Views on politics and current events

Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Article And My Rebuttal


An article by Thomas Sowell (in bold) and my rebuttal (in italics)

Pacifists Versus Peace

One of the many failings of our educational system is that it sends out into the world people who cannot tell rhetoric from reality. They have learned no systematic way to analyze ideas, derive their implications and test those implications against hard facts.

I agree totally. Critical thinking, the ability to analyze an issue from more than one perspective needs to be taught and practiced as a part of education. In the representative form of democracy that this nation has, it is absolutely critical for the population at large to be able to see through the rhetoric of politicians and the government. To allow yourself to be blindly led, to invest total confidence and trust in our leaders is folly. Power that is derived from the people demands that the people themselves need to be informed and aware, otherwise we get the kind of government that tells us what to do instead of the opposite.

"Peace" movements are among those who take advantage of this widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities. Few people even seem interested in the actual track record of so-called "peace" movements -- that is, whether such movements actually produce peace or war.

Every type of movement and organization takes advantage of this. The government, special interest groups, politicians, religions, salesmen, businesses, individuals. So of course peace movements take advantage of people’s ignorance, but no more than any other entity. It is this ignorance that is the problem that allows the ‘widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities’. That goes for peace movements, pro-war authors, and manufacturers of toothpaste.

Take the Middle East. People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

A cease-fire in and of itself does not cause peace. But for any kind of negotiations to take place, the killing must stop. Regrettably, the intensely complex situation in the Middle East has deteriorated to the extent that perhaps constructive negotiations can’t happen. The most opportune time to work towards peace is not while a war is being waged, but before conflict boils over into war.

But then what is the alternative? History shows that war itself does not bring peace. The aftermath of any war always contains the seed of another struggle. So is the only way to have peace is by fighting an eternal war? And as a cease-fire is not an option unless a war of some sort is being waged, can the converse be true? There have been more wars in the Middle East than anywhere else. If wars actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful place on earth.

Was World War II ended by cease-fires or by annihilating much of Germany and Japan? Make no mistake about it, innocent civilians died in the process. Indeed, American prisoners of war died when we bombed Germany. There is a reason why General Sherman said "war is hell" more than a century ago. But he helped end the Civil War with his devastating march through Georgia -- not by cease fires or bowing to "world opinion" and there were no corrupt busybodies like the United Nations to demand replacing military force with diplomacy.

The United Nations has failed primarily because the nations that comprise it never really bought into the idea. Instead of using the UN to explore the differences and search for possible solutions, nations have used it to push forth their own interests, regardless of the consequences.

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated. "World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

History proves you wrong. There have been many instances of a ‘weaker’ nation challenging a ‘powerful’ nation, and winning. Our own Revolutionary War is but one example. This was way before the UN, and during a historically different world opinion.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records? Remember the Falkland Islands war, when Argentina sent troops into the Falklands to capture this little British colony in the South Atlantic? Argentina had been claiming to be the rightful owner of those islands for more than a century. Why didn't it attack these little islands before? At no time did the British have enough troops there to defend them. Before there were "peace" movements and the U.N., sending troops into those islands could easily have meant finding British troops or bombs in Buenos Aires. Now "world opinion" condemned the British just for sending armed forces into the South Atlantic to take back their islands. Shamefully, our own government was one of those that opposed the British use of force. But fortunately British prime minister Margaret Thatcher ignored "world opinion" and took back the Falklands.

This is an example of blatant militarism for the sake of empire.. What makes the Falkland islands the property of Great Britain? Are the Falkland Islands that important in a political, military, or economic sense? Or was this a vain attempt by Thatcher to hold on to a miniscule remnant of a ‘great’ British empire? Was maintaining control of the islands worth an all-out bombing and destruction of Buenos Aries? And while the ‘official’ opposition of the Reagan government was the case, how much covert support was given to Britain? By the way, isn’t the Monroe Doctrine still a matter of foreign policy for the U.S.? If indeed it is, then should not the U.S. condemned what the British were doing?

The most catastrophic result of "peace" movements was World War II. While Hitler was arming Germany to the teeth, "peace" movements in Britain were advocating that their own country disarm "as an example to others." British Labor Party Members of Parliament voted consistently against military spending and British college students publicly pledged never to fight for their country. If "peace" movements brought peace, there would never have been World War II. Not only did that war lead to tens of millions of deaths, it came dangerously close to a crushing victory for the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese empire in Asia. And we now know that the United States was on Hitler's timetable after that. For the first two years of that war, the Western democracies lost virtually every battle, all over the world, because pre-war "peace" movements had left them with inadequate military equipment and much of it obsolete. The Nazis and the Japanese knew that. That is why they launched the war.

To blame World War II on pacifism is to neglect the fact that there were totalitarian governments at the time that were hell-bent on war. Which started the war, pacifism or totalitarian governments? Each played a part, along with world economics and myriad other causes. One of the greatest causes of World War II was World War I, in fact.
Whenever an ‘enemy’ is defeated, it causes a vacuum of power. Did the end of WW II bring peace to the world? It brought about a very sinister type of war, the ‘cold’ war, which with the revelation of historical documents of the time show was more ‘hot’ than most remember. The war in Iraq is over, and the vacuum of power is still in effect after two years. So the total defeat of an enemy is never total, unless of course the ‘enemy’ is obliterated. But that only stops that specific enemy, and may indeed inspire others.

"Peace" movements don't bring peace but war.

This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Without war, what would be the need for peace movements in the first place? The author has focused on all possible negative aspects of the peace movement, and has defined the peace movement as consisting only of people who oppose war and want to appease an enemy.

To be sure, there are some negative aspects about demanding negotiations and cease-fires in certain cases. No doubt some of my fellow peace workers would argue to the contrary. But for me there remains the fact that no matter how we may try, there will always be people who wish to do us harm. Sometimes war, defensive war, is the only alternative. But those instances are very few and far between. If people could somehow come to terms with the issues and policies that may cause others to wish us harm, it would be better than blindly following a foreign policy with no regard for unintended consequences.

So what is the peace movement? Is it only about the protesting of war, any war, and a demand for it to stop, at any cost? No. You cannot ‘wage’ peace like you ‘wage’ war. You ‘live’ peace. You practice it with your family, your friends, your enemies, (when possible). Peace is a way of life that entails every aspect of your life. The peaceful resolution of inevitable human conflict in all its forms is the goal. Is this attainable? In an absolute sense, probably not. But it is a way of dealing with conflict without resorting to violence that will make the world a more just and safe place. This I truly believe. It isn’t whether the lofty goal itself can ever be reached, but how much the human condition can be improved in the process of working towards the goal, that is important.

We have had war as long as there has been more than one human on earth. That doesn’t mean we can’t rise above our animal instincts and work for the common good. Indeed, isn’t that what society and civilization are all about? War itself causes peace movements.

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