Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peacemaking: Peace Corps, Marshall Plan


Ron Suskind in The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in An Age of Extremism weaves individual stories illustrating the dark and light of our nation. He traces how we have lost our way in violence, how relinquished the moral leadership we need to prevent nuclear Armageddon (and I will add global warming), and how we had once built the structures of peace and justice as parts of the US vision of a Culture of Peace, to which we most urgently must return. Now we are gripped by the dark side of our culture; but the ideal of becoming global citizens-- ciudadano del mundo, citoyens du monde, citizens of the world—has not been eradicated.
Of the many individual, valiant peacemaking heroes depicted in the book, all testing US peacemaking values—a twenty-four-year- old Pakistani √©migr√©, a UN refugee commissioner, an Afghan teen ager, a Holocaust survivor’s son, Benazir Bhutto--I will choose one person as my invitation to you to read this book.
Her name is Wendy Chamberlin. She was US Ambassador to Pakistan on 9-11, and took the US “eighteen points” to General Mushareff that placed him at war with radical elements who ran parts of Pakistan—the Taliban and segments of his military and intelligence services. She had considerable experience with the violence. Later she worked for USAID in Iraq, until Rumsfeld consolidated all funds for schools and other aid to people in the Pentagon.
She resigned to enter a world intended to help people: she took the job of UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, in which position she travelled the world for the millions who had been forced to leave their countries and those who had been internally displaced. Whereas before her work was often close to governmental power and violence, now she learned quite different responses. But first she had to learn that the refugees, through no fault of their own, ended up illegally in some country, doing whatever was needed to survive. Particularly she learned of their susceptibility to radical movements, which provide coherence and community, an invisible citizenship, for homelessness. From these alienated, roughly the population of Canada, came many of the recruits of world jihad.
Henceforth, she devoted herself to understanding global refugees as an ongoing crisis, first for the refugee victims, and second for the US, whose leaders and public think the refugees are to blame, and if we can just kill enough of them, everything will be ok.
Gradually she understood her country’s long-standing faith in [armed] force, in controlling territories using armies, making control and domination our goal, as certain to fail. And she learned that solutions must be found outside the channels of US government—through people-to-people contact, rather than government-to-government. From the moment this conviction took hold of her mind, she began to learn the history of US non-governmental alternatives. And this idea became one strand of Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism.
Given her lifetime of governmental employment, she did not know where to begin, but she knew about the Peace Corps, and began “’thinking more and more” about it. “’The U.S. government hasn’t really created a program that reached people, really reached them, since. We sent our best and brightest to villages around the world. They got the worms, they ate the weird food. It wasn’t a program measured properly in the number of irrigation canals that were dug. No, it was an idea, an idea that reached the people of the world. It was simply that we, who have been given so much, care about you.” A rare non-governmental governmental aid program!
And it cost so little. In contrast other government aid programs cost much more and failed because they lack that idea. That the US spends less than 1 percent of its GDP to foreign aid, one of the lowest rates among developed nations, is appalling enough. But the governmental approach is doomed to fail, as she reflects: ”’I’ve worked in every area of foreign aid, handled every type, billions of dollars, and I can tell you that currently—at whatever dollar figure-it’s not really working. When it’s government to government, it mostly goes intoi the pockets of the wealthy and corrupt. We need a new idea. I ask myself what is it? I don’t know. I just don’t know.’”
But in addition to the Peace Corps Chamberlin was also thinking more and more about the Marshall Plan. On the surface—a massive foreign aid expenditure following WWII, for Suskind possibly the greatest foreign policy act of the twentieth century-- it would appear the opposite of the Peace Corps. But it worked well, and she attributes its success to its Peace Corps idea of caring for the people who were to receive the money. She believed the Plan was not intended to make the defeated populations like us; we had killed too many of their civilians for that to be possible. Nor was it done primarily to gain control over the defeated countries. Rather, leaders like Marshall constructed the Plan because it was “’the right thing to do, and when you do the right thing, you don’t ask for anything in return. You do it because it’s right, and because you can.’” And that is a “’core American value.’” The Germans and Japanese did eventually become our allies and even friends, when they were ready through their own free will and self-determination, other US values.
“’Marshall Plan values, Peace Corps values, and really believing in self-determination, free will, education, and opportunity—for their sake, not ours.’”
The US has the greatest army and intelligence in all history, yet only with these values will the US find security, because eventually technological developments will enable someone—a son whose parents were killed by special ops, or a mother whose baby lost her legs by a drone attack-- to use a nuclear bomb against us. Only with a “do-the-right thing foreign policy” will people around the world tell us what we need to know before New York City is blown away
“’If you think of hearts and minds as a policy, as a tactic, as a strategy to regain some of the moral authority we used to have, you’ve already lost.’” “’The Peace Corps, the Marshall Plan, were things we tried that were real, real to people. Because, you see, they weren’t about where we’d end up or what we’d gain, but about how we want to be in the world. That’s the idea of a value right? It’s how you want to be, how you want to live. And that’s what we need to transmit to the world.’” “’I’m in favor of authenticity.”
Suskind asks how?
“’People to people. Great waves of us—just regular people, young people, building clinics or digging wells….Something, something big. America’s good at building things. Let’s do that, something we’re good at And ask nothing in return.’”
At the date of the book’s publication Chamberlin worked for the Middle East Institute, a nongovernmental institution.

