Here is some brain candy . . .
The price of peace
By Paul Schneidereit
ALL THEY are saying - as John Lennon once sang, sitting on a hotel bed in Montreal - is give peace a chance.
And who can blame them?
After all, given a balanced choice between resolving serious disagreements through bloodshed or negotiations, only those who are truly insensitive to the precious value of human lives would opt for violence.
The devilishly difficult question, of course, is at what point does peace become impossible? At what point do the dangers of inaction outweigh the merits of seeking reconciliation?
I'm not suggesting the answer's at all obvious. But I am suggesting we have a responsibility to confront the question.
Now I happen to believe - for a number of reasons - that Saddam Hussein poses a grave danger to a lot of innocent people in the West and Middle East. Some people agree with me; others don't. I don't want to argue the point in this space; I'm just stating my opinion. Given that, it seems clear to me that, at some point along the way, the consequences of continuing to try to reason with Saddam will outweigh any hopes that these efforts may someday succeed.
Others, of course, see it differently. To them, the threat from Saddam is overblown, the U.S. and its allies are only after oil, etc. Choose your favourite argument. For many people, there is a genuine belief that the case for war has not been made.
Fair enough. People look - one hopes - at the best information available from all sides of the debate and make up their own minds.
Then there are those who say - regardless of circumstance - that war is never the answer.
Some, like Germany or Canada's federal NDP, adopt a Mackenzie King-style waffle on the Iraq question: The UN if necessary, but not necessarily the UN. In other words, they criticize any U.S. actions not sanctioned by the United Nations but declare that they themselves would not be persuaded by UN approval of the use of force.
In its purest form, pacifism - and one of its natural tools, appeasement - is a centuries-old doctrine espousing peaceful settling of disputes by all means, including arbitration, migration or even outright surrender. Pragmatic pacifists, though, accept that the need for law and order in a country justifies a certain amount of aggression to, quite literally, keep the peace.
The Second World War proved that this premise - that force is sometimes required to deter evil - is equally true on an international scale.
Critics have long pointed out that the path of true pacifism is haunted by the ghosts of unresolved moral quandaries. If a pacifist in danger refuses to take direct action against another, even at the cost of their life, then do they assign greater value to their assailant's life than their own? And what of the lives of those who love and/or depend on them? By refusing to fight back, even in self-defence, does not the pacifist guarantee there may well be more victims? And if there are so many negative consequences to pure pacifism, wouldn't society be better served, in the appropriate circumstances, to resort to force of arms?
Have all those who want "peace at any price" truly considered the logical consequences of such a position?
There were those who, after 9/11, opposed attacking the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, arguing, at various times, that U.S troops and their allies would sustain heavy casualties in an unwinnable war and that vast numbers of civilians would be killed. Neither of these doomsday predictions came true. Today - while admittedly facing many difficult challenges from former Taliban followers, hostile warlords and a ruined economy after decades of strife - Afghanistan is rebuilding and bin Laden's terrorist network has been struck a heavy blow.
What would the alternative have yielded? The terrorists would have, as they have so often before, continued to seek ways - perhaps successfully - to kill large numbers of Americans in equal or greater numbers. Although weakened, they still do so today. To not believe so is dangerously naive.
We must always give peace a chance. But peace at any price - given the potential costs - is an untenable position. To hold otherwise is to, in essence, withdraw from the debate.
When someone spits on you; looks down on you; and actively deceives you at every turn; then dares you do to do something about it. What would you do? How would you answer this person? I do not glorify war. Nor do I look forward to the things that war will brings. But, I accept that sometimes war is neccessary. So, vilify those that bring war but have support for those who must play a part in it. Let's bring them home safe.