"The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never be abandoned."- Dag Hammarskjold, UN Secretary-General (1953-1961)
We have reached a time in which the act of working towards peace has become more and more irreverent. Society doesn't seem to be opposed to the concept of peace; rather, it seems we have lost hope and the idea of peace is more or less characterized as intangible. When the world is in constant fear of the next terrorist attack, fear divides society and inflames prejudice. The events of the past few weeks remind us that nobody is safe from horrifying attacks. Yet, times like these require the international community to band together in order to combat terror. When terror creates divisions, we give it the power to instill hate against one another, only furthering the goals of radical groups.
Peace is an all-inclusive concept. It should not be viewed through a lens that solely encompasses the eradication of violence. Fundamentally, peace requires the eradication of violence; however, for peace to transpire, it requires the extinction of other elements of fear such as hate, prejudice, and racism that continue to fuel violence. We cannot be idle while negative attitudes towards peace continue to cripple the international community.
I don't believe that global peace is a tangible goal, at least not within the next few years, but I also don't believe that pacifism is a solution to terror. We need to have a sufficient defense spending budget in order to keep the US safe. However, the U.S Department of Defense (DoD) has an excessive budget of more than half a trillion dollars, which is more often than not poorly managed. For example, according to a Defense Acquisition Management Information Retrieval (DAMIR), the Lockheed Martin F-35 Fighter program is costing the U.S. DoD approximately 1.3 trillion dollars.
Yet, this is only one of a handful of DoD programs that illustrates the radical and excessive spending on unnecessary projects. Our involvement in conflicts beyond our borders has given rise to the tremendous budget for military spending but there should be a more efficient system to determine what projects are deemed necessary for defense purposes. $1.3 trillion could be better allocated, as there are plenty of other causes that require our attention, such as improving conditions for veterans, re-thinking our education system, or investing in sustainable energy.
Peace induces other benefits to society. Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist asserted the following in his article titled The Myth of the War Economy: "The 1990s boom showed that peace is economically far better than war. The Gulf war of 1991 demonstrated that wars can actually be bad for an economy. That conflict contributed mightily to the onset of the recession of 1991 (which was probably the key factor in denying the first President Bush re-election in 1992)." Thus, fiscal arguments opposing a peace-time economy seem null and void.
One minor step we should take is normalizing global recognition of landmark days in history such as the International Day of Peace (observed annually on September 21). It was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 36/67 and is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace as well calling for a Global Cease-fire. Its mere acknowledgment can serve as a first step in working towards some form of global unity.
We cannot allow something like fear to drive us into a paralysis. This leads to us responding to world events on our very own perceptions, rather than real truths. We as a nation walked down this path once before when we alienated Japanese-Americans from the rest of society by placing them in internment camps. Nobody can say what we did to Japanese-Americans was justified (liberal nor conservative). Congress along with President Ronald Reagan passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to address America's injustice towards Japanese-Americans. It stated the following:
"Congress recognizes that. . . . a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II...these actions were carried out without adequate security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." - Civil Liberties Act of 1988
We cannot sacrifice the liberties that our country is built upon. Furthermore, we need to work together to subdue and disregard individuals like Donald Trump and his extremist rhetoric. This is necessary in order for the sequence of violence to come to a halt. Like ISIS, Trump feeds off of fear, and thus both are dependent on one another for survival - they need Muslims across the world to become polarized. Politicians like Trump will continue to play into the fear of the American public until we can stand together and disregard the nonsense.
This piece is not purposed to persuade you that peace is over the horizon. Unfortunately, the emergence and growth of horrifying extremist groups such as ISIS make it difficult to imagine that peace is even a possibility. Nevertheless, it is intended to start a conversation. We must eliminate residing prejudices and stand together. Peace must once again become an ideal that we strive towards, rather than deemed an unachievable illusion.