American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) recently published a pamphlet titled, Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy (April 2013). At Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting in Berkeley, California, a small group considered this pamphlet and then organized a larger meeting to talk about this topic after Meeting for Worship on September 29, 2013. Twenty-eight people attended. For the meeting, we prepared a one-page handout with some quotes from the AFSC/FCNL pamphlet. The text of that handout is included at the end of this article. [The pamphlet is also reviewed on page 32 of this magazine. – Editor]
We found the “Shared Security” pamphlet to be a good springboard into the broader topic of “Creating Real Security.””. Security impacts our lives at many levels – international, national, and personal. American international security is premised on the need to maintain control through projecting military force around the world. After the unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is widely acknowledged that this posture has not created real security for America. The overwhelmingly negative reaction to the proposed use of American troops in Syria is a good indication that most people think we need to find something better to do than just “send in the troops.” There is now growing support for the idea for a common vision of worldwide shared security.
There is also new concern about how our intelligence agencies are actually eroding our national security. The recent revelation that the National Security Agency has been collecting information on most electronic communications among Americans has awakened a range of serious concerns about personal privacy, the suppression of political discussions, and threats to the security of personal financial and health information. The recent history of Hoover’s FBI using such information to control politicians in the 50’s and 60’s is a reminder that such abuses are possible. Today’s frequent instances of financial security breaches and identity theft also exemplify very real threats to our personal security.
As Quakers we have a long historical tradition of opposing state control of such powerful information. We are proud of our ongoing tradition of questioning authority and of being willing go to jail rather than submit to judges and other authorities when we feel they are in the wrong. The NSA’s program is the wrong way to foster our national and international security. The Shared Security pamphlet spells out many useful alternatives to widespread electronic spying, alternatives that will actually increase our own security and that of the international community.
Another serious threat to personal security on a day-to-day basis is the erosion of most people’s economic security over the last 40 years. Many jobs no longer pay a living wage and many retirement plans have been replaced with much riskier 401K plans. Further, there is a move in Congress to reduce funding for Food Stamps while maintaining expensive programs for large corporate farms and other subsidies for big corporations. The Occupy movement called attention to the way the wealthiest 1% has gotten most of the country’s financial growth, while most Americans’ standard of living has declined. Add to that the damage our current tax policy does, with wealthy financiers paying at a tax rates lower than those of their secretaries, and you have a complete formula for the destruction of our democracy.
The publication of Shared Security provides an important opportunity for Quakers to develop and advocate for a comprehensive program of real security, one that has international, national, and personal components. Some Friends might choose to help the Quaker United Nations Office develop international programs on shared security. Others might work to limit domestic spying by the NSA and help develop new legislation that protects against the risk of authoritarianism. Other Friends could focus on environmental issues and work to create a sustainable economy that leads to national environmental security while creating livelihoods for many. Still others could work on economic and education programs that help develop a strong sense of personal security for those who need help in our local communities. As Quakers we hold that there is “that of God in everyone.” Working together on programs that focus on creating real security at every level, we can live the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, integrity, community, peace, and equality now, in our own troubled times. ~~~
Some Useful Quotes from Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy
Published jointly by American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation, April 2013
1. Opinion polls show that most of the U.S. public has a pragmatic and hopeful outlook for how our country should act in the world. A large majority believes we should be engaged in the world, but four in ten think the U.S. relies too heavily on the military. Most favor more cooperative approaches to solving world problems and agree the U.S. should live up to its international commitments. (p. 3)
2. We [at FCNL and AFSC] believe the U.S. needs a more ethical, effective, and less costly foreign policy to address today’s interdependent world. Complex challenges require new ways of thinking about our security. They require cooperative strategies for shared solutions. And we need new tools that match means with ends. We call this “shared security.” (p. 3)
3. In an interdependent world, foreign policies presented in terms of binary relationships – “us vs. them” – can no longer hold. Yet in Washington, the dominant “national security paradigm” based on identifying and destroying enemies still drives U.S. foreign policy. (p. 3)
4. U.S. global policy still relies heavily on military force and is driven by an ever-smaller group of interests. In a world of complex problems that require non-military and cooperative solutions, these militarized approaches cost more lives, wasted dollars, missed opportunities, and fractured global relations – and they also fail to accomplish their stated goals. Put simply, war isn’t working. (p. 14)
5. As demands increase for the diminishing reserves of Earth’s raw materials, land, and water, increasing stress and competition is emerging within and among nations. … As resource conflicts intensify, the integrity of ecosystems and the wellbeing of human communities are further sacrificed, fueling a vicious cycle of degradation. (p. 16)
6. As the world’s largest overall consumer of the earth’s resources and major historic contributor to global warming, the U.S. has a prime responsibility to address this crisis. Our shared security, both national and global, requires shifting rapidly to renewable energy and economic arrangements that support ecologically sound production and access to the necessities of life for all. (p.17)
7. A new vision of U.S. global policy can be expressed in simple principles: Demonstrate responsible leadership. Work cooperatively with other nations. Respect the rule of law. Help others in need. Protect the planet on which we all live. Choose peaceful solutions to conflicts as often as possible. (p.19)
8. To help prevent armed conflict and create lasting peace, governments should base peace agreements upon shared management of natural resources, which has a proven record of maintaining peace even among nations and peoples with historic enmity. (p. 21) [See pp. 20 & 21 for more details from this section, “The Planetary Imperative.” The entire proposal is online at www.sharedsecurity.org.]
9. Reorienting U.S. foreign policy to be more effective and ethical in advancing our shared security will not be easy. It will require confronting deeply entrenched beliefs about our country and its place in the world. It will necessitate profound shifts in government institutions, budgets, and policies. It will face strong opposition from vested interests in the current system. But it can be done. (p. 25)