I’m terrible with blogging these days, aren’t I? Actually my last few bits of writing have been for Friends Journal. I’m posting once a month for the Editor’s Desk series highlighting upcoming themes and I’m writing every other introductory column for the print magazine. For example, here’s February’s The Roots of Our Lifestyle. I chime in when a vintage post of mine hits Reddit as happens every so often and I often drop “hey, this would make a interesting article” comments in lively Facebook threads, along with a link to the Friends Journal submissions page.
Well, one way I’m trying to psych myself is to look at my history of blogging every month.
1 Year Ago: February 2017
A rare juicy post of mine from the last few years and one of the few times anyone has followed my blog’s Ask Me Anything link.
AMA: Conservative and Liberal Friends? But even these brief observations are imprecise and can mask surprisingly similar talents and stumbling blocks. We all of us are humans, after all. The Inward Christ is always available to instruct and comfort, just as we are all broken and prone to act impulsively against that advice.
5 Years Ago: February 2013
Sectarian Symptoms: Jumpers, Shakers, Quakers, and…
10 Years Ago: February 2008
Oh look at that, I was commenting about a Friends Journal article!
Looking at North American Friends and theological hotspots. Over on Friends Journal site, some recent stats on Friends mostly in the US and Canada. Written by Margaret Fraser, the head of FWCC, a group that tries to unite the different bodies of Friends, it’s a bit of cold water for most of us.
15 Years Ago January 2003
I was writing about U.S. foreign policy seemed to be avoiding a growing situation in North Korea. Oh my, too timely still.
Tough Time to Love War(Making). President Bush and his team of war mongerers have been so busy looking at Iraq that they’ve given North Korea just sporadic attention. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb making over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admitting.
20 Years Ago: Early 1998
This is like one of those Facebook memes where you present a preschooler with a piece of technology that disappeared decades ago and ask them to guess at the use. Hey kids, gather round: have you ever heard of the Polaroid 600 and Spectra series? I had them both.
Burnished Polaroids. This is a style of photography I got into a few years ago. It’s appeal is simple: it takes little technical expertise and the process itself is limited in time. Everything boils down to basic form: a successful photo depends on setting up a good shot and then bringing it’s potential out in the burnishing.
Like something out of an old Looney Toons reel, the U.S. military is “trying to build a death ray bomb”:www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1018361,00.html. Part of the next generation of boutique nuclear weapons the Pentagon craves, this one kills by sending nuclear gamma rays. The _Guardian_ article talks about how development of the new weapon might lead to a new arms race. This is of course quite possible: new weapons throw off the balance of power and often create the perceived need for new defences in a continuing cycle.
One wonders why the U.S. needs to be building ever more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. It already has enough nuclear weapons to ensure total destruction of a country and the two recent wars have shown that its military is quite efficient at invasion. A gamma ray weapon wouldn’t help in a situation like North Korea, where there are more-conventional weapons they could strike back with that would seriously hurt U.S. or its allies (even without their renewed nuclear weapon program their short-range missiles would devastate South Korea and Japan).
Yesterday North Korea claimed that it has processed enough plutonium to make six nuclear weapons. I’ve often argued that wars don’t begin when the shooting actually begins, that we need to look at the militaristic decisions made years before to see how they planted the seeds for war. After the First World War, the victorious allies constructed a peace treaty designed to humiliate Germany and keep its economy stagnant. With the onslaught of the Great Depression, the country was ripe for a mad demagogue like Hitler to take over with talk of a Greater Germany.
In his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush’s team added North Korea to the “axis of evil” that needed to be challenged. By all accounts it was a last minute addition. The speechwriting team never bothered to consult with the State Department’s east Asia experts. In all likelihood North Korea was added so that the evil three countries wouldn’t all be Muslim (the other two were Iraq and Iran) and the “War on Terror” wouldn’t be seen as a war against Islam.
North Korea saw a bulldog president in the White House and judged that its best chance to stay safe was to make a U.S. attack too dangerous to contemplate. It’s a sound strategy, really only a variation on the Cold War’s “Mutually Assured Destruction” doctrine. When faced with a hostile and militaristically-strong country that wants to overthrow your government, you make yourself too dangerous to take on. Let’s call it the Rattlesnake Defense.
Militarism reinforces itself when countries beef up their militaries to stave off the militaries of other countries. With North Korea going nuclear, pressure will now build on South Korea, China and Japan to defend themselves against possible threat. We might be in for a new east Asian arms race, perhaps an east Asian Cold War. Being a pacifist means stopping not only the current war but the next one and the one after that. In the 1980s activists were speaking out against the brutal régime of Saddam Hussein, an American friend who was gassing his own people. Now we need to speak out against the cowboy politics that is feeding instability on the Korean Peninsula, to prevent the horror and mass death that a Second Korean War would unleash.
This just isn’t a good time to be George W. Bush. United Nations inspectors combing Iraq for weapons of mass destruction have come up empty handed. Saddam Hussein has allowing them relatively unfettered access but all they’ve uncovered is a few unused shells.
Bush is nothing if not persistent when it comes to perceived world bad guys. Just yesterday he told an audience in St. Louis that Hussein is “a dangerous, dangerous man with dangerous, dangerous weapons.” Despite the repeated use dangerous, the rest of the world is unconvinced. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder still talks about “peaceful solutions” and Germany and France is putting the brakes on war in the U.N. Security Council, waiting for evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to turn up.
It must frustrate our president to see that all these years of military sanctions against Iraq have been working. All the evidence uncovered by the U.N. inspectors prove that we can “win without war,” as one current slogan goes, and that we have in fact been winning. We’ve kept Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his military after the Gulf War. U.S. isolation of Iraq has been successful despite its numerous flaws. Saddam is not a threat.
Which brings us to real threats and to North Korea. President Bush and his team of war mongerers have been so busy looking at Iraq that they’ve given North Korea just sporadic attention. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb making over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admitting.
The C.I.A. has known that North Korea and Pakistan have been trading nuclear secrets. Pakistan has been showing its ally of convenience how to build the centrifuges that process weapons-grade uranium. North Korea in return has provided the missile technology that gives Pakistan the nuclear reach to destroy arch-rival India. Now that we know President Bush knew all about this history of what we might call “dangerous, dangerous” technology trade, why did he cozy up to Pakistan following September 11th? He so wanted wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that he normalized relations with a country far more dangerous. If a Pakistani or North Korean nuclear weapon goes off in New York City it will kill a whole lot more people than Osama bin Laden’s four hijacked airplanes. What happened on September 11th was terrible but it’s nothing compared to what a enemy with resources could do.
There are real threats to world peace, far more “dangerous, dangerous” than Iraq. The United States needs to drop its president’s obsessions and look squarely at the world and who we’re allied with. And when we reset our policies we wqcan use Iraq as our model. For as the U.N. inspectors have proven, we can create peace through diplomacy and we can isolate troublemakers through smart sanctions.
What a tough lesson for U.S. leaders bent on war.