Waging Peace

April 18, 1993|By JOEL SCHECHTER

SAN FRANCISCO. — San Francisco -- My friend Alice, the militant pacifist, wants al the military bases in California kept open.

''I've been calling for an end to military spending for years,'' she confessed the other day. ''Now that we're not at war, it's another matter.''

She adjusted a rope sandal.

''I know, it has the appearance of hypocrisy. I endorsed the Dellums alternative defense budget long before [Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif.,] became chair of the House Armed Services Committee. But even he doesn't completely support the base closings announced for California.''

I asked if she had resigned from the War Resisters League or been expelled.

''Neither. In fact, I'm asking the league to support me on this. It's a pacifist position: If too many bases close before they convert to peacetime industry, the new jobless will welcome war on the slightest pretext. The defense industry, desperate for work, will want to intervene in Serbia by June.''

I could not fully agree with Alice that keeping the bases open would prevent American military involvement abroad. But she was far ahead of me.

''I see a new peacetime use for the bases,'' said Alice. ''We ought to lease them to other countries and let them pay for the operations.''

I assumed she meant the ports would be leased as harbors and land bases as future industrial parks; it still meant layoffs for the .. current labor force.

''No, no,'' Alice protested. ''I would lease our bases and their current workers, too. Let Saddam Hussein rent one of our cruisers and a crew in Oakland, if he can afford them.''

I began to suspect too many fasts for peace had weakened Alice's mental condition.

''You don't understand,'' Alice correctly surmised. ''The public paid a fortune to prepare for war. Now that peace is here, no one knows how to finance it. But scores of small countries would gladly take over our bases at home and abroad; so lease them the bases. We already sell them weapons, which is far more dangerous.''

I asked, naively: ''And what if they declare war?''

''Well, I never said anything about leasing the bases in wartime,'' Alice answered.

She was indignant.

''I could never support that. The deal's off at the first sight of a loaded missile tube. And the CIA will welcome the chance to keep an eye on those bases -- spies need peacetime employment, too.''

I had my doubts. Would the president and Congress accept Alice's plan to disarm our bases through foreign investment?

''If pacifism can keep the bases open,'' Alice answered, ''even the Pentagon will support it.''

Joel Schechter is chair of the theater-arts department at San Francisco State University. He wrote this column for the San Francisco Examiner.

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