Sunday, October 25, 2009

Talkin' politics

Hi [Samurai],

Being that you are one of the most politically liberal people I'm in contact with, and I believe you to be intellectually honest, I'm curious how you would respond to this: Warmongers or Peacemakers: Who will scorch the earth?

Granted it's from a conservative source, but it seems to raise some very convincing points.

The arguments raised by the above cause the current approaches to relations with other countries, both by the US and Israel, to trouble me greatly.

(If you aren't yet interested in a political discussion, ignore this...)


Hey [Friend in Israel], thanks for the e-mail, I appreciate your genuine interest. I do try to be intellectually honest.

So far, I've listened only to the first video (about Hitler, WWII). I think these arguments do hold some water. In particular, I agree with the speaker's central thesis - that diplomacy frequently fails to bring peace. However, I think the speaker is not sufficiently critical of war, which often fails as well (often at tremendous cost).

... The main problem with the video is that it only considers only two options: diplomacy (by politicians), or war. Neither option is very effective in my opinion. This is characteristic of Western thought these days - very polarized, not very creative.

There is a third option - one that has been largely forgotten even by the left. That option is non-violent resistance. It is the way of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, both of whom led tremendously successful social movements post-WW2. Non-violence does not mean non-action. It means active protest without resorting to violence. In theory, this helps you win the enemy's hearts and minds by getting them to think and respect you. If you are interested in learning how it works, I suggest you read two books:

1. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., by Clayborne Carson
--this is a collection of MLK's writings and speeches, chronicling his civil rights days through his opposition to Vietnam

2. Ghandi: an Autobiography; the Story of My Experiments With Truth
--penned by Ghandi himself, it goes into depth about his early upbringing and his philosophies of non-violence and experimentation

A common denominator to these two fellows is that they were raised very religious, although in two different faiths, and both men drew from their faiths to arrive at the principle of non-violence. I can relate to this; when I memorized Pirkei Avot over ten years ago, the many sayings about peace, wisdom, and relationships planted the seeds of this philosophy in my mind, well before I read any of the above.

I think there are other ways to wage peace besides non-violent resistance, but you really have to get creative. This creativity is what's missing from our leaders these days. I do not trust them one lick - they are old fools, and one is worse than the next. I would not follow them into battle, or rely on them to make peace through diplomatic means.

Hope this gives you something to think about! Let me know if you have any specific responses to what I've said. Take care and always fun to talk politics with you.

PS Have you ever seen Watchmen? Or read the graphic novel? It gets into a lot of these questions. You might like where it ends up.


E-Man said...

I would agree that there are some situations where other methods can be used, but there are some situations where only violence works.

For example, what should Israel have done when they declared independence and they were attacked by 5 or six arab countries? Jordan, Egypt Iraq (I believe they sent troops) Syria, Lebanon ( I think) and Saudi Arabia all attacked because Israel declared their independence. In that situation what are you gonna do? Will peaceful protests work? You have to admit that there are times when war is necessary, no?

Samurai Scientist said...

E-man, you raise a good point. Is violence ever justified? What about in self-defense?

Each person must make this choice for himself. For me, I'd rather run than fight. There are very few causes in the world for which I'd hurt or kill another person. Even fewer for which I'd risk my neck - which is a huge part of going to war.

If backed into a corner by a person with a sword, yeah I'd try to defend myself. And I think nations have the right to defend themselves while they are being attacked, as Israel was. But that's not a very common situation.