Tuesday, October 2, 2001     

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October 2, 2001

A Dove's War Policy

We doves have to accept that we’re going to war. Turning the other cheek or diplomatic overtures, or any other non-military solutions, are not politically possible in the current national climate. So what can doves contribute to the policy debate in a society hell-bent on enforcing justice? I’ve tried to come up with a set of feasible yet dovish policy options that Cantabrigians can espouse as alternatives to all-out war:

1) Avoid innocent casualties: The Afghan people didn’t attack us, and even if the Taliban government is guilty of complicity, most Afghans are as much their victims as we are. Hence we should focus on toppling the Taliban and other regimes that support terrorism, while avoiding punishing the people who live under those regimes.

This applies as well to Osama bin Laden, if we conclude he is responsible – go after him, but avoid killing civilians en route. Focusing on terrorist leaders implies that we should rescind the Executive Order which precludes assassination (President Clinton said that it didn’t apply to terrorists anyway, but this is a much-debated subject and hence a good point on which to express public opinion).

From a practical perspective, killing innocent civilians would create a new generation of US-hating terrorists among their survivors – the goal should be to get the existing terrorists while creating fewer new terrorists as a result.

2) Embrace nation-building: Let’s say we do attack the Taliban successfully (or Saddam in Iraq, or the Ayatollahs in Iran, or Ghaddafi in Libya), and the government falls. If we don’t assist in rebuilding a civil government, a worse government will likely take their place, where “worse” means “more anti-US and pro-terrorist.” President Bush rails against such “nation-building,” but that is exactly what is needed. Doves should push to revive nation-building as a viable policy, because it has worked historically from Japan and Germany to Israel and Egypt.

In particular, nation-building applies to Afghanistan, to whom we owe a huge debt for their participation in the demise of the Soviet Union. In purely economic terms, rewarding them with a few billion in foreign aid would repay the net savings we enjoy from the end of the Cold War, for which Afghanistan paid as much as any nation. In homeland security terms, aiding a post-Taliban regime in Afghanistan would work towards changing the hearts and minds of all Muslims in their opinion of the US as anti-Islamic, which would undermine the basis for terrorism worldwide.

3) Enhance intelligence-gathering: Ironically, a great success story of dovish policymaking was the weakening of the CIA to avoid its abuses both domestically and abroad. Good doves, including me, applauded applications of the seminal 1975 report of the Church Committee that progressively removed covert methods and powers from the intelligence-gathering community. It is time for doves to reverse their stance. Curbing the CIA made sense during the Cold War and especially as part of the Peace Dividend. But using intelligence-gathering to prevent terrorist attacks is vastly preferable, from a dovish perspective, to using military methods to avenge terrorist attacks. Unanimity from doves and hawks in increasing funding for the CIA, with appropriate post-Church Committee caution, would result in a net reduction of innocent lives lost.

Personally, given the history of abuses by the CIA, I would prefer to sub-contract to the Israeli Mossad, who share our list of targets and have a considerably deeper infiltration today, but I don’t think that policy would pass Congressional muster.

4) Protect civil rights at home: Hawks speak on the Senate floor daily now about how giving up some civil rights is the price we must pay for homeland security. That’s nonsense, because our civil rights are ultimately the GOAL of homeland security. Doves have a responsibility to maintain vigilance against diminution of civil rights in times of war. The primary current casualties seem to be free speech and anti-racism.

On the free speech front, proposed legislation includes increasing wiretapping authority, breaching e-mail privacy, and requiring national identity cards. We should push for avoiding hasty legislation which we will come to regret later, as we have traditionally come to regret hastily-conceived fixes. And we should push to respect opposing opinions, in a climate where dissent is too often equated with anti-patriotism.

On the anti-racism front, we should remind ourselves that Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans are just as deserving of respect of their rights as all other Americans. President Bush actually did a good job of that in his speech before Congress last week, saying of Muslims, “We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans.” Separating terrorists from Muslims in general is the task we face abroad, and preventing racism against Muslims is the task we face at home.

From a practical perspective, Muslims who are also loyal Americans are our best resource in understanding the mentality of Muslims who are terrorists, and that understanding can help defeat terrorism as well as change the hearts and minds of anti-US Muslims abroad.

A policy prescription of avoiding innocent casualties, advocating nation-building, preferring intelligence-gathering over military action, and respecting Muslim-American rights can be restated in general terms as a set of Dove Principles: protect the weak; help the poor; espouse non-violence; and celebrate diversity. Let’s try to apply those principles in this time of national crisis.

— Jesse Gordon resides on Mass Ave. in Cambridge.


Watch MetroWest Daily News managing editor Joe Dwinell's live report on WB-56 every Thursday and Friday at 7:45 a.m.

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