UBC Humanities 101: Undercurrents Public Forum on The West and the Middle EastSince we are led to believe, by a poster publicizing this event, that this will be a forum that will promote "pacifist" and anti-Israel opinions, we felt a need for someone to show up in support of an alternative point of view. Immediately below, I reproduce the Sowell article, and then I'll add some comments of my own. When I return from the public forum tonight, I'll add some thoughts in the comments. (UPDATE: see my comments here.)
A program for Adults
A wide ranging discussion on the west and the middle east. Speakers: Hadani Ditmars, journalist and author; Deborah Campbell, writer and UBC adjunct professor; Michael Byers, UBC professor; Hila Russ-Woodland, artist and educator.
Speakers will be:
* Hadani Ditmars, journalist and author
* Deborah Campbell, writer and UBC adjunct professor
* Michael Byers, UBC professor
* Hila Russ-Woodland, artist and educator.
The discussion will be moderated by Am Johal, Director of Public Programs and Outreach, UBC Humanities 101.
July 21, 2006Sowell begins with the distinction between rhetoric and reality because he belongs to a school of thought that believes much of what passes for public debate in the west is today the product of fantasy ideologies (about, e.g., "Global Peace") that would bring violent conflicts to an end by outlawing war and ruling the world through some articulation of "international law". These are fantasy ideologies because they pay little attention to the causes of war in the existential struggles of humanity, and to the hard but realistic means by which these struggles can actually be mediated and deferred.
Pacifists versus Peace
By Thomas Sowell
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Peace" movements don't bring peace but war.
Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate
Page Printed from: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/07/pacifists_versus_peace.html at October 16, 2006 - 03:30:56 PM CDT
For example, the need of warring parties to impose and enforce laws of moral reciprocity on each other is often undermined by claims that violence, when performed by leading nations in attempts to impose some order of moral reciprocity on their rivals, violence however rationally measured and focussed as a deterrent to those threatening disorderly violence, only begets an endless cycle of violence. Thus, for example, the violence meted out by the Canadian troops in Afghanistan cannot possibly have the effect of one day, if all goes well, defeating the Taliban's will to fight; it can only have the effect of increasing resentment and hatred and further violence in that country. And to the extent we and other nations that could get involved are thus encouraged to be careful and deny our troops the full support, logistics, and manpower they need to defeat an enemy, we increase the likelihood that the Taliban will again become the only possible source of order in Afghanistan, and that their brutal methods will return to power - ironically, all in the name of "peace" and "stopping the cycle of violence".
The fantasy ideologies that reject the idea that the world's leading nations might impose their power and sense of moral reciprocity on the world is rooted in an equalitarian notion that to do so only victimizes the Other. In the name of victims, the large majority of the "intelligentsia" of the West today deny the need for some nations to be firsts among equals, to take a lead in showing the way to membership in a world governed by the leadership and reciprocity required for free economic and political markets, as an alternative to the will to power of political tyrannies and their strong men. A regionally strong and successful nation like Israel might attempt to impose on its violent rivals and enemies (especially on their leaders) a measure of violence, and a corresponding rule of realistic, "tit for tat", reciprocity that will act as a deterrent to further violence and a reminder of hard existential realities - Israel's insistence on preserving its existence. But today any such violence is only likely to engage the cry of "disproportionate use of violence" from the morally righteous promoters of fantasy ideologies; hence, Israel is likely to back down in face of a global opinion it cannot cross, and nothing is settled.
Terrorist groups like Hezbollah are rewarded for their violent provocations - raids, murders, bombings - against Israel by becoming "partners in peace". The message is clear to the world's "subaltern" peoples: disorderly resentful violence pays, at least as long as there remains some kind of international order that is willing to appease your violence. Of course, in the long term, this refusal of the right of the strong and free to impose order on the world's tyrannies, will not actually promote peace but will encourage chaos and disorder, an endless war that will result from the fantasy ideology that would outlaw war and promote international law, but without respect for the realities by which a law among nations, that are in many respects not the equals of each other, could be realized.
We live in fear of the Other's resentment and do not stand up to it and tell it that it is deluded, and that moral reciprocity requires of it a different tack. No, when the Other shows us resentment we accord him victim status and attempt to appease his anger. The delusions inherent to all resentments only grow and we fall deeper into the fantasy by which the "tools of Peace" become the antecedents to more chaos and war.
As a final note, let me quote how a colleague responded to the Thomas Sowell article:
pacifism (commonly confused with Christianity) seems to be the desire to prolong the phase of peaceful contemplation of the divine/sign forever, and to carry the state of immobility outside the circle [of western liberals contemplating their cultural centrality] to the [global] periphery. All well and good, but it ends up denying the moral law of reciprocity and in fact promoting its violation, as discussed in the column. (That relates to the feeling of godlike omnipotence some westerners feel with respect to violence and claims emanating from the Other. Nothing They do can really hurt us.) Pacifism also tends to erase the difference between the infinite degreesMuch of the intellectual basis for these arguments of Sowell, myself, and my colleague is to be found, I suspect, in the work of Eric Voegelin. See especially The New Science of Politics, chapter six, section two:
of violence, which also thwarts the law of reciprocity. Retribution is seen as inevitably leading to a cycle of violence, instead of a deterrent.
To paraphrase George Washington, the way to have peace is to prepare for war. The Greeks and the Romans knew what we have forgotten; that one cannot have peace until one has destroyed one's enemy's desire to fight. In the Middle East, as in other places, malevolent parties take advantage of the current pacifist zeitgeist. They wantonly attack their enemies, then sue for peace as soon as the retaliation begins. By this method, they can do damage to their enemies while mitigating the damage done to them in return. One has only to look at Darfur to realize the fruitlessness of relying on international bodies like the UN to ensure peace.
The identification of dream and reality as a matter of [idealistic, pacifist, liberal] pinciple has practical results which may appear strange but can hardly be considered surprising. The critical exploration of cause and effect in history is prohibited; and consequently the rational co-ordination of means and ends in politics is impossible. Gnostic societies and their leaders will recognize dangers to their existence when they develop, but such dangers will not be met by appropriate actions in the world of reality. They will rather be met by magic operations in the dream world, such as disapproval, moral condemnation, declarations of intention, resolutions, appeals to the opinion of mankind, branding of enemies as aggressors, outlawing of war, propaganda for world peace and world government, etc. The intellectual and moral corruptions which expresses itself in the aggregate of such magic operations may pervade a society with the weird, ghostly atmosphere of a lunatic asylum, as we experience it in our time in the Western crisis.Get the book and read the whole thing.
[...we must note] the self-defeating character of Gnostic politics, that is, the oddity of continuous warfare in a time when every political society, through its representatives, professes its ardent desire for peace... an age when war is peace, and peace is war...