The Past Is Not an Abstraction

This is a response to “A Call For Peace” by Andrew W. Hill [no longer online].

I, too, call for peace – not for a peace created on a piece of paper or at the bargaining table, but a real peace that restores a sense of safety and security to America. I also oppose revenge and retribution when they are carried out only for revenge and retribution; however, the arguments against military action presented in Andrew W. Hill’s call for peace neglect reality and present arguments that are an affront to logic and history.

Arguments for peace and negotiation often rely on arguments founded on false assumptions. For example, Andrew references “a circle of violence”. In this case he is implying that violence begets violence, so by not responding in a violent way, we may start down a path that ultimately leads to peace. On the surface, this is a noble and seemingly logical assertion; however, it quickly breaks down on several fronts.

Many contemporary thinkers ignore the past and dismiss it as regressive or an abstract reality that has no bearing on events occurring in the present. They could not be more wrong. The past provides lessons and the only hard data available and evidence to guide us in our actions. Many comparisons have been made to WW II and Pearl Harbor. I will not argue their accuracy, but I will point out a few more parallels.

In WW II, our enemies were fanatical. Our terrorist enemies today are fanatical. The Nazis were driven by several ideals, including superiority and an extreme hatred of their opponents. The Japanese who directed the efforts in WW II shared those characteristics.

While our terrorist enemies are not a nation, they share this passionate hatred and dedication to their cause. When we allowed Hitler to take parts of Eastern Europe, did he halt his efforts of world conquest and ethnic cleansing? No. When world leaders gathered with Hitler and the Nazis, treated them like moral and social equals, and welcomed them into the diplomatic process, did it dissuade them from violence? No.

Did the Japanese surrender before we drove them back to their homeland? No. Will the terrorists stop planning attacks after they destroyed the World Trade Center? No. Ten suspected terrorists were arrested Thursday, two days after the first attack. In fact, terrorists operate under the assumption that we do have the capacity to respond to their attacks in meaningful way. Whether it be a lack of will on the part of the their enemies or a lack of useful intelligence, the terrorists count on us not responding to them.

It must be understood that the terrorists are dedicated to harming us. They are willing to sacrifice their lives. We are referred to as evil or as Satan (remember, I am speaking about the terrorists, not all Muslims and Middle Easterners). The extremists dance in the streets. We are hated; we are despised. The magnitude of animosity is almost unbelievable.

The logic employed in Hill’s article is insulting, implying that the terrorists are justified because, “The USA has been involved in many skirmishes and warlike activities that have caused the deaths of thousands, if not more, inhabitants of the middle east. Trade sanctions imposed at the demand of the USA have caused an economic halt in several countries, causing families to starve to death.” It sickens me that justification is even hinted at.

The idea that we can sit down at a bargaining table or withdraw sanctions from Iraq and suddenly the hatred would abate is ridiculous and historically unfounded. We allowed the Nazis to ignore the restrictions placed against Germany after WW I. Did this reduce their hatred? No. Did it prevent war? No.

But practical, sustainable peace is not brought about by symbolic gestures, ignoring violence, and moral superiority. Any diplomatic actions and actions through the courts would be merely symbolic, while acts of violence would continue against the United States and other freedom loving countries. Governments of the Middle East will continue to “vow to end terrorism” and “condemn terrorists attacks” while taking halfhearted measures to arrest criminals at best.

I am certainly not saying that other forces aside from hatred and fanaticism are at play. Much of the animosity is sowed from the fact that we are richer and more powerful than other nations – and often arrogant. I believe that the U.S. should foster growth abroad, act more humbly in many situations, and work to reduce the hatred and resentment of others towards us across the globe.

This could, however, take ten generations. While we work towards these goals, we must take action against those who would barbarically attack us. We must not encourage terrorists by allowing them to attack unpunished. I am not a proponent of military action for the ends of revenge or retribution, but rather because history and logic dictate that it is the only viable means towards a lasting peace in the short term. The problem must be addressed from both ends, ending aggression in the short term with a sustained campaign against terrorism, and long term measures reduce inequalities that sow hatred, violence, and envy.

I, too, call for peace. A lasting peace, created by actions. A practical peace that is more than symbolism and good-feelings. It is easy to oppose military action, to feel morally superior, and to believe you see the big picture that others do not. It is not easy to send men off to kill other men. It is not easy to live with the killing, as most soldiers will tell you. Regrettably, war is often the vehicle that one rides to peace.

Chris Lozaga is a technical writer and has documented software for the IBM SP super computer and the AIX Operating System. He is no longer an IBM employee; this article represents his opinion and his opinion only. It is in no way indicative of the views of his employers, past or present.

Keywords: #911 #sept11 #september11

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