gaza An anonymous reader of How to Save the World has pointed out a grave omission in my list of ten ways to liberate a country . Often the best alternative, s/he pointed out, is not any of these adversarial options, but rather to deal with the root causes that allow the tyrant to seize and retain power in the first place. Causes such as poverty, lack of education, lack of information, and lack of communication with the outside world. Despots and demagogues depend on keeping their subjects disadvantaged, desperate, and misinformed, and painting the external “enemy” as worse than the incumbent. The ultimate weapons against tyranny, then, are education, information, open communication and self-sufficiency. By closing off access to external communication, information, and vital resources, sanctions actually help dictators retain power.

As we turn, at last, to the plight of the Palestinians, whose deprivation and exploitation by extremists from both sides has led to escalating violence and complete abdication of the peace negotiations that were once hauntingly close to success. If we invested a fraction of what we spent on high-tech bombs on Iraq, in building schools and training facilities, locally run businesses and the necessities of life for Palestinians, the seeds of terror could not grow. This eleventh solution, waging peace, is indeed the ultimate alternative to war.

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  1. Marie Foster says:

    Of course it could also be said that the best way of all is to not meddle with a foreign country and/or set up a ruler who you hope to control in the first place. That small bit of advice might have saved the US a good deal of trouble over the years.I am afraid however, that we have not learned that lesson.

  2. Rayne says:

    What “anonymous” said. I’ve maintained in the case of the Palestinians that we never hear from a statistically significant portion of the population: women. When women are educated, offered methods for business financing through microbanks like Grameen, they encourage substantial economic growth and improvement in lifestyle as well as democratic practices. Where are the women of Palestine? liberate them and their children with opportunity and knowledge.

  3. PI says:

    See, this is why Canada is cool. Public discourse makes sense there. If only we could do something about the weather. But we can’t. America has a lot to learn from the rest of the world these days, and this blog looks to me like as good a place to start as any. (Of course any suggestion that America has anything to learn, or especially that those things could come from another country, is pretty controversial these days.)

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Marie: Prevention is the best medicine, of course, and if we hadn’t given Saddam the WMD in the first place we wouldn’t have had to bomb the hell out of the place to get them back. I’m interested in this US General we’ve put in ‘interim’ charge. He’s certainly talking like he wants his stay to be very short. Maybe a good sign.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Rayne: Right on. This will only happen when women start to be more visible not only in the seats of power in world governments, but also on the Boards of banks and other major corporations. But I guess it’s not wise to talk about ‘quotas’ while Bush is in power, and without quotas I’m not sure we’ll get there.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    PI: Especially when that country refused to be involved in Bush’s war. Oh, well, there’s always the next regime. And by the way, we’re working on the weather.

  7. Rayne says:

    PI — I’m American; so are the more than 50% of folks who didn’t vote for Bush. It’s a gross aberration of our democratic political system which allows a minority to reach the highest office and act as insanely stupid as the current Administration. Until the majority here gets its act together, we’ll continue to look really stupid as a whole. That’s the biggest problem I see facing the U.S.: the majority isn’t organized and needs to re-learn this skill.

  8. Doing good is always the best first option, but the problem is that there really are some bad people out there that you’ll never be able to win over. Killing Saddam with kindness wasn’t going to work. Empowering his people wasn’t going to work because of the degree of control he had over the infrastructure of the country. People like that must be confronted. The trick is to do the hard work of building a real coalition, demonstrate that you are acting out of principle and not self-interest, and be willing but not eager to use force if necessary. As Nietzche says, “when fighting with monsters, be careful not to become a monster. When staring into the abyss, know that the abyss also stares into you.”

  9. Marie Foster says:

    I get the sense that one little light in the forest maybe is that Bush does not have staying power. He seems to pretty much have abandoned interest in Afghanistan. His attention span being as short as it is maybe in the favor of the people of Iraq. What I found pretty interesting is that we flew the INC to Iraq and these guys got training at one of our military bases then were flown to Baghdad (where some people say they made up the majority of the crowd that helped the tank pull down the statue of Saddam). Yet Gardner says he does not know who the guy who proclaimed himself the mayor of Baghdad is, and others say he is an aide to Chalabi. Either they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes or it is a situation of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing? My guess would be the former sadly.I wish I could get a major reporter to pick up on this incongruity and run with it.Empowering women is too risky as we are too emotional, lack the ability to think logically, generally approve of ideas of fairness, and are not consumed with the idea of power through money. *Now… I can never get inside the head of these men but my guess is that they believe that*

  10. PI says:

    RayneLooking back on my comment, I realize that I was a little unclear. I’m American, too, and I agree with much of your comment. I’m not so sure, however, about it being “a gross aberration of our democratic political system which allows a minority to reach the highest office.” While this administration is unprecedented in its “insane stupidity,” even a legitimately elected administration is usually voted for by something south of 30% of eligible voters. (I don’t have those numbers in front of me right now. If anyone could correct me…?) This is one of the problems of our declining democratic tradition.

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: Agreed. While “waging peace” is, I think the right answer for Palestine, it would not suffice for Iraq. Options 5-8 in my earlier memo would, as you articulate, have been a better answer for Iraq, and unless the situation there improves soon, yet may have to be used if another tyrant steps into the vacuum and anarchy that war has left. Nice quote from Friedrich BTW.

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Marie: Agree that Bush has a short attention span, which for Iraq (unlike Afghanistan) might just be a good thing, provided they can get over the immediate humanitarian hurdles and the power vacuum. Disagree that putting women in charge of our political machinery is dangerous — I’d much rather have a woman with occasional emotional outbursts in charge than a man with permanent psychopathic tendencies.As for your unanswered question on the incongruity, try posing the question to the heavy hitter political bloggers on my blogroll like Alas a Blog, Daily Kos or Eschaton/Atrios. Bet they have a handle on this.The Salon article does point out how inane the POV is that a childless woman is inevitably unhappy and incomplete. I think conservatives tend to get comfort from this kind of nonsense, since they always find the pace of change too fast and anxiety-creating. I’d sooner they get their comfort reading outdated homilies like this than trying to legislate the past back into existence.

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    PI: I think the problem of voter apathy is more insidious than this. The major parties I believe actually encourage voter apathy because low turnouts favour incumbents, and in recent elections incumbents have almost invariably won. The major parties do this by (a) prohibiting third parties from participating in debates, (b) blocking proportionate representation (which they have in Europe) so that votes for third parties are essentially ‘wasted’ protest votes, (c) stacking the decks with redistricting, (d) blocking campaign finance reform that would allow other voices to be heard and popular candidates not liked by corporate America to be elected, and (e) running campaigns that are shrill, insulting, extravagant and dumbed-down to turn voters off politicians in general and get them to vote ‘against’ something if they have the stomach to vote at all.

  14. Marie Foster says:

    In my article I wrote concerning the death of liberalism I pointed out the fact that we could use the low voter turn out as an advantage.I do think that we need subterfuge perhaps in order to win. Think guerilla voting tactics. This is an incomplete thought but the insidious nature of polling helps the entrenched parties maintain their dominance. Not only that but it also helps keep their core values from changing. Once a poll indicates a problem for them, they will rush to fill that hole with propaganda to out flank an opposing view.When I was working in the Democratic machine in Seattle I realized how sophisticated these sampling techniques are and how well they work. And my sojurn with them was in the late 70’s and early 80’s so with the advent of the internet it must be even worse now. People tend to poo poo statistics. But in point of fact if a sample is well designed and the questions are sound they can be very accurate.It would not even surprise me to find out that the political parties have access to the data mining that the ‘cookies’ crowd has used to track internet surfing habits.It is certainly not hopeless but if an opposition is going to rise up and smack them, it has to be as good as they are in playing the angles.The other method is to take them over from the inside. That can be done too if you concentrate on a few key figures and use powers of persuasion and good facts to back up your arguments.Politics is a tough nut.Of course, with the voting machine scandal it could be that actual infiltration and sabotage is what will be needed…. woooo scary. Good plot for a novel however. MINE MINE… opps… nebermind..

  15. PI says:

    David: I agree. My account of low voter turnout was overly simplified. If we’re getting down to details, then there’s at least one more to add to your list. Namely that corporate mega-donors keep both major parties so dependent on their money that they often behave the same way. (I’m not making the now largely debunked Green argument that the parties are identical, but they both pander to the same corporate masters to varying degrees.) This benefits corporate America and hurts democracy in multiple ways. One, it keeps the political animals tamed for corporate interests. Two, it further disenchants the voting public, keeping their occasional outrage from having a realistic vent at the polling place. Further, it makes the parties no longer very interested in votes so much as in money. The fewer people actually vote, the more real issues that would drive people to the polls are subverted to issues that will attract big donor contributions, usually in exchange for legislation that will pay back a hundred fold.

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