Must It Be Business As Usual?

The other day, in response to a question about displays of patriotism during Sunday services during national holidays, I added the comment that peace and freedom are not won on the battlefield but in the hearts and minds of the people.

A blogging colleague responded by saying that this assertion was wrong. He said that war is sometimes the solution and that peace and freedom are sometimes won on the battlefield. He added that imperfect freedom and imperfect peace make for imperfect solutions but that such solutions are sometimes much better than the alternative.

I was tempted to ask what war actually solves and why we must settle for imperfect solutions. But as the focus of the remainder of my colleague’s remarks was on that original topic, so too will the focus of these remarks be on the issue at hand. But his comments are reflective of what I see happening in the world today,

We are in the midst of an economic crisis in this country. It is likely that this crisis will transcend national boundaries and slowly and surely begin to affect the other nations of this world. It is a crisis driven in part by the increasing energy crisis. Because so much of what we use today is somehow related to the price of energy, if we do not solve the energy crisis, then we cannot solve the economic crisis.

Yet, the offered solution to the energy crisis is to drill for more oil and let the supply of new oil drive down the current price of oil. In theory, this is a correct idea. But I see several problems with this solution.

First, drilling for oil takes time and any oil that is obtained through new drilling will not be on the market for several years. Our refining capabilities are, it seems, are at their maximum levels right now, so we would need additional capacity in that regard; again, a process that takes time.

There are some who are opposed to new drilling, especially in the Alaska North Slope fields, because of environmental concerns. Their concerns are valid and need to be taken into consideration. Any new drilling and the construction of new refiners must take into consideration environmental issues and, more importantly, such concerns must remain beyond the simple start of the project. Typically, long-term maintenance is often forgotten and this is where the problems start.

Finally, we have to consider that fact that the supply of crude oil is fundamentally limited. Sooner or latter, it will run out and we cannot produce it anymore. And as long as our economy is based on the supply of crude oil, we are going to be faced with this situation.

Whether it is more oil to solve the energy crisis or war as the solution to war, we have this nasty habit of seeing our solution in current and past terms. When will we begin to think “outside the box” and seek alternative solutions?

There are three ways to see the world – “yesterday was better than today”, “there is nothing wrong with today”, and “let’s make tomorrow better than today.” The problem is that, more often than not, we see the world in terms of the first two views and give little thought to the third. We do not seek alternative solutions because we are either incapable of thinking in those terms (and given the state of education today, that should not be surprising) or we are afraid to think in those terms.

To think in new ways is a frightening experience. We are far more comfortable thinking in the same old ways that we have used all our lives, even when we know they do not work. We long for the good old days when things worked and there were no problems. We are in a comfort zone and we do not want that comfort zone disturbed. And when things like September 11th happened, we do not know how to respond and we become fearful.

Our politics are based on those views. Our politics today are more fear than hope. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum speak more to our fears than our hopes and the only change that may occur is the change when they modify their views to fit the current polling data.

To ask people to think differently is a monumental task but it can be done. It will take time and it will not be easy (both of which are factors that many people don’t want to face today). It will require leaders who are willing to put forth new ideas, not ideas that respond to the polls. And if they put forth these new and radical ideas, they will have to put forth the commitment to hold to those ideas, not matter what happens.

I don’t want my political leaders to be television weathermen, telling me which way the wind blows. I don’t want my political leaders to tell me what is happening and how the other side is to blame. I want my political leaders to lead.

And the American people have to do the same. Instead of meekly accepting politics as usual, it is time that the people start asking the hard questions. It is time that we begin to see the world for what it can be, not what it is, and it is time to say, “enough of the usual processes; they don’t work. Let us begin something new.”

6 thoughts on “Must It Be Business As Usual?

  1. Except for slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism, war never solves anything.

    We are in the midst of an economic crisis in this country. It is likely that this crisis will transcend national boundaries…
    Um, it already has. Look around.

    Our economy is so oil-based it’s ridiculous*, and there’s very little we can do about that in the short term. We need more oil.** Will it take a few years to get the oil? Yep. Will it be faster than developing “alternative” solutions? Probably. Those other things may or may not happen and may or may not be quick. We know where the oil is, how to get it, and what to do with it.

    Sometimes there is a reason for fear. When there is reason for optimism, the right is generally more optimistic than the left, imho.

    * Besides using it for gas and other energy production, it’s in roads, plastics, building materials, and many chemicals including shampoo.

    **No, the environmental concerns aren’t valid. ANWR is a huge area of nothing, and our drilling would affect a tiny part of that nothing — a region about the size of an airport.

  2. When I first received your comments in my moderation section, I had to double check and see who submitted the response. Because your response to what war is the answer to is almost word for word the response given to a similar statement made some two years ago. And that is one of the reasons that I posted this piece; as long as we view the world through the same lenses, nothing will change.

