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What Can Quakers Offer in These Times? – Diane Randall

Diane Randall
On Family (September 2014)
Annual Sessions

Excerpts from a presentation to Intermountain Yearly Meeting; June 12, 2014; Ghost Ranch, Abiquiú, New Mexico

Many of us, myself included, came to our first Quaker meetings because we knew that Quakers shun violence and promote peace.  But what does this mean in action?  Are we just another anti-war group with our signs that declare, “War Is Not the Answer?”  Or do we have something to say about what makes for peace? 

Shared Security: Reimagining US Foreign Policy, the joint project created by AFSC and FCNL, offers a perspective on what Friends have to say to the world today. It speaks to the changes we believe are vital to our world and about a more effective role for the US in this changing world. 

It is increasingly accepted, although not always explicitly stated by policy makers, that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes.  Even military leaders concede that these wars didn’t work out. The public appetite for war has diminished significantly and lawmakers know this. However, that hasn’t stopped Congress from feeding the beast known as the military industrial complex.  And with federal expenditures for the Pentagon at nearly $550 billion annually, we have a long way to go. The U.S. continues to deploy troops in Africa, special ops, drone bases, and military trainers in an estimated 100 operations. We still have U.S. military bases in 80   countries, costing taxpayers millions ofdollars annually.

What do we have to offer as Quakers in these challenging times? As Steve Smith writes in the Pendle Hill pamphlet, “Living in Virtue, Declaring Against War,” the Peace Testimony was first understood not as a philosophical principle, but as the expression of changed lives, the fruit of personal spiritual transformation. This is what Friends have to offer, more than being an anti-war group or a progressive lobbying or service organization.  Our power to live and act comes not from politcal power, but from the abiding love of the Spirit. 

Working in collaboration, FCNL and AFSC have developed an outline of principles and solutions to the old ways that aren’t working to achieve global security.

1) We should use peaceful means to achieve peaceful ends. This would include mediation, conflict resolution, and a philosophy that seeks to address the root causes of conflicts as well as the symptoms.

2) We should engage in robust diplomacy.

3) Effective State Department diplomacy would include trust-building within countries by knowing the local language, religion, and culture, and by listening to local leaders who comprehend the nation’s needs.

4) Security assistance must be reformed away from equipping foreign militaries and toward supporting comprehensive, civilian rule of law and justice systems. 

5) Our international institutions should be strengthened, including the United Nations and its agencies.

6) The U.S. should ratify and sign important global treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Mine Ban Treaty, Arms Trade Treaty, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

7) We should repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the 2001 law that has been the justification for the “war on terror.”

These principles and solutions would produce a more ethical foreign policy, which would address the root causes of violent conflicts, such as climate disruption, resource wars, and corruption They would proactively promote diplomacy, systems of justice, the rule of law, human rights, and equality. The USA would no longer be the dominating military power of the globe, consuming disproportionate resources.

Reimagining U.S. foreign policy is the work of many different groups, but Friends have a vital role to play.  Just as Quakers throughout history have challenged injustice and stood against war, we are called today to follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity. ~~~

Diane Randall is the Executive Director of Friends Committee on National Legislation.

A complete transcript of this presentation can be found at: https://westernfriend.org/media/reimagining-us-foreign-policy.


Militarism Foreign Policy Iraq Afghanistan Diplomacy AFSC FCNL

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