Sunday, July 16, 2006

Unfortunately Pacifism Isn't the Answer 

Pacifism is a beautiful philosophy. The idea of large groups of people co-existing side by side and simply not hurting each other is a wonderful dream. As long as no one attacks anyone else, it makes perfect sense to maintain that pacifist utopian state.

Unfortunately, we don't live in a pacifist utopian state, even if we close our eyes and pretend real hard. The illusion is ruined by the sounds of the bombs going off and the angry speeches promising death to the you-know-who's. So we are instead forced to decide whether non-violent cheek-turning is a viable survival strategy when surrounded by entities that want us dead.

Not surprisingly, this brings me to Israel's present predicament. Israel faces simultaneous rocket attack by Hamas and Hizbullah, two groups unconstrained by international law that nevertheless expect the West's anti-western activitists to constrain Israel's response -- all while Syria and Iran wait boisterously in the wings like a bunch of rabid wrestlers eager for their turn to join in this tag-team cage match. Sure, Israel is formally reassured of its right to self-defense, so long as that involves zero-risk of hurting or inconveniencing anyone. And if one listens to the same critics of America's post-9/11 behavior it becomes clear that Israel is not alone in being granted a right to self-defense by surrender and nothing more.

The violence in the world this week -- and this month, and over the last few years -- is about more than Israel. What is happening here with Hamas and Hizbullah -- and the nations of Syria and Iran among others who also stand behind them -- is the leading edge of a conflict that threatens the Western World. Nation states, including the US and the other great powers, are being challenged to prove that they still have the will to exist. It starts with Israel, and whether it might finally be too tired to endure yet another war to ensure a few more years of its survival, or whether the West might be willing to sacrifice its ally on the expedient altar of Leave-the-Rest-of-Us-Alone. Based on the reaction one reads in the media, and hears among the anti-exercise-of-force Left, it's not hard to understand why there are significant hostile forces that suspect this will is gone, and that the world is ripe for a re-ordering to a more pre-modern power structure and lifestyle that predates ideas like liberty and democracy.

When an ideology ceases to believe in its own worth, when it is ready to surrender the legitimacy of its own self-defense to any rival with the temerity to attack it, that ideology is finished. Unfortunately, at a time when not just Israel, but London, India, Madrid and the US have been attacked, it is not at all clear the Western World still maintains a bedrock belief that it remains worth defending. In the U.S. a strong military is justified only by its ability to respond to other nations' disasters, not by its ability to defend its own nation's interests. If troops are dispatched at all, the concern is for how fast they can be brought home rather than how fast they can accomplish their mission. The speed with which many on the Left are ready to try to understand and placate their implacable attackers is alarming. Less than a year after the 7/7 bombings, the London police stood by while the bombers' supporters took to the streets with death threats and extortionist demands. Spain took less than a week to cave, voting out of office a government whose mistake was the willingness to fight those who attack the West.

To be blunt, Osama's followers -- who are not just hiding in the caves of Afghanistan -- believe the West is dying, and are challenging us to prove otherwise.

Yet when the meat-eaters, flag-wavers, neocons and gun nuts of the world actually advocate a muscular defense of Western Civilization and its freedoms, we are reminded that violence never solves anything, and that power corrupts so long as the non-utopian West is the one wielding it. No amount of marching for peace and opposing all forms of violence is enough to guarantee that the West's hoped for demise will be followed by the flowering of a utopian pacifist paradise, not so long as there are still competing non-Western forces out there with guns and nukes and an ideology that isn't saying give peace a chance.

All this talk of defending and fighting strikes the sophisticated modern ear as a somewhat outdated and barbaric idea -- soooo 1940's just when we thought we were past all that. Sadly, we're not.

UPDATE: Proving that great minds think alike, or at least that Soccer Dad's mind thinks alike, he also posted about those who willfully turn a blind eye to aggression. You should read his post to find out who his culprit is, but I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with Spew Pork Mimes.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: