Wealth and Power

As the economist Joseph Stiglitz once stated, “wealth begets power, which begets more wealth.” This may be particularly true in the US, which now is a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

Two American brothers, Charles and David Koch, may be the sixth or seventh wealthiest people on Earth and the second largest private company in America. In 2009 the government estimated their wealth at about $14 billion dollars for each brother. They own pipelines, lumber, paper, coal, and chemicals. They tried to stop the Obama administration from implementing policies that the American public had voted for. Koch industries opposes government regulations that might stop industries from polluting the atmosphere and dumping poisons in lakes.

There is a lesson here for Canadians. Our voters must recognize that letting more of Canada’s wealth go to fewer and fewer people and corporations could lead us to lose our own democracy and sovereignty.

Leo Kurtenbach, Saskatoon

On the strategy against ISIS

President Trump’s plan for defeating ISIS will apparently involve military options, including more air strikes in Iraq and Syria. He has ordered a “massive rebuilding” of the military and a Pentagon budget boost.

After more than 15 years of the ‘war on terror,’ we know that it cannot be won by military means.

Empirical evidence confirms that war is not an effective means of countering terrorists. A 2008 RAND Corporation study shows that terrorist acts usually end through political processes and effective law enforcement, not the use of military force. An examination of 268 terrorist organizations found that the primary factors accounting for their demise were participation in political processes (43 percent) and effective policing (40 percent). Military force accounted for the end of terrorist groups in only 7 percent of the cases.

Alternative strategies for countering terrorist violence are well known. The core requirement is an accurate assessment of the political roots of the conflict. In the case of the struggle against ISIS, the problem is not that Sunni Arabs ‘hate America’ (many of them fought with the US against al-Qaeda in the 2006 Iraq Awakening), but that they have been suppressed by political leaders. The solution is equitable political power sharing.

Success against extremism also requires effective and accountable institutions of governance. Regimes in the region are deeply corrupt, cannot deliver basic goods and services, and offer little citizen participation. The priority task is to help local governments build accountable institutions that ameliorate social grievances and enable political inclusion and participation for stakeholders.

But this does not obviate the need for security protection. International police and intelligence operations are essential for preventing terrorist plots and saving lives. International sanctions and financial restrictions are also helping to isolate terrorists.

President Trump needs a new approach that emphasizes political solutions and police protection more than the use of military force.

David Cortright
Kroc Institute, Notre Dame University

Peace Magazine April-June 2017

Peace Magazine April-June 2017, page 5. Some rights reserved.

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