Malala Yousafzai featured above, Creative Commons photo

Milam’s Musings, milambc@miamioh.edu

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist, became the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at only 17 years old. Her message of “pens over bombs” is a message America would do well to follow.

She was awarded the prize for her advocacy on behalf of women’s education in Pakistan, which she began at the age of 11. Three years later she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke of those issues in opposition to them.

In an interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last year, Yousafzai  spoke about what she would do when threatened with violence by the Taliban.

“If he [the Talib] comes, what would you do, Malalala? … If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others … with cruelty . . . you must fight others but through peace, through dialogue and through education … then I’ll tell him [the Talib] how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well… that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want,” she said.

Malala’s courage to stand up to the Taliban is inspiring. More broadly, her courage to stand up to the culture of Pakistan is a testament to her conviction. Especially when you consider that, due to death threats, she can’t even return to her home in Pakistan.

I know people will scoff at such pacifism, that it is mere foolish idealism. What’s foolish is to continue to bomb Muslim countries as the solution to our foreign policy problems in America.

A year ago, Malala met President Obama, who is himself a Nobel Peace Prize winner from 2009, and in another act of boldness, she told him that his drone policy was fueling terrorism.

“Instead of soldiers, send books. Instead of sending weapons, send pens,” she said.

To date, President Obama has bombed seven Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria, which exceeds Bush’s four of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia (we ought to include Yemen as well, even though it was reportedly a “one-off strike”). And both may have bombed the Philippines, but according to Politifact, it’s hard to say for sure.

This action hardly seems the work of a champion of peace. Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize absolutely bears the blood of innocent Muslim men, women and children.

One is Nabila Rehman, a 9-year-old Pakistani girl that testified before Congress about a drone that killed her 67-year-old grandmother. Her brother, Zubair, brought a clear perspective to the policy’s effects.

“Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear. Children don’t play so often now, and have stopped going to school. Education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead,” he said.

Imagine living your days with the threat of death looming above. At any moment, it could send a missile down on your head. Sounds an awful lot like terrorism.

However, Democrats will argue that comparing George W. Bush and Barack Obama on war is silly. After all, Obama didn’t start a war (with Iraq) on false pretenses that cost over a trillion dollars and countless lives.

This is true, Obama hasn’t yet invaded a country.

But look at what I just said: If the bar for how good someone is on war is measured by, “Well, at least they didn’t invade a country,” then the bar is quite low. 

Obama was ushered into the White House on a wave of hope and optimism from a country desperately seeking a paradigm shift from the eight years under a Bush presidency.

Yet, so far, he’s been more of the same. He was elected, in part, to end the Iraq War. He’s back to bombing them and with boots on the ground.

The new bombing in Syria should be the final straw for Democrats that had wished Obama would be less militaristic than Bush.

As national security analyst Peter Bergen outlined in a CNN opinion piece, the bombing campaign, unlike previous engagements, lacked the following:

  • A U.N. resolution authorizing force.
  • As part of a NATO operation.
  • An Arab League resolution in favor of military action.
  • A specific U.S. congressional authorization for war in another country.
  • The invitation of the host country to conduct military operations as we have recently seen in Iraq, where the Iraqi government has been begging for U.S. military intervention.

Bergen further asks us to consider other things that contradict the view of Obama as a peacenik.

He surged in Afghanistan from 30,000 soldiers to 90,000. He increased the drone strikes in Malala’s Pakistan from 48 under Bush to 328. Likewise with Yemen, from only one strike under Bush to 99 under Obama.

Worst yet, Obama claimed the authority to assassinate a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and then did so in Yemen in 2011.

“Do the thought experiment where George W. Bush had gone to war in another Middle Eastern country without the cover of a U.N. resolution, or of a NATO operation, or of Arab League approval, or of a specific congressional authorization. The howls of protest from American liberals and the Muslim world would surely have been deafening,” Bergen said.

I look forward to seeing Democrats return to the anti-war side when it’s not their guy doing the bombing. “My guy” politics is one of the best enablers of war because it silences criticism.

Malala’s empowering message of education over bombing is the real “hope and change” we need and can believe in. Someone that’s actually worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize in which they were honored with.

“I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls,” she said.

Another way would be holding sitting presidents to the same strict standards when they exercise war powers against other countries regardless of the R or D next to
their name.

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