Monday, October 1, 2007

Worse Than War

It may be well-established in the minds of a majority of Americans - especially given our travails in the Middle East - that military conflict of any kind is an ultimately pointless effort that leads directly to more suffering than it could ever be worth. It is especially easy to draw such a conclusion in this present age of limited wars with nebulous objectives. The cause of nation-building in particular is especially susceptible to criticism from all corners, as those peoples who are in need of functioning central governments are most often also in need of a shared culture that will undergird and sustain a fledgling government.

And so, it is very easy to conclude that war is - to quote deceased soul singers and anti-war liberals - "not the answer."
To the thinking of the anti-war Left, there is little to be esteemed as infinitesimally - and avoided so assiduously - as war, and nothing is to be as devoutly wished as peace. Of course peace has a strange definition to this brand of progressive. As they would define it, peace is the absence of American involvement in armed conflict. America would not challenge tyranny, it would not act in defense of its allies, nor would it respond to terrorist acts against its own homeland.

We correctly gather as much from reading "The Peace Racket" by Bruce Bawer (as published in the City Journal.) Bawer describes an all-encompassing movement whose goals extend beyond the more easily embraceable idea of extracting American troops from the Middle East. This campaign is espoused by members of the House of Representatives, as well as by many in the capitals of Europe and the suites of the United Nations. Worse yet, it is well-ensconced in the halls of academia.

The Peace Racket's boundaries aren't easy to define. It embraces scores of "peace institutes" and "peace centers" in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. As Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank point out in a sympathetic overview of these programs, it's hard to say exactly how many exist—partly because they often go by other labels, such as "security studies" and "human rights education"; partly because many "professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them"; and finally because "several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes." Many primary and secondary schools also teach peace studies in some form.
The efforts of this apparatus are ostensibly directed to the end of establishing the premise that war is not the answer. But predictably, it sees America's military adventures as most problematic. Bawer quotes Johan Galtung, founder of the International Peace Research Institute and a leader in the international "peacist" movement, as saying that America is a "killer country" which is guilty of "neo-fascist state terrorism."

As Bawer notes, these peace strivers are most answerable when they suggest that freedom and the right to self-determination are appropriate offerings to be laid at the altar of peace. He describes
the former president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, as saying that America's "preoccupation with freedom versus tyranny as 'obsolete,' 'oversimplified,' and above all 'dangerous,' because it could lead to war."

But if the world must sacrifice freedom to dictators and totalitarians without dissent, let alone use of the force of arms in order to be at peace, how are those who would yield the former for the latter to be counted as worthy of either?
Indeed, if we do not judge the wanton and unavenged murder of innocents without justice or recompense (as is taking place in Myanmar presently) as worse than war itself, how then shall we be seen as moral actors? The peacists fall mute to the question of how - if we are content to live in the absence of hope or redemption in exchange for the promise of peace - we will avenge ourselves when more (in lives, treasure and human rights) is demanded of us?

They also are silent on the question of whether, if a nation could prevent the loss of even a single life by way of military action, such a nation would be morally just in failing to do so. To be sure, the calculus by which a free state would determine how many lives it should sacrifice to free others of another nation is difficult at best. But to yield to this difficulty and conclude than no loss of life elsewhere is worth even one American life is a most evil absolute, sought only by cowards. It simply cannot be better to be a pacifist and conclude that no amount of lost life on the part of the world's subjugated is worth less than the life of one American.
To persons of honor and decency, lives surrounded by such cowards is worse than war, or death itself.

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