Peace and Justice

In the Catholic encyclical, Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI makes a simple, yet profound reflection on the issue of peace in the world.  He says “If you want peace, work for justice.”  I think to myself how amazingly simple this is to follow…..or at least it should be simple.  Shouldn’t we know by now, knowing the history of the human race, having endured conflict and war century after century, that peace is a conditional achievement.  Wherever you have injustice, you will have conflict on a regular basis.  That conflict may never erupt into a full-fledged war, but it will become part of the culture and psyche of the people living through it.  And eventually frustration boils over.  It may take decades of endless injustice for that point to be reached, as with the revolutions in Egypt and Libya.  But injustice can not just sit idly by and expect to remain triumphant forever.  That is why it baffles me when countries do things and say things like this.  I just got done reading A Single of Roll the Dice by Trita Parsi.  Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council, and his new book examines in detail the various dynamics of Obama’s diplomacy Iran.  If you want to get a real and inside understanding of the relationship between these two countries as well as all the various other actors in this predicament of nuclear proportions, I highly recommend this book.  Anyway, I would like to focus on one passage in the book that expounds upon the relationship of America, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in regards to the Arab Spring.  Here is the passage,

The Saudis were infuriated by Washington’s decision to abandon Mubarak.  To the Saudi royal family, the Arab Spring is an existential threat to their regime.  With the Obama administration backing the Arab populace’s desire for change, decision makers in Riyadh believe that Washington violated its long-ago promise to guarantee the security of the House of Saud.  This perception prompted the Saudis to take matters into their own hands.  Scuttling a mediation effort by the U.S. between the Bahraini regime and its opposition, Saudi troops moved into the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom on March 15, 2011, and crushed the prodemocracy uprising.  Fearing that regime change in Bahrain would repeat the Iraqi experience–where a Sunni Arab dictator was replaced by a democratically elected  Shia government with close ties to Tehran–the Saudis were determined to push back against what they perceived to be an opportunity for Iran to expand its influence in the Persian Gulf region and beyond.  According to an Arab official who was briefed on talks between President Obama and King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch was unwavering: “King Abdullah has been clear that Saudi Arabia will never allow Shia rule in Bahrain–never.”  Moreover, the Saudis began forming an anti-Iran alliance consisting of Arab and Muslim states, a move that Washington worried could bring the region to the brink of war.

Oh wow.  What an incredible and complicated balancing act between nations, we have going on here.  Hey, I totally understand.  The Saudi Royals don’t want a Shia Arab Spring in Bahrain lest it make the natives confident and make them start demanding certain freedoms and rights.  So they decide to help their tiny Sunni ally crush the Bahraini opposition  And then the Saudi Monarch scolds Obama like he’s a little child for supporting the democratic uprising.  “We will never allow this country’s people to overthrow their government (that’s just like ours) or else our people will get excited and try to overthrow us and therefore we greatly condemn you, the U.S. (who we thought was our friend) for supporting this uprising.  To all the countries involved, all this may sound sensible but to me and I’m sure to all the Saudi Arabian people…this is just pure ********.  The Saudi Royals want peace???  The Saudi Royals want stability in their future???  The Saudi Royals don’t want to be overthrown in a violent revolution?????   Well then give the people what they want.  Give them rights.  Give them freedom.  Give them justice.  Let history be your teacher.  There is a better path to guarding against revolution than building fancy alliances and invading other countries to show how scary and powerful you are.  Oooooh we can’t have another Shia neighbor.  It has to be Sunni.  There always has to be this endless rivalry between Sunni and Shia.  Who the **** cares?  Your stupid and petty rivalries are of no concern to your citizens.  Their concerns are more simple and sensible.  They want justice.  They want freedom.  Your women want to drive.  Your people want a better educational system.  In the words of Pope Paul VI, “If you want peace work for justice.”  It is as simple as that.

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