Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thoughts on Violence and War

I always hated the Yankees. I hated Mickey Mantle. Yankee Stadium, Ballantine Beer (their sponsor), Mel Allen (their announcer), even the Bronx. I know it's a little irrational, but I couldn't help it. The Yankees were the enemy. I never once, though, considered strapping dynamite to my body and blowing myself up in their dugout. It never crossed my mind to hijack a plane and crash it into their stadium. Maybe I was a little soft in those days, but for some reason these ideas never even occurred to me. Should I be proud of this? Not really, this should be normal. But for some mysterious reason we are continually looking for ways to hurt and even destroy our enemies.

Of all the problems that exist in the world, violence is numero uno. It seems to me that one thing we should avoid is: killing each other. Now you might say: "what if we're being attacked." Of course we should defend ourselves. This is not even worth discussing. What is critical though is to reduce the probability that we will destroy ourselves through an unspeakably horrible nuclear war. Every other concern, of all the worlds politicians, especially the leaders of the major powers, needs to be secondary to this one possibility. This is one point there must be agreement. There are no circumstances that I can think of in which destroying the world is acceptable.

This might sound obvious. However, it cannot be emphasized enough. The question then is how to best prevent this. This is where it gets tricky. There are two basic lines of thought and numerous variations on each line. The first view is that in order to avoid violence against us, we should kill our enemies before they kill us. This is sometimes called the"preemptive" strategy. The second view is that we should "turn the other cheek." If someone hits us we should not respond but let them hit us again.

Neither point seems realistic. The first strategy advocates the very thing you are trying to avoid. It assumes that man is naturally and uncontrollable warlike and aggressive. Logically, belief in this strategy will result in consistent killing and destruction, until only one nation or one religion or one political system or even only one family remains. Plus, how do you determine when your enemy is threatening enough that they must be killed? Who makes this decision?

The second view has a much greater chance of preventing violence but the risk in today's world is a little too high. There are too many wackos who view non violence or passive resistance as weakness and will take advantage if they see an opportunity. It doesn't seem that this strategy would work against someone like Hitler, or Charles Manson, or Genghis Khan.

So what is the solution? In the past the consequences of war were horrible. Today, they're catastrophic. We need to find some middle ground that balances the necessity to present a strong image with the moderation to act prudently, to prevent situations from escalating past the point of no return. I believe we cannot assume that there is no hope and that there is no way to compromise. Here are some thoughts from some I consider smarter than me.

If you want to make friends you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
Moshe Dayan

You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
Albert Einstein

An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

If I am brutal and you use brutal methods to overcome me you become brutal just like me.

True power comes from when we have every reason to kill and we don't.
Oscar Schindler

War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
Bertrand Russell

Someday they'll give a war and nobody will come.
Carl Sandburg

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

The way to win an atomic war is to make sure it never starts.
Omar Bradley (General)

Either war is obsolete or men are.
Buckminster Fuller.

Although there is no simple answer as to what strategy will be most effective, the necessity for finding an answer is escalating. Necessity has been known to be the mother of invention. President Obama seems to me to be on the right track in admitting weakness and trying to establish a dialogue amongst all sides. I think we should support his efforts. I am hopeful.

No comments:

Post a Comment