Balancing Hard and Soft Power (Part 1)

The war drums are beating again. “ISIS is just one airline ticket away from attacking the United States,” a senator said on the morning news. The President was to announce another round of policy changes in a speech that night. “We hope the President, in his speech tonight, does not tie our hands and get into what the US will and will not do.”

It seems the “go-to” tool is the military. If things begin to boil out of control, it must be time to bomb the pot. In between bombings, we ignore the pot as it simmers on the stove. Some say it is too expensive to invest in development programs abroad. We even have laws that prevent us from engaging. You have probably heard, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” At some point, to resolve issues, somebody has got to talk. We can’t simply kill everyone who has a grudge against the United States. I think we have seen that policy escalate out of control. We are tired of sending our soldiers to take care of problems that should have been resolved peacefully.

There is a time to stop bad guys from killing innocent people, by force if necessary, but then we must do the hard work of getting to the root of problems and resolving the conflict. Otherwise, it simmers in the background until some spark boils things over and “the United States is threatened” so we send more bombs, and money and blood.

Just-PeacemakingGlen Stassen edited a book, “Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War.” Twenty-three academics and practitioners outlined ten practices that would prevent most wars. If these practices were embraced between the times of conflict, it would turn off the gas to the boiling pot. In theory, war would not be necessary.

I think this is consistent with the counsel of Scripture where we are told to “seek peace and pursue it.” If we can seek justice and human dignity at all levels, if we can protect the marginalized and work for sustainable economic systems, what would be the motivation for war? Sure, there will always be the crazies that want power and wealth and will kill to get it, but let’s just make sure it is not us. Let us “pursue peace” to eliminate the crazies’ ability to recruit people to their cause.

This happens in-between the bombing campaigns, when things are out of the spotlight. Individuals see a need and address it. “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness,” according to James 3:18.

(Continue to Part 2)