Rarely have I doubted my commitment to the Peace Testimony of Friends. I’m clear that violence is not the answer to hurts within a family, misunderstandings between neighbors, discord in a community, or conflicts between nations. Many times in my life I’ve called for an end to U.S. military involvement throughout the world—most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And now there is Libya.
Over dinner with friends recently, I was asked what I thought, as a pacifist, about the US decision to intervene. I admitted that in the first days of the rebellion, I had been persuaded that a military approach might be the best option following reports of Gaddafi’s escalation of violence when the US froze his regime’s assets and imposed an arms embargo. Memories of past genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia raised questions for me about a peaceful way to eliminate Gadaffi’s brutal tactics and protect innocent people from his military. Maybe the threat of this tyrant was so great for thousands of people in Libya that compassion mandated deadly intervention. Each morning I went online, hoping for news that the plan had succeeded, that Gadaffi had surrendered. Although I knew it was wrong, I was coming to believe that air strikes could bring a fast, decisive solution to a decades-old abuse of power. I couldn’t see an alternative.
In his address to the nation on March 28, President Obama spelled out why the U.S. felt compelled to join in military attacks after those first few days of diplomatic efforts. “In the face of the world's condemnation, Gaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people,” Obama said. “Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.”
Who doesn’t want to end such violence and cruelty? And as quickly as possible?
This morning as I centered into worship, I uncovered my desire for a fast solution, recognizing the folly of such thinking—we have only to look at our eight-year involvement in Iraq (and countless other places) to remember that military intervention does not yield a quick result. Nor is it this time. I realized I had accepted the common belief that anything other than military intervention is inaction. Seeking guidance for other ways to act, I went to the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) website. There I found the kind of grounded, Spirit-led response I believe we’re called to.
Reading their alternatives to violence, I regained my steadfast belief that war is not the answer. The tools they offer on their website spurred me to convey that conviction to my elected representative and to ask them to take these actions:
· Urge a ceasefire.
· Provide humanitarian aid.
· Continue an arms embargo based in international law.
· Follow up the already-enacted UN Security Council resolution that refers the Gaddafi government to the International Criminal Court to hold him accountable for actions he has taken against fellow citizens.
President Obama’s words and actions suggest to me that he also struggles with how to be an agent of peace in the world. While he has pushed for a military response, he continues to call for other ways to assist in the removal of Gaddafi. I see indications that he is aware of the illusion of quick solutions, military or otherwise. At the end of his speech, the President urged us to not be afraid to act. “We recognize that … a diplomatic, humanitarian approach will take time and intense international engagement to be successful. We believe, however, it offers the best chance of limiting the loss of life and restoring a path toward peace and stability.”
I pray that our leaders will recognize that non-violence is action. This is what I think the Peace Testimony calls us to in Libya.
For more about why “War is Not the Answer,” visit: