Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Senator George Mitchell Advocates Ideals before Military Might

Senator George Mitchell, former majority leader and special envoy to Ireland and Middle East spoke recently in Palo Alto before a joint dinner meeting of Silicon Valley National Association of Corporate Directors and Financial Executives International. More than 200 attended his lecture, basically dealing with his views of the state of the world.

He related to us that at one of his talks, someone in the audience pointed out that tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed and their blood was on Obama's hands for not intervening. Senator Mitchell's retort was to ask the questioner why he was not as vocal in demanding American intervention in Congo where at last count more than 5 million have died. His implication was that conflicts around the world were invariably more complicated than simply the number of fatalities.

Among his remarks, he made a strong case for the importance of the US to lead by ideals and not by military might. Military power, he said should always be in support of ideals and never ahead of principles.

Given his advocacy, I took the opportunity to ask him where he thought the use of drones for surveillance and eradication was leading us (and the world). I tactfully added that I thought here was a case of military prowess leap frogging principles.

He said technological advances tend to lead and principles of conduct follow, after such advances have been put to practice. He gave as an example, the US development and use of nuclear weapons and then subsequently lead in the effort to establish nuclear nonproliferation. He could see that other nations will follow the US lead and eventually also deploy drones. Hopefully, he said, we will have established strong guidelines on appropriate practices by that time.

Alas, I found his tepid reply disappointing. I expected him to say something along the lines that this is another Pandora's box the US has opened and will bear heavy responsibility for consequent damage to world peace and security.

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