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October 16, 2001

Do We Choose Death or Peace?


by Harry Browne

Americans have been sold a fantasy by their government and by the "experts" on television.

The fantasy is that our government will flex its muscles overseas, make demands, kill a lot of people, demonstrate that we don't tolerate terrorism, "bring the terrorists to justice," and end terrorism forever.

But for decades, our government has been flexing its muscles overseas, making demands, killing people, and teaching terrorists a lesson. And what did it achieve?

It brought about the deaths of 6,000 Americans on September 11.

Those policies by our government have brought us to where there now are only two choices for the future. And you may not like either one of them.

The Choice for War

Choice #1 is to bomb Afghanistan "back to the stone age," and maybe Iraq, and maybe any other country our government accuses of harboring terrorists (except for the U.S., of course, where many of the terrorists lived safely for several years).

This choice won't eliminate all the terrorists. It probably won't eliminate any of them. But it will make the politicians feel good. And it will satisfy the understandable lust for vengeance that so many Americans feel right now.

But not only will foreigners die by the thousands, it will feed the desire for vengeance on the part of the terrorists and inspire other people to help them. The result? . . .

  • We will be attacked on planes, in subways, buildings, schools, sports arenas in any place innocent Americans can be cornered like lab rats.
  • Our economy will sink further and further downward as people become more and more afraid to lead normal lives.
  • We will see Americans die from bombs, from biological warfare, from assassinations, and from causes we can't even imagine now.

Our government will react by escalating the violence still further. And that will cause the terrorists to escalate their violence. And with every escalation, more of our friends and relatives will die and more people around the world will come to hate America.

Choice #1 doesn't lead to anything very pretty. It will be disastrous for America. But that's where our politicians are taking us right now.

The Choice for Peace

Choice #2 is for our President to be a man and acknowledge to the world that our government has made some horrible mistakes in the past but that our policy is changing.

He must tell the world that our government will no longer impose its will on places like Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Colombia. He must say that we're returning to the peaceful foreign policy that America followed for its first century until President McKinley took the country into the Spanish-American War and down the road to empire.

Americans are loved all over the world for what they've done producing low-cost food and medicines, great entertainment, and the kind of voluntary charity that only free and prosperous people can bestow.

At the same time, foreigners hate our government because it uses "foreign aid" and military muscle to impose its way upon the rest of the world.

Our politicians say that most of the world supports the American military campaign. But what they mean is that our government is bribing foreign governments to support the military campaign. Meanwhile, a recent Gallup poll revealed that individual human beings in 35 major countries oppose American military retaliation by better than 3 to 1.

If American leaders would call a halt to the violence, condemn the terrorist attack, and condemn the killing of innocent foreigners by previous US administrations, there's a very good chance the cycle of death and destruction could end immediately.

We're at a Crossroads

Can I guarantee that Choice #2 will lead to peace? Of course not, but it is very likely to do so. And what terrorism remains will be relatively minor compared to the awful future we face now.

And I can assure you that Choice #1 will lead to the death of many more Americans most likely, tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of Americans, in ugly and tragic ways.

The terrorists who weren't killed in the September 11 attacks probably will never be caught whether we pick Choice #1 or Choice #2. So let's focus on assuring that such a thing never happens again.

But first we must recognize that the fantasy our government is peddling now of bringing peace by killing foreigners is totally impossible.

We have only two choices death or peace. It's unfortunate that it will take far more courage to choose peace.

 

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Harry Browne is a best-selling author and two-time Libertarian Party nominee for president.

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