There are two things I have enjoyed since my childhood; reading on a wide range of subject matters and intellectual discussions. We live in fragile times and it is almost impossible to not think on political issues which not only affect current generations but may also have widespread implications for future generations. I first became truly interested in politics in the wake of 9/11 tragedy and like most Americans of my generation, I also became confused by the growing tension between the West and Islam and initially supported use of force against the enemies of peace. But as I read more about leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. (King) my views have changed and I have become a bigger proponent of diplomacy. I realize there are instances where use of force is inevitable but it should be pursued only where there is no other option left because Iraq War represents an extremely irresponsible use of force by America and has only hurt America’s security and global reputation.
King might have dealt with a conflict that was internal to the country but all conflicts involve differences in ideologies whether at national or international level. King’s teachings still serve as a model for dealing with international conflicts. We have to realize that the nature of international conflicts has changed now. The enemies do not always involve sovereign states but also organizations united by fundamentalist ideologies. The key to defeating such enemies is through winning hearts of people because use of force only leads to endless cycle of violence, also due to collateral damages. The war between the U.S. and enemies including both independent organizations like Al-Qaeda or states like North Korea and Iran is really the war to win the hearts of the people. King knew that use of force and violence intuitively seem to be the most effective response when faced with enemies or groups we don’t agree with but diplomacy and peaceful tactics always prove to be more effective in the long-term and yield sustainable solutions.
Even the practical experiences of the country over the last decade point towards the effectiveness of winning the hearts of the people to bring about positive change. The U.S. has spent over a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the country has been unable to achieve most of its objectives and has only alienated most of the populations in both countries due to destruction of war. On the other hand, the country inspired people in Tunisia and Libya to get rid of dictatorial regimes despite minimum or no military involvement. Ideas always prove stronger than any use of force and King showed it to us through the success of Civil Rights Movement.
The U.S. should continue to play a major role in international peace keeping and it is possible to do so even without excessive use of force. But there are always instances when use of force may be inevitable but it should be done only as a last resort. Gulf War in the wake of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is a perfect example of using force as a last resort and not only there was a large coalition of international countries but the military intervention also achieved its objectives successfully and relatively quite quickly. The U.S. is often looked upon by people in other countries as a champion of democracy, free speech, and freedom of actions and the power to inspire can never be underestimated. Now it’s the job of policymakers in the U.S. to protect this goodwill and use it to bring about positive change in the world and do not pursue irresponsible courses of action that diminish U.S. political leverage in the world.