Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Just war' is the last and best, among the rest, resort?

Obama's recent Nobel Prize speech is the latest advocacy for 'just war'. He paid tributes to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. for their non-violent engagements. Then he reckoned that he as "a head of state sworn to protect and defend [his] nation, [he] cannot be guided by their examples alone. [He] face[s] the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people."

Then he went on implying Gandhi's and King Jr.'s approach as naive and impractical in this real world,

"For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

Brain McLaren has humbly and respectfully responded to Obama's speech by turning it on its own head,

"I don’t judge the president; I’m just a citizen with a lot less intelligence (of whatever sort) than he has. But I wonder if someday he will see that he was right in his first assessment of Gandhi and King: they spoke not from naïveté about evil and violence but from “a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”"

John Dear disagrees with Obama that Gandhi and King Jr. were naive and impractical on one hand, while disagrees that war is the last and best resort to solve problems on the other hand,

"I disagree on the second point, too, the point that says war makes for peace. The chief axiom of nonviolence says the very opposite. The ends lie within the means, just as the tree exists within the seed. How can the anguish of war -- destruction, displacement, hunger, terror, torture, martial law, summary executions, civilian casualties, oceans of grief -- how can these ever favor us with peace? The only way to peace is through peaceful and loving means."

Dear continued to assert that, "If Obama is right, then St. Francis and St. Clare were wrong. If Obama is right, then Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa were wrong. If Obama is right, then the nonviolent Jesus is wrong."

Bryan Farell responded that the belief that war, though least desirable, was the most effective way to counter the Nazis is mistaken. Using violence during the World War II was falling into the Nazis' trap and playing by their rules. "According to military historian Basil Lidell Hart, who had the unique opportunity to interview German generals imprisoned in Great Britain after the war, "other forms of resistance baffled them" because "they were experts in violence, and had been trained to deal with opponents who used that method.""

Eric Stoner mounted several historical cases and analyses that contradict Obama's war-waging rheoric. He listed some of the successful non-violent approaches in engaging conflict and violence:

"In Bulgaria, important leaders of the Orthodox Church, along with farmers in the northern stretches of the country, threatened to lie across railroad tracks to prevent Jews from being deported. This popular pressure emboldened the Bulgarian parliament to resist the Nazis, who eventually rescinded the deportation order, saving almost all of the country's 48,000 Jews.

Even in Norway, where Obama accepted the peace prize, there was significant nonviolent resistance during the Second World War. When the Nazi-appointed Prime Minister Vidkun Quisling ordered teachers to teach fascism, an estimated 10,000 of the country's 12,000 teachers refused. A campaign of intimidation — which included sending over 1,000 male teachers to jails, concentration camps, and forced labor camps north of the Arctic Circle — failed to break the will of the teachers and sparked growing resentment throughout the country. After eight months, Quisling backed down and the teachers came home victorious."

In the same article, Stoner referred to a few revealing reports on the effectiveness of non-violent engagement, to which I've pasted the relevant data below:

A recent report in journal International Security denies that. By studying 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006, the report calculated that "major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns."

"A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies (40%) or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments (43%). Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory." Only 7% out of 268 terrorist groups managed to be ended by the use of military forces. Yet the report also found that "militaries tended to be most effective when used against terrorist groups engaged in insurgencies in which the groups were large, well armed, and well organized. But against most terrorist groups, military force was usually too blunt an instrument."

Robert Pape in his book 'Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism' surveyed every suicide bombings from 1980 - 2004 and discovered that 95% of the archived suicide bombings are driven by the bombers' desire to free their country from foreign military intervention or occupation. In an interview, Pape remarked, "Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us."

Johann Hari interviewed 17 ex-Jihadists and found out that in most cases, it was kindness by others that got them to question their suicide bombing aspiration. Violence only provoked them to aspire further.

Here are the data that show Obama and others who think that war is (divinely permissible or statistically approve-able, or both as) the last and best resort to solve problem in the real world is deadly wrong.

Add to that war can never settles dispute as history has shown. Our world is still at war in all forms even after World War II. Obama is not facing a problem inherited by his predecessor but his predecessors (in a long chain of successive provocative foreign policies). What happened on 11th September 2001 is not the product of boredom, as if the terrorists did it out of boredom and for entertainment. It was out of revenge. And USA's war on terror is just another manifestation of that same revengeful will and aspiration. Both sides are onto each others for revenge, not justice in itself. Both sides are seeking "justice" for themselves, while the real justice which is sought in itself is sought on the realism of the cross: When justice is being afflicted on itself - the God-self.

Now, was Jesus naive and being impractical in the real world?

1 comment:

reasonable said...

A difficult topic to resolve in both levels.

There is difficulty at the level of principle itself. (e.g. does radical evil, an evil which is so radical that no amount of goodness can turn the evil being towards goodness, exists?)

Then there is the difficulty at the level of workability.