Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Succeed in Conflicts: Three Approaches

"He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason." (M.T.C.)

This post is a change of pace: Instead of current events, I'm taking a look at some ways that people think relations between America and Al Qaeda, western civilization and the Taliban, and other aspects of the War on Terror should be handled.

The first two approaches outlined are extremes, of course: but if you're paying attention, you've probably run into at least a few people who come close to the Mad Patriot or Wistful Activist.

The third approach is closer to what I think would be sensible. Call that one the Hopeful Historian.

Acknowledging That There is a Conflict

Even the most heavily-tinted rose-colored glasses won’t keep a person from noticing that some groups hate America, and want to hurt Americans. Generally, these groups aren’t very nice to other people, either, but that’s another matter.

With perhaps a few exceptions, most political leaders in America have acknowledged, if grudgingly, that New York City’s World Trade Center was destroyed by foreign terrorists. Further, there seems to be a consensus that another attack like the one that killed about three thousand people in New York, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, should be avoided.

Deciding How to Approach, and Resolve, the Conflict: Three Approaches

Where people seem to differ is just how another 9/11 should be avoided.
A Passion for Vengeance: The Mad Patriot
At one end of the opinion continuum, you've got what I'll call the Mad Patriot, who would
  • Nuke Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and any other Islamic place
  • Carpet-bomb whatever's left
  • Tear down every mosque in America
    • And the rest of the world
  • Outlaw turbans
  • Require all men to shave - twice a day, if need be
  • Write a constitutional amendment, establishing a national dress code
The Mad Patriot has a passionate desire for justice and/or vengeance, and a lack of appreciation for other cultures. This person understands force, but lacks the wisdom to use it effectively.
  • "There can never be a complete confidence in a power which is excessive." (C.T.)
  • "That cannot be safe which is not honorable." (C.T.)
  • "Appraise war in terms of the fundamental factors. The first of these factors is moral influence." (S.T.)
A Passion for Conciliation: The Wistful Activist
At the other end, there's the Wistful Activist, who would have America
  • Engage in multilateral dialog, involving all parties concerned
  • If absolutely forced into military action, put civilian experts in charge of all aspects of the campaign, and use force diplomatically - For example:
    • Order that a particular hill with no tactical or strategic value be taken, at any cost
    • Once it's taken, withdraw from the hill
    • Wait for the enemy to be impressed with American resolve
  • Recommend an enemy leader for the Nobel Peace Prize
    • Think: Yasser Arafat, 1994
  • Form a study group
    • Which will explain why America caused the conflict in the first place
  • Ask the French president what he would do
  • Warn against global warming
The Wistful Activist has a passionate love of goodwill and cooperation, coupled with a lack of appreciation for just how nasty and unreliable people can be. This person has noble ideals, but lacks an appreciation of human nature.
  • "He had a certain frankness and generosity, qualities indeed which turn to a man's ruin, unless tempered with discretion." (C.T.)
  • "The name of peace is sweet, and the thing itself is beneficial, but there is a great difference between peace and servitude. Peace is freedom in tranquility, servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death." (M.T.C.)
  • "Let him who desires peace prepare for war." (F.V.R.)
A Passion for Reason: The Hopeful Historian
Somewhere between those people who understand the importance of force, but not how to use it, and those who understand the value of peace, but not how to gain it, the Hopeful Historian wants America to:
  • Remember that the War on Terror is a war against terrorists: not against Islam
  • Continue to get help and advice from countries whose leaders are willing to defeat terrorist organizations
    • Even if old colonial powers don't approve
  • Negotiate when possible, use force when necessary
  • Accept the fact that
    • There are people who do not, and will not, tolerate any rule but their own
    • Building, or rebuilding, a stable nation takes time - and compromise
  • Remember that virtue is not so much weakness, as the correct application of strength
  • Continue the American tradition of helping nations rebuild after a war
The Hopeful Historian has a passionate hope that leaders will use reason, and deal with the world as it is: not as they would like it to be.
  • "In stirring up tumult and strife, the worst men can do the most, but peace and quiet cannot be established without virtue." (C.T.)
  • "It is a youthful failing to be unable to control one's impulses." (L.A.S.)
  • "Be not too hasty either with praise or blame; speak always as though you were giving evidence before the judgment-seat of the Gods." (L.A.S.)
  • "I do not distinguish by the eye, but by the mind, which is the proper judge." (L.A.S.)

Quotes from

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.