Physicians' Persprective: SMART Security - Winning the Peace by Dr. Rick Bayer
Physicians learn that many health problems can be foreseen and, therefore, prevented. We are taught to adhere to basic public health principles to prevent medical catastrophes when possible. An organization of health care professionals and other concerned citizens, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), believes that a core value of America’s national security policy must similarly embrace prevention and public health. That is why, years ago, I became involved with PSR’s efforts to prevent nuclear war.
Recently, PSR released a policy report called SMART promoting a security policy to make the world safer from terrorism. (SMART = Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism.)
The platform of SMART Security consists of three broad goals. The first is to strengthen international institutions to prevent terrorism. Our government should support multilateral diplomacy and avoid alienating our allies. For example, the inflammatory and ridiculous name changing of “French fries” to “Freedom fries” in a Congressional cafeteria does not increase our security. Rather, we need a smarter way of thinking and the cooperation of allies to collectively eliminate terrorist networks and resolve international conflicts. This also means increasing funding for humanitarian programs to address food, water, and shelter deficiencies that contribute to instability of populations.
Before Americans grasp their collective wallets, remember that these methods are much less costly than war no matter how you measure it. We must reject unilateral preemptive war as a means of resolving conflicts. If we model it, others will follow. We shouldn’t be surprised if countries like Russia follow our example in Chechnya or even the possibility of China attacking Taiwan. After renouncing unilateral preemptive war we must still provide adequate funding for peacekeeping and re-development in troubled nations like Afghanistan and Iraq to secure long-term peace and stability.
Second, we must stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. To gain credibility, the US must renounce the first use of nuclear weapons. A policy that targets other nations for nuclear first-strike attacks is forcing countries like North Korea and Iran to seek their own nuclear weapons as a method of “deterring” US attacks. We should stop development of “mini-nukes,” the smaller “ethically acceptable” alternative. If we expect nations not to test nuclear weapons, we should lead in this area with verifiable monitoring.
America also needs to actively promote and support international treaties to help prevent the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
The third goal of Smart Security is to change budget priorities to reflect the true security needs of Americans. Do we really need to spend as much on our military as every other nation in the world combined in order to defend our country? We must eliminate military spending on obsolete and unnecessary weapons systems designed to fight Soviets during the Cold War, and use those resources to strengthen local “emergency responders”. This includes adequate support for fire, police, and public health departments. Improving security here in the U.S. also includes meeting urgent domestic needs like health care, public education, and unemployment. We need to quit polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe. It should be mandatory that we invest in renewable and safe energy alternatives, which will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and the growing threat of global warming. We must also conserve energy through fuel and energy efficiency rather than waste nonrenewable resources that leads us to seek energy from unstable foreign sources.
An American go-it-alone reliance only on military force does more harm than good. It leads to more anger aimed at the US in future terrorist attacks. This means current policies of “bring it on” only make us less secure. No doubt the U.S. is the world’s only military superpower. But are we smart about our own security?
It’s time to stop acting out of fear, and act from true American values respecting life and the environment that sustains it. We must respect and expand—not repeal—civil liberties. Our personal freedoms allow for a healthy debate about the future of America and what is best for us citizens who are the fabric of society.
It’s time for SMART Security: A Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism. Diplomacy and international law are not only the most moral but also the most effective ways to reduce terrorism. Contact the Oregon chapter of PSR (www.oregonpsr.org or 503-274-2720) for a PowerPoint presentation on “Health Effects of War and the SMART Alternatives”.
Rick Bayer, MD is board-certified in internal medicine, a fellow in the American College of Physicians, and practiced medicine in Oregon for many years. He is a member of PSR and served on the Oregon chapter board of directors.