Monday, 23 July 2012

The Geopolitics of Compassion

by Robert C. Koehler                      Common Dreams                      July 19, 2012

“The militarization of the United States and the strengthening of the national security complex continues to accelerate,” Tom Engelhardt wrote earlier this month. “The Pentagon is, by now, a world unto itself. . . .”  And as the world’s major powers play a 21st-century version of the “Great Game” to control the resources of the world, the U.S., in contrast with China, writes David Vine, “has focused relentlessly on military might as its global trump card, dotting the planet with new bases and other forms of military power.”
We’re a hyper-militarized global empire, dominating if not quite “ruling” a large swath of the world by brute physical, as well as economic, force. We go to war, or the equivalent of war, whenever and wherever we feel like it, killing civilians, destabilizing societies, waving our red flag.  Engelhardt, in his essay on “the Failure of the Military Option,” summarizes the disastrous consequences we’ve inflicted on much of the world just since 2001, in our ill-considered interventions and globalized pursuit of manifest destiny. We’ve created chaos everywhere  including Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Somalia, Egypt and Libya — as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet none of its failures have given the U.S. military the least pause in throwing its muscle around somewhere else, or building new bases. “Chalmers Johnson noted: “America’s version of the colony is the military base.” 
This is geopolitics, a collision and collusion of impersonal forces, as removed from ordinary humanity as gravity, weather and continental drift. The best we can do is live our lives around it, right? Feelings don’t enter into it, beyond the cries of the wounded and the survivors, and the occasional meaningless apology of one government to another: The collateral damage was “regrettable.” This is the game of history. The weak become compliant satellites of “the hegemon” — the United States — or defiant outcasts, ripe for invasion and occupation.
“Beyond these categories,” he writes, “are the discarded –– completely failed entities like Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali, where utterly poor and miserable people live. “The hegemon and satellites have not a care in the world for the welfare of such people, except sending drones or troops from neighboring client states to kill those described as ‘terrorists.’ What desperate poverty and misery lead to has no space within the realm of this thinking.”
And this is the world over which we seemingly have no influence. Theoretically, democracy gives all citizens some power in the realm of geopolitics, in whether our country behaves as an empire, brutally and clumsily asserting its influence around the world, or displays a new and unprecedented sort of leadership, recognizing the sanctity of life and the wholeness of the planet.
I know, this sounds naïve to the point of absurdity, especially because what I’m really talking about is power — the power to disarm an empire, the power to redefine the nation’s interests, the power to bring compassion (synonymous with sanity) to the realm of geopolitics. Who am I kidding?
“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”
So reads the Charter for Compassion, one of many global cries for a new way of being, which includes a new, demilitarized geopolitics. This can only happen if democracy becomes, once again, a force of history.
© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.    [Abridged]
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available.

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