Middle East Revisited: Towards Peace

When one nation attacks another, the international community may retaliate against or impose sanctions on the aggressor. Without such possibilities international laws on aggression would be moot.

Sites of Memory - Suitcase 2006 screenprint

Not a missile

Unfortunately, by secluding themselves within nations while remaining separate from the governmental processes, terrorists are a de facto loophole in this chapter of international law. They have turned the code against aggression into a suicide pact; adherence to it, into a violation of nature’s first law; and have performed all of this to those oblivious in our time.

Look back at these three cornerstones of peace: Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They each instructed their contemporaries to refuse both violence towards and co-operation with evil, but remember that they plied their non-violent non-cooperation against the policies of democracies. From within non-cooperation with a brutal regime is suicidal; from outside it can be formidable.

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Containment of Evil

We are more pawns of war than masters of peace and so fumble terribly at binding the standout imperative, non-violence, to its less obvious counterpart, non-cooperation. The issue of non-cooperation is currently sidestepped: democracies, aggressive in the old sense, while a haven to complaints are chosen “evil”; the tentacles of some religious oligarchy, aggressive in the new sense, with their undisclosed promise to end all complaints are chosen as invisible.

Yes, those oblivious in our time have chosen their evil, glorifying the path not taken while cursing out against the one that cannot hide its misery. They are quick to score the Bush administration’s contribution to the terrorist ranks but cannot note their own: a disregard for facts whose awareness is dearly needed.

The set of points with a constant ratio of dis...

Containment of Evil

During the acquisitive Iran-Iraq war of the 80’s, applications of non-cooperation had been available. Material support might have been withheld from the combatants, or defensive support extended to both sides by the open broadcast of each troop and aircraft movement, as it was picked up by AWAC surveillance. Instead the region was blinded by fear of Islamic fundamentalism; the United States, by a rage over the taking of hostages. Such guidance was dismissed; a chance was lost; and many devotees of Saddam Hussein or Ayatollah Khomeini became fodder for their canon. The failure to assert peace has since haunted the region.

Now consider a two-year-old that finds its way onto the ledge of a third floor, open window. By choosing to explore, the infant may also unwittingly have chosen to plummet. Contrary to the dictates of pride it is clear that each of us from time to time puts him or herself (or others) out on such a ledge, unaware of the real consequences of being there.

Saddam Hussein Ejecutado

Thus ignorance sets limits on how free are our choices, whether or not someone imposes upon the selection; and any Middle-East peace process is compelled to pass between two very different promises of freedom:

  • The theocratic ideal is freedom from the consequences of conduct lying outside of a code, formed upon ancient interpretations of ancient experiences. Adherence to that code is considered too important to wait upon the personal acquisition of its inherent sentiment or understanding.
  • The democratic, multifaceted ideal is freedom, by legal restraints, from the inordinate powers of both government and others; by universal education (including honestly shared experience), from consequences lying unnoticed within one’s choices; and by separation of church and state, from coercion into a legacy that does not touch one’s heart.

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