but they can well become a matter of life or death for millions of people.
The same holistic paradigm that has transformed our view of physical health can be applied to our societal health. Active peace-building measures reinforce the social health of our planet the way good nutrition and exercise reinforce the physical health of our bodies. Yet currently, our military budget hovers over $750B, while agencies specifically geared toward peace-building, are funded within the $47B State Department budget at less than $1B. James Mattis, a former Secretary of Defense, said that if we didn’t fund the State Department fully, then he would need to order more ammunition.
In the US today, less than 2 percent of income tax goes to civilian foreign affairs agencies; while, 39 percent goes to the military. All this despite the fact that investing early to prevent conflicts from escalating into violent crises is, on average, sixty times more cost-effective than intervening after violence erupts.
I am running for president in part because I believe the United States needs to take a much more honest look at itself, specifically how we have swerved from our most deeply democratic and humanitarian principles. Foreign affairs is an area where that swerve has been most egregious. My Secretary of State will be a world-class humanitarian and diplomat, not an ex-CEO of a fossil fuel company or a corporatist par excellence. How joyful will be my first calls to European leaders to say, “Hey, guys, we’re baaack!!”
We will re-enter the Paris Climate Accords as well as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Both Palestinian and Israeli leaders will know that the new American president is equally committed to the legitimate security needs of Israel as well as the human rights, dignity and economic opportunities of the Palestinians. People around the world will not live in fear of life-crippling economic sanctions coming from the United States every time their leaders didn’t serve America’s whims, and the world will know in a way that it has never known before: that America’s greatest ally is humanity itself.
While some say it’s naive to think that our massively realigning resources toward helping people thrive could ever be at the core of American foreign policy, I believe it’s naive to assume humanity will survive the twenty-first century if we do not.
A more loving life is a smarter life—smarter for our health and for the health of our planet. In study after study, the success rate of “soft powers” at dissolving international conflicts has proved greater than that of military might. Love is not a less sophisticated worldview; it is a more sophisticated worldview. In the 21st Cenutry, it is the only survivable option.
Again, in the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
And the theft must end. Our State Department’s primary function should not be to grease the wheels for American corporations; rather, its primary function should be building the probability of a peaceful tomorrow. And our Defense Department’s budget should not be one that best serves the profits of defense and nuclear contractors; it should be that which serves only the legitimate security needs of the United States.
Both of those transitions will be a radical departure, I’m afraid, from the path that we are now on. And yet a radical course-correction is exactly what we need. This is not a time for trying to have it both ways, for moral equivocation or incremental shifts in policy. It is time to face the fact that the political decision-making of our great nation has taken a turn for the worse, in our foreign as well as our domestic affairs. With a Williamson presidency, we will no longer have a president who cozies up to dictators, demonizes immigrants, and threatens our friends. Rather, we will have a president who sees ending global poverty, building stronger global alliances among those who share our most cherished values, and championing the cause of freedom and democracy around the world as the most important pillars of our foreign policy.
Must we use military force if necessary? Yes. If one of our allies is threatened, or the humanitarian order of the world is at risk, or our homeland is threatened, then indeed we must. And I would be prepared to do that. If brute force is necessary, then brute force we must use.
But in the 21st Century, our ability to practice soul force will do even more to protect our security and determine how the century unfolds.
We will not deploy soldiers unnecessarily. We will champion peace-building approaches to international conflict and atrocity prevention in hotspots around the world through mediation, diplomacy, and effective on-the-ground programs. We will work to develop new opportunities for underserved, less developed populations. We will address the root causes of discord – lack of food, lack of resources, lack of public safety. We will teach post-conflict transitional justice. We will provide humanitarian aid. We will support frameworks necessary for democratic processes to take root and flourish.
Love of our fellow human beings, not fear and domination, should guide America’s foreign policy. For that to happen, we will need not only a new leader; we will a new kind of leader. I believe I am the woman for the job.