Monday, July 25, 2005

Non-violence as viable American foreign policy?

This response has been more than a week in the works because I've been trying to gather my thoughts and create a coherent rebuttal to gurufrisbee's response. Since the second round of bombings, I've had to rework this response and remove some true anger and hatred that escaped into my first rebuttal on this subject.

Let me also offer up an apology. I know that gurufrisbee is going to on vacation soon and will be internet-less for a majority of August and thus may be handicapped in replying to me in a timely manner. I hope he will forgive me and be able to continue this discussion prior to losing his internet connection.

Rather than take a point by point approach, I think I will try to make a larger argument. I may address a few of your points individually, but I think I'll take this in a new direction.

First, let me concede two points. The first is, as you said, 99.99% of the time people live in peace. That is how people should get along. However by saying that you will recognize that .01% of the time people are in conflict. It is that .01% of the time that is the subject of my inquiry. The second point is that Iraq is a complete mess, that is undoubtedly helping to radicalize more Muslims against America, and that we should withdraw because we are the part of the problem there and as long as we are there, the insurgents will have something to unify them.

Now, let's move to the War on Terror and the .01% of the time that we have conflict. I am arguing that America must have violence in its arsenal of options. I'm not dealing with best case or if things were different scenarios. I'm talking about if I was given the keys to the Department of Defense tomorrow, what should occur.

The arguments put forward by gurufrisbee leave me still unconvinced that either Biblically or pragmatically non-violence will work as a foreign policy for a nation-state. It is better to dance than fight as Harry Reid said, but with Islamic-fascist terrorists there is no dancing. There are two reasons. The first is that Al-Qaeda doesn't have any acceptable political aims. Osama Bin Laden's list of gripes have morphed from America's leading the first Gulf War to free Kuwait to East Timor to Chechnya to Spainish control of Muslim Lands (from 1492) to Palestine to corrupt secular regimes in the Middle East and now the second Iraq war. As Tony Blair said, "Of course these terrorists will use Iraq as an excuse. They will use Afghanistan. September 11 of course happened before both of these things, and then the excuse was American policy, or Israel. They will always have their reasons for acting, but we have got to be really careful of almost giving in to the sort of perverted and twisted logic with which they argue."

With continually moving goal posts, Al-Qaeda can't be reckoned with. They have dreams of grandeur that would establish a universal theocratic fascist regime. Every liberal bone in my body opposes this! This is truly a fight about which is the best way to live and govern - democratic or fascist?

The second is that Al-Qaeda has eschewed any action other than violence to achieve their aims. Why should I allow their violence to make my decisions? As a liberal, it is unacceptable when my own government does that around the world, but why would I acquiese to some other organization using the same tactics? The bombers here in London, Palestine, and Iraq haven't been involved in political parties, orchestrated rallies or doorbelling for votes. They have immediately jumped to violence. Their actions show that they don't believe political action will achieve their goals. Why do we then think that somehow pursuing political action will solve the problem?

Finally, America is not to blame for all the troubles within the Middle East and Islam. Do we bear some blame for propping up corrupt dictatorships? Absolutely. Does America need to stop propping up corrupt dictatorships? Absolutely. Does America have a huge job of trying to win hearts and minds of Muslims throughout the world. Absolutely. Can Bush and co do that? Absolutely not.

However, many of the problems are bigger than our policies. Arabian nations are undergoing something similar to the 1960s in the West. A very large young well educated population that is unsatisfied with the world as they see it. Some men (and women) will be draw to extreme organizations like Al-Qeada (as Westerners were to neo-nazi and communist organizations). Unfortunately, due to the fact that those societies are so conservative and have no mechanisms for social change, much of the change is spilling out into the wider world. In America we were able to move from Brown v. Board of Education to MLK Jr as one of the greatest Americans within a decade. It will take generations in the Middle East for that kind of change of mind.

Finally, it comes down to this. Terrorists are criminals. Osama Bin Laden is mass murderer still at large and I firmly disagree with you that it should be the 8,000,000th priority of the Oval Office. I believe in justice for all and it is completely unjust to those killed on 9-11 not to bring Bin Laden to justice. But I digress, terrorists are criminals and we allow the police to use violence to stop violent criminals. Why shouldn't America's armed forces use violence around the globe to get global criminals?

Truly, the question comes down to when does one draw the line and say no more/not acceptable?

I believe that Al-Qaeda is on the other side of that line.

So does Tony Blair - "What we are confronting here is an evil ideology. It is not a clash of civilisations all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it. This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas. Not only what they do but what they think and the thinking they would impose on others."