Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pacifism, Politics and Al-Qaeda

For those that haven't been following the conversation in several threads about pacifism and the current war on Al-Qaeda, it has become very interesting and surprisingly civil.

The Old Man has asked me to do a "rescue" of some of the issues raised and bring them into a new post, which I'll do tomorrow or Thursday. Today, however, I wish to explore a fallacy that I believe exists within pacifism in regards to the current battle on Al-Qaeda.

gurufrisbee, and to a lesser extent The Old Man, have advocated a much more pacifistic approach to dealing with Al-Qaeda. Effectly, the idea is that if we just would mind our own business and leave the Muslim world alone, then Al-Qaeda would leave the US alone.

This seems like common sense. It is how I get along with my neighbors and colleagues.

However, it presupposes rationality by all members. Things work fine as long as both parties are rational. However, once one side begins to act irrationally (for either mental or emotional reasons) then the agreement breaks down. How many of us have heard about or seen court cases between neighbors over ridiculous stuff that costs one or both of them thousands of dollars? Or have seen colleagues disciplined or fired over essentially emotional responses to problems?

I believe the same issue is at stake with Al-Qaeda. They act irrationally. Therefore, to practice pacifism with "them" will ultimately cost American lives. Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are both extremely intelligent men, but they advocate irrational responses and tactics. To place the blame on America for what is wrong in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Pakistan is irrational. Sure America is involved, but Saudis, Egyptians and Pakistanis are the political and economic actors. The equivalent would be political parties blaming China or India for American outsourcing of jobs.

But even if they do have a legitimate beef, Al-Qaeda uses irrational tactics to fight. The idea of strapping bombs to one's chest and walking into a cafe with men, women and children (all non-combatants) and killing everyone inside is irrational. Using airplanes as giant bombs is irrational. In fact, Al-Qaeda has but one tactic. Irrational suicide bombing. They refuse to engage in dialogue. They refuse to be involved in the political process. Their only answer for any slight or disagreement is swift and immediate death.

I see no reason to believe that if Al-Qaeda were to be left alone, or even if we gave into their every requirement, that they would rationally respond to leaving the US alone.

Thus, pacifism is a tough sell politically. A hawk can say that if elected, he'd kill OBL. Thus this leader would "solve" the problem. People like problem solvers as their leaders. This "solution" becomes a real vote getter.

A dove can only say that if elected they would hope to see less Al-Qaeda activity because we are threatening them less. This leaves the onus on Al-Qaeda to react. It doesn't appear to solve the problem as easily or as completely as killing OBL. Thus, it won't garner the votes and the pacifist candidate will lose.