Better than B-1 bombers and Pop-Tarts for Afghanistan is the buckyball way of thinking
By Hazel Henderson
Commenting from St. Augustine, FL
Terrorism must be faced and checked, and such crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. But since September 11th, how could this have been achieved without inflicting further violence and terror on more innocent civilians? Could global terrorism have been addressed more effectively by calling for a new war? Why was the bombing combined with the now much-criticized dropping of surplus US packaged foods?
Such questions are no longer posed only by pacifists but by millions of global citizens facing the realities of interdependence created by economic and technological globalization. They offer new analyses, actions and strategies, many of which are similar to those of security strategists ignored at the Pentagon, the CIA and policy think tanks who warn that terrorism requires a top-to-bottom rethinking of US military force structure and priorities.
Instead of leading a coalition of bombing raids, I urged the United States to organize its allied countries to begin airlifting large inventories and backlogs of unsold food, clothing and other consumer goods into Afghanistan. Starving Afghans, whose UN and other food and humanitarian aid were cut off because of the US threats and later bombing, could have found new strength to resist the Taliban.
As unsold commodities, medical supplies, clothes, blankets, radios and magazines floated down from the skies, the Taliban would have become further discredited for their economic failures. As unsold inventories were reduced in stagnating economies in Europe, Asia and North and South America, production could have been revived and people reemployed. Companies and whole societies would have rediscovered the power of bartering—in the name of peace—their surplus goods at a fraction of the cost of weapons and military strikes.
Instead, the United States bombed Afghanistan while simultaneously showering inappropriate packets of fast foods—including 2.4 million Pop-Tarts in the first month of bombing. These were hardly a substitute for the vast quantities of flour, beans and other culturally appropriate relief supplies.
Change the game
Outside-the-box strategies are common to game theorists. Today, they are advocated by strategic policy analysts in university think tanks and derive from architect and engineering genius Buckminster Fuller, after whom the carbon-based “buckyballs” are named. Fuller, the most practical futurist of the 20th century, called for human design revolutions so that our evolving technological societies could provide for 100 percent of humanity—within the tolerances of planetary ecosystems.
Thousands of Bucky Fuller’s former students teach in universities, invent green technologies and, like myself, promote win-win approaches to today’s malfunctioning globalization and money systems. Others are calling quite sensibly for a global Marshall Plan to meet crying needs and head off a global depression.
Today’s global casino is largely unregulated, providing conduits for money laundering and the transfer of funds by terrorists, drug lords and mafia groups. In April 2000, the G-7 and the OECD, with full support of then-US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, launched an effective blacklist of all financial havens harboring such illicit financial transactions. The incoming Bush Administration then withdrew US support. Mr. Bush reversed this policy on September 24th, recognizing that regulating global financial flows is key to stemming terrorists as well as other criminals.
But money-based systems, policies and national accounts such as GNP tell only half the story, and they limit our thinking and strategies. Money does not equate with wealth, a broader term, which includes human creativity, intellectual and social capital and ecological assets. Outside the box of conventional economics lies a wealth of creative strategies based on barter, reciprocity, mutual aid, sharing and cooperation. This hidden parallel economy is estimated at $16 trillion annually, but money-free and therefore invisible to economists. These strategies used by the other half of humanity, the poor and those bypassed by globalization, are all considered irrational and primitive by market economics with its competitive strategies for maximizing self-interest and profitability.
Those who advocated airdropping surplus clothes, medical supplies, food and unsalable consumer goods to Afghans follow the logic of game theory, not economics. The world’s growing glut of unsold inventories is still causing layoffs, deflation and recession in today’s tightly linked economies. Clearing the back-logged shelves in exchange for Afghans’ good will in deposing the Taliban and bringing Al-Qaeda’s network to justice makes more sense than a 20th-century-style war. Wars have always been one way of getting out of economic depressions—as World War II production ended the Great Depression.
Today, we know a better way. The murderous terrorist attacks would better have been deemed “criminal.” Rather than declaring war, the United States could have preserved many more options by mobilizing INTERPOL, the global financial system (as it later did) and the UN Security Council to bring Al-Qaeda operatives to the International Court in The Hague as perpetrators of crimes against humanity. But this would mean that the United States would need to begin supporting the International Criminal Court already approved by most countries, as well as paying the $500 million balance still owed to the UN.
Such game theorists as Robert Steele, founder of the think tank OSS, Inc., William Perk, former board member of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Jan Lee Martin of Australia’s Futures Foundation and many others understand the wealth of win-win strategies available beyond conventional economic and military thinking. One example was Mikhail Gorbachev’s challenging to the United States to cooperate with him in reducing nuclear weapons. Baffled Pentagon hardliners finally understood his use of “tit for tat” game theory and began to cooperate, allowing Reagan and Gorbachev to find common ground. In the 1950s, Cold War sociologist David Reisman, in his famous essay “The Nylon War,” proposed a classic win-win game to discredit Soviet leaders in the eyes of ordinary Russians by parachuting consumer goods into the Soviet Union. Military brass could not think of such surprise tactics.
Win-win globalization will focus far beyond humanitarian assistance and food aid to reduce surpluses. The adoption of strategies already agreed to in UN summits in the 1990s on food, children, health, human rights, shelter and poverty eradication would make the world a safer place. The reduction of weapons budgets worldwide, as security is redefined in human terms, need not cause massive unemployment and depression. There will be enough work for everyone in redesigning sustainable societies based on renewable energy and resource use that can provide for 100 percent of the human family. Such a redesign of global financial architecture will form the agenda at the UN Summit on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, in March. In our globalized, interdependent world, justice, equity and cooperation have become pragmatic.
Hazel Henderson is associate editor-at-large for The WorldPaper.
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