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"Elders" Seek Alternatives To War

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchorHarry Smith.

Nelson Mandela is giving the world a present as he turns 89 years old.

Mandela, along with Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and others have formed a group called The Elders. Their mission: to dispense their lifetimes of wisdom into the ongoing disputes in our oh-so-troubled world.

The idea comes from British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and rock star Peter Gabriel. What if, for instance, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela had been dispatched to Baghdad to convince Saddam Hussein to relinquish power before American forces came rolling in. Branson says that very plan was in the works. But time ran out.

Audacious? Yes. Simplistic? Maybe.

But this idea embraces the emotion of hope. Is there a reason not to at least try to reach beyond armies and ideologies?

I interviewed Richard Branson recently and he said this: War can't always be the answer.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith

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