    Did the civil war end slavery? Yes, it did but the southern land owners changed slavery into share-cropping and keep the blacks in financial slavery for the better part of the next 100 years. Economic slavery is still present and all war is going to do is keep it in place as the “haves” keep the “have-nots” from getting anything.

    Did World War II conquer fascism or Nazism? I suppose that it did but there are still fascists in this country and national socialism still exists by other names?

    Did we conquer communism through war? In the two wars against communism that have been fought in my lifetime, we lost one and tied the other. I don’t think we can claim victory over communism through war just yet.

    The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge may be a huge area of nothing to you but there is still life there and there are people there. And we know that damage to one little bit of the permafrost has lasting and almost permanent repercussions. I am not saying that we shouldn’t drill there but we need to put more into long-term maintenance than we might presently think; otherwise, there will be a duplication of the pipeline problems of a year or so ago.

    I am aware that our reliance on oil goes far beyond gasoline and diesel fuel and thought that I was saying something to that effect. But the answer cannot be to simply drill for more oil; sooner or later, we are going to have to make some changes. What I did not say in the piece was that we know there is a problem but we keep putting off seeking the solution because it is a hard solution to develop and we have easier solutions at hand.

    It strikes me that being conservative can hardly be the basis for being optimistic. The very nature of conservatism is to hold onto what you have and resist efforts to change. It is my opinion that those who resist change are going to be the very agents of fear as they seek to hold onto what they have.

  3. your response to what war is the answer to is almost word for word…
    It used to be a [wise, clever, and thought-provoking] t-shirt.

    Does war produce perfect solutions? No. Would slavery have lasted 2-3 more generations in the US without the Civil War? Probably. Was there a non-violent solution to WWII? Early on; once it passed, we had no other choice.

    Korea and Viet-nam were in a sense theaters in the larger Cold War. And we almost won Viet-nam before the politicians gave up.

    [ANWR] may be a huge area of nothing to you but there is still life there and there are people there.
    You’ve seen the images — picturesque trees, abundant animal life, little villages — all phony. I’ve talked to people who’ve worked there. It’s a wasteland. The area we want to explore is a tiny sliver of the whole — a thousand acres or so in a region larger than North Dakota.

    The very nature of conservatism is to hold onto what you have and resist efforts to change.
    Does that mean the nature of liberalism is to change everything you can as quickly as possible.

    I would suggest that conservatism is a committment to protecting individual freedom from governmental oppression. (Not all Republicans are conservative.)

  4. Normally, I would respond to such comments quickly but I couldn’t because I couldn’t stop laughing.

    If the response to my argument that war is not a solution is to be a slogan taken from a bumper sticker or a t-shirt, then I have to laugh. War cannot be reduced to a bumper sticker slogan, though many people want to do that.

    If conservatism is a commitment to protecting individual freedom from governmental oppression (and I have heard that one before; it was called “state’s rights” and was used to justify segregation), then why is the second largest bureaucracy in our government the Department of Homeland Security? And why does the current administration, proclaiming conservative values, insist on laws, regulations, and rules that suppress the rights of citizens?

    It is interesting to note that William F. Buckley originally opposed the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s but he saw that such a position was contrary to the notion of the individual’s right to freedom and he changed. You cannot make an argument for individual freedom when some individuals use that freedom to limit the freedom of others.

    The only individuals who seem to benefit from a conservative viewpoint are those who have the money and the power. Those who have no power or money are left without. It makes a great argument that we, as individuals, should take care of those who do not have but it strikes me as odd that those who have the most work very hard to keep their money, their power, and their position.

    I am not certain what modern-day liberals think. I am not certain that there are other true liberals left. What I know is that if I say that I am a Christian, then I am committed to following Christ and seeing that the Gospel message of feeding the hungry, caring for the downtrodden and poor, building the homes for the homeless, healing the sick, and seeking justice for the oppressed is completed. I don’t think it can be done by saying that it is my choice to do so and if I decide to keep what is mine because I have the freedom to do so, then I don’t think you are a Christian.

    From the very moment that I knew Christ, I saw him in a liberal sense. I saw a person who opposed power for power’s sake and who worked to give everyone an opportunity.

    I know that you are working on a series of ideas that push the concept that one can be a conservative and a Christian. My thoughts on the viability of such an argument are obvious. If you wish to put a link to those arguments as a comment to this one, you may do so. Otherwise the comments are closed.

  5. “Except for slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism, war never solves anything.”

    I’ve read this so many times and its still dumb.

    Slavery – the British Parliament passed a bill outlawing the slave trade in 1807. Peaceful democracy. The US experience is not the only way to end slavery.

    Nazism (fascism) – between 1933 and 1939 there were ample opportunities to prevent the rise of Nazism in Germany diplomatically. War was the result of this grand failure and the cost of ending Nazism was the death of 70 million people.

    Communism – for goodness sake why do you think it was called the COLD war? Because there was no fighting. 1991 was achieved WITHOUT fighting, it was largely due to internal forces in the USSR.

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