Monday, January 05, 2009
An Ancient Lesson Ignored
Bush's problem was Al Qaeda. The organization had just destroyed two very large buildings in New York and had damaged the Pentagon in the Nation's capital. In addition there was the annoyance of Saddam Hussein, still in power after the Elder Bush had moved his armies out of Kuwait and after the Shia Arabs and Kurds should have risen in revolt and overthrown his regime. Bush knew that America had the most powerful and capable military machine on the planet and decided that this military machine could quickly solve both of his problems. It could capture Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and change the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq in short order. It shouldn't take more than six months.
Israel's problem was Hamas. Hamas was lobbing rockets from Gaza into near-by Israeli villages and cities. Hamas had to be stopped. Israel has the most powerful military machine in the region. In spite of what had happened a few years ago with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel retaliated against Hamas with its military machine. We don't know yet what the outcome will be. I predict that Israel will be able to demolish as much of Gaza as it pleases, but in the end Hamas will still exist and will still have the support of the majority of the inhabitants of Gaza.
Hamas's problem was Israel. I have read that the leaders of Hamas wanted to get more favorable terms from the Israelis than they had in the previous cease-fire agreement. Accordingly, they started lobbing the rather primitive rockets. Military means would soften the Israelis and make them agree to a more favorable agreement for Gaza. They were wrong, of course.
I am a secular Christian. I attend church services on Sundays. I pay dues to the church that I have joined. I find it difficult or impossible to believe literally all the things that Christians are supposed to believe. However, I do believe in the Christian teaching of non-violence. That teaching is valid, not because Jesus or God said it, but because of millennia of experience. Buddha gave the same teaching. It's good psychology. If your enemy is angry and attacks you, your counter-attack will simply feed his anger and the fight between you will become more and more intense. However, if you respond peaceably and do not retaliate, your action puts your enemy off guard. He expects you to attack as he has attacked. Instead, you give him a soft answer. He is still angry, but he forgets about his intent to punish you physically. Pretty soon you can negotiate with him.
Non-violent response is a powerful tool for getting along with other humans in this world. It works just as well between organized groups as between individuals. It is a lesson that Mr. Bush, a professed devout Christian, forgot or ignored. The Israeli and Hamas leaders are probably not Christians but they know the lesson. Modern practitioners include Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.