By Patricia Keegan
At no time in history has an American President been faced with such a stark mountain of ever mounting complexities. In this new era of the invisible enemy springing from discontented populations, we can't leave ourselves without new and creative ways to solve these unprecedented challenges.
President Obama has been criticized for deliberating too long on the agonizing decision of sending more troops to Afghanistan. If he sends more troops and the war continues for years without the expected results, he will be blamed. On the other hand, if he doesn't send troops and Afghanistan or Pakistan fall into the hands of terrorists, the responsibility will fall heavily on his shoulders. So what is the 44th President of the United States supposed to do?
What is taking place is the precise calibration of a rational, intelligent approach seeking a balanced response to the invisible enemy's irrational aggression. Moving away from old habits of throwing our blood and treasure at problems that can't be solved around the table, is like Sisyphus climbing the mountain and continually slipping back. We will continue to slip and slide over and over again, until a new thinking embeds itself on the world's conciousness.
Obama won the Noble Peace Prize because he has given many corners of the world hope. The prize also reflects the need the world has, at this moment, to look for calm, thoughtful, and visionary leadership. Although the timing is off, and a 'new vision' for the world might have caught on more quickly if it had been developed soon after the Cold War ended, it wasn't then, and now we are dealing with the consequences.
In the nascent Obama Doctrine, Obama articulates a new framework where the world works together to solve some of the dire problems we now confront. This doctrine substitutes 'democracy' with 'dignity promotion' by endeavoring to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root. In a recent speech to the Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, ''We will lead by inducing a greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world to a multi-partner world.'
Even the thought of a 'multi-partner' world is huge. It gives us all hope that when nations come together as non-competitors, desiring and working for common goals i.e., the elimination of nuclear weapons, combating climate change, fighting disease, and addressing our lagging resources, almost anything can be accomplished. Place this vision in juxtaposition to the alternative --- a world that finds it impossible to work cooperatively will stay on a fast track to the ruination of our planet. What is needed to make our common cause of cooperation become a reality is TRUST!
Although he hasn't yet said it, as an idealist, Obama can conceive of a world without war. He plants the seeds for a more peaceful world by reaching out to diverse groups, believing in dialogue, standing strong against those who are set in the rigidity of Cold War thinking, and by appearing honest and trustworthy. But how do we build that trust, the missing piece of the equation, in order to help these seeds flourish.
Speaking in Pakistan on October 28th, in the wake of a bomb explosion which killed more than 100 women and children and injured 200 innocent people, Clinton courageously emphasized cooperation between countries, 'Not only government to government but additional partnerships, in the private sector, universities, nongovernmental organizations, civil society groups, religious institutions and most importantly, people to people.'
These are fine words, but under the circumstances, an immense task. Yet, if the future of our children's and grandchildren's world depends on doing something now, we have got to start somewhere.
If the people to people idea were to somehow be put into operation, how would we start, and where would we start? There is a momentum here that can't be lost. Could Georgetown University partner with one of Islamabad's universities, like the National University of Modern Languages, which teaches many languages and tries to bring people together. Could the Washington National Cathedral partner with Islamabad's Faisal Mosque in Islamabad?
The foundation for trust must start now. We hear the slogan, 'Winning the hearts and minds of people,' over and over, but it rings false to me. Becoming interested in the hearts and minds of people takes knowledge of their culture and mores -- respecting their way of life without trying to impose our values on them. It is not a game that someone wins, rather it can be a discovery that is immensely rewarding.
In this new century, peace movements will continue at the grassroots level, taking the shape of the times we are living in. This is the age of IT which keeps pushing us toward a stronger interconnectidness. We have the technology and the means of communicating with friends in other lands -- now let's make it even more meaningful. Today's youth could make an enormous impact by becoming interested in the potential for greater understanding between cultures in the very tools they carry. A purpose-filled Facebook or Twitter communication, driven by a passionate goal of ending war and preserving our small planet, is just one way of contributing to a calmer world.
One thing we can be sure of is that within the family unit, which exists in billions all over the world, there lives a common bond that deplores war, wants to protect their children and live in dignity and peace.