William Blum's Marshall Plan qualification:

The Enduring Mystique of the Marshall Plan

Amidst all the stirring political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East the name "Marshall Plan" keeps being repeated by political figures and media around the world as the key to rebuilding the economies of those societies to complement the political advances, which hopefully will be somewhat progressive. But caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.
During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice inflicted upon the world by unending United States interventions, I've often been met with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling only the negative side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America's dealings with the world in modern times, one of the things mentioned — almost without exception — is The Marshall Plan. This is usually described along the lines of: "After World War II, the United States unselfishly built up Europe economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete with us." Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy, who are quick to question the White House's motives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, have little problem in accepting this picture of an altruistic America of the period 1948-1952. But let's have a look at the Marshall Plan outside the official and popular versions.
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the thing called "communism" stood in the way, politically, militarily, and ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to confront this "enemy", and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the Soviets. 1
After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif of American foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, certain corporations, and a few other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver of those striving to remake Europe to suit Washington's desires:
  1. Spreading the capitalist gospel — to counter strong postwar tendencies towards socialism.
  2. Opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations — a major reason for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g., a billion dollars of tobacco at today's prices, spurred by US tobacco interests.
  3. Pushing for the creation of the Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat.
  4. Suppressing the left all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this endeavor, and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the communists from any kind of influential role.
The CIA also skimmed large amounts of Marshall Plan funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions, journalists, and publishers, at home and abroad, for the heated and omnipresent propaganda of the Cold War; the selling of the Marshall Plan to the American public and elsewhere was entwined with fighting "the red menace". Moreover, in its covert operations, CIA personnel at times used the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan's chief architects, Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly at the Ford Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds. One big happy family.
The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of restrictions on the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal criteria which had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free enterprise. The US had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan dollars were spent, but also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent amount of the local currency, giving Washington substantial power over the internal plans and programs of the European states; welfare programs for the needy survivors of the war were looked upon with disfavor by the United States; even rationing smelled too much like socialism and had to go or be scaled down; nationalization of industry was even more vehemently opposed by Washington. The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, to purchase American goods, making American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.
The program could be seen as more a joint business operation between governments than an American "handout"; often it was a business arrangement between American and European ruling classes, many of the latter fresh from their service to the Third Reich, some of the former as well; or it was an arrangement between Congressmen and their favorite corporations to export certain commodities, including a lot of military goods. Thus did the Marshall Plan help lay the foundation for the military industrial complex as a permanent feature of American life.
It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear, credible description of how the Marshall Plan played a pivotal or indispensable role in the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view, at least as clear, is that the Europeans — highly educated, skilled and experienced — could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant strides in this direction before the Plan's funds began flowing. Marshall Plan funds were not directed primarily toward the urgently needed feeding of individuals or rebuilding their homes, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic superstructure, particularly the iron, steel and power industries. The period was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession. The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class. 2
Anti-Empire Report, March 1, 2011

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