10 Ways to Avoid War
by Deepak Chopra

Avoiding war can be at once the simplest and most difficult thing to do. It is simple to see that war is always a failure, a perilous risk that leads to immense misery. But it is difficult to get out of the war mentality once the mind is infected by it. Even anti-war protests can inflame the war mentality by inciting more stubbornness and resolve on the other side. To be belligerent in the name of peace is a form of war. Therefore the dilemma about over Iraq must be resolved in a way that is neither pro-war nor anti-war. Is this viable?

Recently I was caught by surprise when a newspaper reporter in Memphis said to me," You have stated that there is a creative solution to every problem. What's the creative solution to prevent the bombing of Iraq?" My answer caused a minor stir-both of outrage and support-because I suggested that if Pope John Paul, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureates, and other luminaries went to Baghdad, bombing would be impossible. My hope was that symbols of peace might be a startling reminder, if they physically traveled to Iraq, that human beings exist for a spiritual purpose higher than war, however justified that war seems. I'd like to expand on that argument.

The war mentality is blinded by fear, which fuels aggression and violence to make the fear go away. That is war in a nutshell. The other rationales are pointless, and when we obsess over them, arguing whether the U.S. is acting as savior, aggressor, imperialist, peacekeeper, world policeman, or cynical oil power, the net effect is to forget that war is about fear and using violence to "solve" it.

If you step out of the war mentality, there are not just a few creative ways to avoid an invasion of Iraq. There are dozens. If every person who doesn't want war sent in his or her suggestion about a better answer, tens of thousands of replies would flood in. Of these I 'm sure that five or six would be completely workable. Let me mention ten to begin with:

1. Congratulate President Bush on already succeeding. The presence of U.S. troops around Iraq has called Saddam's bluff. Disarmament has begun. If pressure is kept on with U.S. military presence, in the region, without dropping bombs, further progress will inevitably occur.

2. Assign prominent figures of peace to be present in Iraq constantly, along with the U.N. inspectors. Have these revered figures address the Iraqi people and the world every day on the value of peace.

3. Ask 100,000 well-wishers from around the globe to bring food and aid to Iraq's children. These people would carry humane relief in person to Baghdad.

4. Start a global Peace Corps of volunteers who will go to Iraq with the express purpose of fulfilling any humanitarian need asked for by that country.

5. Offer MTV, CNN, and Nickelodeon free to any Iraq household with a TV. Exposure to the world will make them feel like part of the world.

6. Sponsor 25,000 student exchanges for Iraqi high schoolers so that they can live for a year in Europe or the U.S.

7. Keep a tenfold number of U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq and have them report every two weeks.

8. Teach courses in all American schools on the pros and cons of globalization and multiculturalism, as opposed to instilling the false belief that nationalism is going to continue to work (war being a logical and horrendous extension of nationalism).

9. Withdraw the resented presence of U.S. troops from those regions where seeing an American army uniform inflames simmering hatred.

10. Open Disney World somewhere in the Middle East., a region where up to half the population is under the age of 15. These children are in enormous peril, not just from bombs but from cultural isolation. Let children breathe free air at a place where fun and joy abide. What better way to reduce fear and anger? At the same time, find a way to expose American children to the children of the world.

Whatever you think of these particular suggestions, the most obvious thing is how easily they arise once you stop being infected by the war mentality. Weapons of mass destruction are disposed of when they are seen as irrelevant. That is what happened with the former Soviet Union. The same can happen in the Middle East once we put our hearts into it. The choice to change history or become its next victim faces us right here, right now.

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