February 26, 2005

Peace On Earth (pt 1)

And, so, I ask myself: What is 'Peace'?

Many of us have seen the photograph of Kim Jong Il sipping wine as a toast to North Korea having successfully built a nuclear weapon. During Kim's initial effort to devise a nuclear weapon, President Clinton sent former President Jimmy Carter on a "peace mission" to persuade Kim to abandon his nuclear program or face "serious consequences". Kim agreed to halt his nuclear program.

Today, Jimmy Carter has a Nobel Peace Prize. Kim Jong Il has the bomb.

"My ancestors have an old saying: 'Only Nixon could go to China.'"
--Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The problem with sending someone like Jimmy Cartre to negotiate an arms agreement is that he is the kind of man who believes in the innate goodness and fairness and trustworthiness of all men. In short: He is a fool. To accept a promise from a tyrant, without any means of verifying that the promise is being kept, is a failure of diplomacy due to the failure to grasp the worst lessons of history, or to understand the base nature of tyrants.

I can almost hear Ronald Reagan's voice as he must have said, at some point, to Mikail Gorbachov: "Mikail, I believe you're a good man and I consider you my friend. But, and now don't be insulted, there's a lot at stake and I may be a fool. So, if you seek peace, I must insist: Doveriay no proveriay; trust but verify."

The real danger in North Korea's nuclear capability is not that Kim Jong Il will use them in a war against South Korea and/or The United States. (He knows that that would only result in the creation of The Great Pyongyang Crater.) The real danger is his ability and willingness to sell weapons and/or secrets to governments in places like Iran and Syria.
Kim may claim that he needs the weapons in order to defend his regime against an aggressive American foreign policy, but he knows that he was lumped into the "Axis of Evil" only because of his quest for nuclear weapons. Without the nuclear program there is no threat; there is peace. So, making money, not weapons per se, is likely his primary concern. And, for his profit, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people will be put in grave danger; there is no peace.


"Not in our name!" the war protesters cried. No matter how many hundreds of thousands were tortured, slaughtered and buried in the mass graves of Saddam's Iraq, it was the current state of "peace" that they wanted to maintain.

"Peace in our time," Neville Chamberlain said. Now, to be fair, we must acknowledge that Chamberlain's bargaining position was a poor one. He couldn't give Hitler ultimata about Germany's troop movements and weapons arsenal, and that they push outward no farther. He could only ask for a promise and hope that Hitler's signature was good. Unfortuanately, it was only as good as his word.

As I saw it, the irony of the "Peace In Our Time" signs carried by recent protesters of Operation: Iraqi Freedom is not, so much, that they reeked of the appeasement of Chamberlain's land for peace deal, but that they supported the continuation of the horrors of Saddam Hussein. Chamberlain sought peace for all; the war protesters sought peace for us.
To them, it was not "peace in our time", but, merely, "peace in our place and time".

While Americans enjoyed peace and prosperity, Russians and eastern Europe had Stalin. Cambodians had Pol Pot. The former-Yugoslavians had Melosevic. Iraqis had Saddam Hussein. For Americans, there was no peace in our time, only peace in our place and time.

It was easy to ignore the plight of a billion people when their plight didn't matter to us. They might as well have been living on another planet.
Most of us grew up in world that consisted of America, Western Europe, Japan, America, Australia, Mexico, America, Israel, Canada and America. We knew there were people in the Soviet Union, continental Asia, the middle east and Africa, but they weren't a part of our experience; they were in that other world where horrors happen that we didn't have to address because we had peace in our place and time.


"So, what is peace?" I asked my liberal, anti-war friend and housemate, Chris.
"Well," he muttered, "it's the absence of war, when nobody's dying in a war anymore."
"If, instead of a thousand people dying in a war, thirty thousand died at the hands of Saddam, would that be peace?"
"Well, that's not our business," Chris griped.
"So, an American life is worth 30-times an Iraqi's life..." I said in mock agreement.
"Dude, you don't understand," he flustered. "It's not our place to go around like we have 'The Answer' and fight wars about it."
"So, there is nothing special about us?" I asked.
"No. What's so special about us? We just go around imposing our rules on them like a bully... like every other two-bit dictator."

I have several friends like Chris. They are anti-war through-and-through. They believe in their principled position 100%. They are my friends and I respect them -- mainly because I understand them. I was one of them many many moons ago. But, I contend, their "principles" are conveniently self-serving.

So, I ask them: "If war is bad because people die, then isn't 'peace' even worse when even more people die because of it?"
Usually I get a groan and a shake of the head. But, I was born to be a pain in the ass so I usually press it.

"Well, then, when do we EVER have a right to go to war?"
"If we're attacked."
"Why go to war if we're attacked?"
"Because we have a right to defend ourselves."
"Against what?"
"Against whoever is attacking us."
"Why defend ourselves? What's so special about us? Why not just let them take us over?"
"Because..... What?"
"To defend our freedom?"
"Because we like freedom, man."
"Well, who wouldn't?!"
"Wouldn't everyone like to be free?"
"Well, of course!"
"Wouldn't everyone defend their freedom?"
"I hope so..."
"But, what if they can't?"
"I mean, what if we couldn't? Wouldn't we want a little help in that regard?"
"Dude, this isn't about defending our freedom. It's about dying on the other side of the world for nothing."
"For freedom!"
"But, not ours!"
"What's so special about us?!"

At this point the debate usually collapses under the weight of each of our position's well-anchored heuristics.


It's a small world afterall.


Posted by Tuning Spork at February 26, 2005 08:37 PM

Well it was worth the wait, good post. :) I like the reasoning you try to do with your friends, you bring up some good points and maybe they will realize the validity of those points eventually. I'm not sure if I agree with you completely on your Jimmy Carter theory. I'll have to think on it.

Posted by: Jody at February 27, 2005 12:06 AM

You rule, Spork. Like you, I have many friends and colleagues (not to mention family members) who have not metamorphosed with me. Most of them think I've lost my mind. Like you, I try to be respectful, even when it's not reciprocated. Which is often. (An associate in my firm with whom I've always had very warm relations -- we're not close but we've always liked each other -- said to me, when I told her I'd voted for George Bush, "Wow . . . gee, I think of you as so smart." Perhaps she meant it as "Wow . . . maybe I have to rethink my prejudices," but I have to say it felt mildly insulting.)

I thank God that you, my brother and my wife all "get it" (although she sometimes makes fun of me when I start ranting). I can spare the rest of the benighted fools, but it would be very painful to be alienated from my wife, my brother or my oldest pal.

As for Chris, ask him if it gives him the slightest pause that he sounds just like Pat Buchanan.

Posted by: Freedom's Slave at February 27, 2005 10:53 PM
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