Americans are statistically more likely to be killed by a storm or by their neighbor’s dog than fall victim to an ISIS marauder or jihad-inspired rando. Nonetheless, the Conventional Wisdom seized on the Paris and San Bernardino massacres to declare that national security was now the top issue in the presidential campaign. Thus seemingly the entire first half of the most recent presidential debates consisted of “moderators” pressing the candidates not only to affirm being on board the national mass hysteria train, but to state how much coal they were ready to shovel into the firebox. As a result, you can search the entire 20,000-word transcript for the third Democratic debate without stumbling across the word “peace” passing any candidate’s lips.
The word “peace” is absent from Hillary Clinton’s website, and only surfaces on Martin O’Malley’s in a call to double the puny Peace Corps budget. Bernie Sanders has an issues page entitled “War and Peace” but at the debate seemed too fearful of being seen insufficiently “strong,” which in Trump and media parlance means bellicose, to utter the P-word, and so only politely suggested that “policeman of the world” and “perpetual war” were not concepts he would endorse, although he was all aboard the bandwagon bannered “Destroy ISIS.”
Note to commentators: a good followup question might have been, “Are you going to ‘destroy’ ISIS the same way the US destroyed Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Viet Cong?” Oh, wait…. Put another way, if we seemingly lack the ability to destroy violent organized crime or criminal gangs within our own borders, how can we eradicate a more well-armed threat halfway around the globe? But I digress.
To any American with even a smattering of moral education, it shouldn’t be necessary to reiterate why war is so often stupid and horrible that it should always be a tool of last resort, and that “whether” and “why” should always precede discussion of “how” and “how much.” Sadly, we currently seem to inhabit a Matrix-like false reality of delusional denial, complacent to let a long, massive, and often brutally tragic and destructive war be waged in our name, and with our money – so long as it’s far away and largely outsourced to missiles and drones, with U.S. casualties far less than in comparable conflicts.
So, as a refresher, here are some reasons, as a goodbye to 2015, why the pursuit of just peace needs to be a principal plank in candidates’ platforms, and why candidates for president and Congress should be held accountable on peace and war to the same degree that they are vetted on issues like transgender rights or religious freedom.