'Tis the season to offer tidings of peace and goodwill. This year, however, I'm taking a different tact and have decided to encourage American conflicts. After all, what's the point of championing the myriad of unsung approaches available for preventing wars? War is just too good for the economy, especially one on the brink of a recession. Granted, it may be ludicrous to think I can add anything to the great job we are already doing in this regard. Just in case, to ensure our effective strategies are sustained and even stepped up to keep peace on earth safely out of reach, I am offering the following:
1. Repeatedly declare that the USA is the greatest country in the world. What could any other country possibly possess that we might value, learn from, or want to adopt to improve ourselves? By loudly touting our superiority, global citizens will resent us even more and our own immigrants with strong ties to their country of origin will bristle. Our enemies will use this to recruit and our allies may even turn a blind eye to those whose hatred arouses them to kill us.
2. Ignore international polls and discount, minimize, or completely deny how other countries feel about the U.S. Despite the overwhelming and growing negative sentiment towards the U.S., especially in terms of our foreign policies, when the issue comes up, find a way to focus on the fact that citizens in a handful of countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and South America like us more than they hate us.
3. Blame other countries for our problems and refuse to see how we might, at least in part, be contributing to those problems and to others' negative views of us. Absolutely disregard what U.S. security studies scholars say about the perception of hypocrisy created through our support of corrupt, authoritarian, and anti-democratic regimes or interference with democratic regimes when it serves U.S. interests.
4. Denounce our adversaries and ignore what's behind their successes. How dare China win hearts and minds (and resources) in Africa and Asia with non-violent "what's in it for them" forms of diplomacy, Venezuela and Bolivia create appeal through advocacy for the poor, and Hamas and Hezbollah recruit using claims of Western interference?
5. Disregard the perceptions of those within countries we are striving to serve while telling them how wonderful we are and how much we are doing for them. Middle Easterners predominantly view Americans as occupiers in Iraq for their oil, to establish permanent military bases, and on a Christian crusade. By making a point of not effectively countering these perceptions, support for insurgents and the violence they foment can readily be fueled.
6. Discourage U.S. leaders from studying proven mediation and negotiation methods. Books like Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Fisher et al, 1991), Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson et al, 2002), and Non-Violent Communication (Rosenberg & Ghandi, 2003) need to be avoided. Like the British finally learned to do in Northern Ireland, if we had been aware of these techniques when a group of Iraqi insurgents offered a truce in June of 2006, peace might have prevailed. We would know how to steer incomplete proposals towards mutually satisfactory solutions instead of rejecting them because they contain deal-breakers.
6. Ensure our nation's spokespersons do not take advantage of available state-of-the-art systems thinking and communications training. The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, for example, has developed sophisticated simulation leadership training for junior Army officers. Thriving violent conflicts could be severely threatened if senior government and military personnel were to learn how to apply these powerful methods of systems thinking and communications skills for de-escalating conflicts.
8. Avoid reorganizing strategic communications and counterinsurgency efforts under the National Security Council. Maintain the State Department as the lead agency over the Department of Defense for strategic communications and counterinsurgency. This way the agency with the least historical experience regarding these issues directs personnel in the agency with the most topical background, research base, and significantly more funding. Placing these functions under the directive of the National Security Council instead of State or Defense might minimize turf obstacles, increase their effectiveness, enhance our security, and reduce conflicts.
9. Keep really quiet about Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) programs like Pre-Conflict Management Tools (PCMT) or Conflict Modeling, Planning, and Outcome Experimentation (COMPOEX). These technologies assess potential causes of conflicts within regions, show how to address them before violence breaks out, and guide decision-making by predicting likely outcomes. Americans might realize these approaches represent alternatives to military force for preventing future altercations. These programs represent a minimal risk of facilitating peace, however, because although they have proven effective and are extremely inexpensive compared to the billions spent every week on war, they appear likely to be discontinued due to a lack of funding.
10. Do not draw any potentially useful parallels from the addiction arena. We've already gone far enough in confessing our addiction to oil and realizing how this dependence contributes to our conflicts with other countries. Alcoholics Anonymous old-timers often remind newcomers "You're only as sick as your secrets." This practice wisdom emerged from observing how harboring secrets increases the substance's grip on the abuser and interferes with recovery. If national secrets are helping to keep us addicted and in conflict, then it's clearly best we don't ask or tell about it on the mountain, hill, or anywhere!