Paul Andersen: Fair Game |

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Several forums at the Ideas Festival raised a profound contradiction that still shakes my world. On one side is “Hard Power,” the use of military force, or the threat thereof. For a lifelong peacenik, endorsing Hard Power is an apostasy. After Ideas Fest, however, I can no longer dismiss the positive effects of Hard Power in today’s complex geopolitics.

On the opposite pole is what I call “Love Power,” the belief that acting from love is better than acting from hate. I have always seen Love Power as an antidote to war and violence, and as a moral and ethical refutation to the Machiavellian practitioners of Hard Power.

At Ideas Fest, Love Power was represented by Martin Fisher, the man behind “KickStart,” a human-powered water pump that works like a Stairmaster. KickStart allows poor farmers in developing nations to draw water from wells, irrigate more land, increase crop yields, and pull themselves out of poverty – one stair step at a time.

Another Love Power persona was Olara Otunnu, a humanitarian statesman of high purpose. We first became acquainted at John Denver’s “Choices for the Future” programs more than 20 years ago when I was moved by his formidable way of being. Olara Otunnu is now running for president of his native Uganda against a corrupt military regime that has tried once to stop his Love Power candidacy with a Hard Power assassination.

Hard Power has no better spokesman than Joe Nye of Harvard, who described its value as a component of Smart Power. Nye was on a panel with Greg Mortensen, a guru of Love Power who builds schools in Afghanistan. The panel taught me that Hard Power and Love Power are not mutually exclusive, though they often work at cross purposes.

Hard Power became viable on closing day of the festival when Israel Ambassador Michael Orem warned against a nuclear-armed Iran. He did so amid deafening thunderclaps as a black storm cloud passed overhead, launching a barrage of lightning bolts in a metaphorical display of nature’s Hard Power. Orem said that when Israel applies Hard Power, for which it is condemned, incidents of terrorism drop.

I have long wondered why America has had such a welcome hiatus from successful terrorist attacks since 9/11. Who can forget the TV images of “smart bombs” dropping down chimneys at the advent of the Gulf War? Or drone aircraft that can strike the smallest targets with lethal results? High-tech Hard Power, more than Homeland Security, may figure as one of America’s most effective deterrents.

Still, hard power has its limits. That’s why I think Greg Mortensen was correct when he said there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the good will of personal relationships has more lasting value than bombs. I also find resonance with the Love Power of Olara Otunnu, who is risking his life to lead the people of Uganda away from Hard Power into freedom and democracy.

Love Power is the Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, Unicef and all the aid organizations I support. Love Power grows with selflessness and sacrifice akin to what Albert Schweitzer brought to West Africa. Love Power touches individuals more than institutions. It is grassroots and bottom-up and ultimately humanitarian.

Hard Power is the Pentagon. It is hierarchical in structure, aggressive in mien and destructive by design. It is volatile, messy, unsustainable, and costs billions of dollars. Hard Power is Stanley McChrystal, and it is respected among warriors, of which the world has many.

The best approach seems to be in an international pledge for mutual security, the goal of protecting all people. A poor farmer needs hope by KickStarting his fields. Ugandans need enlightened leadership through Olara Otunnu. Afghanistan needs social progress through Greg Mortensen’s schools. Perhaps, with enough Love Power, Hard Power won’t be the default response that so dangerously fingers the trigger.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.

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