Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some thoughts on "negotiated peace" and the War

So now to comment on an issue that sits squarely on the divide between me and our esteemed host. RT knows I respect him, and I won't say anything deliberately inflammatory. But even if I did, he has a hard shell (which is filled inside with creamy nougat) and ever we shall be friends.

Two terms come up frequently with RT. Those two terms are "appeasement" and "negotiated peace with Muslims". I have no objection to the term "appeasement" in the context of the war we face now. I think it is quite relevant to the discussion. But "negotiated peace" I have a problem with, and its coupling with "appeasement". There are two reasons. The first is that to RT "negotiated peace" has the flavor of "capitulation", and like "liar", he uses the word only to condemn the people he thinks advocate it. The second reason, which I've gone over before elsewhere, is that "negotiated peace with Muslims" is a phrase which has no relevance to the war we are actually fighting.

"Appeasement" didn't become a dirty word until its spectacular failure in 1939, which anybody could have seen coming, but only Churchill and a few Tories had the courage and foresight to predict it. And in principle there is nothing wrong with "negotiated peace" (unless it is being used as a synonym for "capitulation", which its advocates often have been). It is not the same animal at all as "appeasement".

Like "appeasement", the reason for the squalid sound of "negotiated peace", I think, is World War II. Despite our alliance with the most evil empire the world has ever known against its second most evil empire, World War II is remembered now, unjustifiably, as a war of exquisite moral clarity. And "unconditional surrender" has become part of this legend. "Negotiated peace" with Hitler would truly have been an awful thing--but not nearly so awful as our actual negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. But how do we compare the known awfulness of our "negotiated peace" with the awfulness of the apocalyptic war that "peace" may have prevented? A lot of human suffering definitely happened because we chose to wait Communism out, but when possible human extinction is in the equation, we have to try to decide which course is the lesser of two evils.

To sit squarely on another divide amongst our happy community of uncivil discourse, what about "negotiated peace" with the Confederacy? A lot of us here, including RT, would argue that would have been better than what actually happened. But while the War Between the States was between more (RT would say) or less (I would say) morally equivalent sides, which was not true of the West versus Communism or Nazism, what about something like the Wars of the Roses, or the War of the Spanish Succession, or the War of Jenkin's Ear? It seems in those cases that "negotiated peace" was infinitely worth more than the war, because there was so little at stake. (And here I set myself up for nasty emails from Yorkist and Lancastrian partisans.)

Clearly RT sees that what we are currently fighting for is the very essence of our civilization, and that there is very little common ground on which to negotiate a peace. And here I am firmly on his side. The other side, in this war, has said over and over that the alternatives they present to us are conversion, tribute, or death. There are things worse than war, and slavery is one of them--there is no negotiation possible with Osama Bin Laden and his ilk that preserves our liberty.

What I object to is not RT's abhorrence of "negotiated peace". I abhor it too. What I object to is RT's characterization of who we are at war with and with whom we would be negotiating.

If we wanted to negotiate peace with the Confederacy, there they were in Richmond. They were civilized people who knew and practiced the difference between war and peace, whatever else the rights and wrongs of the War Between the States may have been. If we wanted to negotiate with Nazis, Hitler was there in Berlin, and until the 50's all the Communist leadership was in Moscow.

But who are we at war with, and who leads them?

One difference between me and RT is that I do not think we are at war with Muslims. Muslims comprise 100% of the other side in this war, it is true; but while most Muslims probably hate us and like to see Americans get killed, almost none of them actually have anything to do with it.

But suppose RT is right: we are at war with all those for whom there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet. What then?

The problem is that there is no one who speaks for Muslims as a whole. Iran has an Ayatollah, it is true, but his writ does not run even among all Shiites. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is a decentralized religion. There is no overarching hierarchy. Anyone can call himself an imam and issue whatever fatwas he likes.

Turn the question around, and say Muslims want to negotiate a peace with "Christianity". Who on earth would have the authority to speak for all Christians and make promises on their behalf, and enforce those promises? How much common ground is there between Unitarians and Baptists? There is no answer for Muslims either.

Even if all Muslims were equally culpable in this war (which I deny) and even if all Muslims were a united, coherent front (which I also deny), the only alternative RT leaves us is extermination. Which he frankly admits.

But think of the implications. Never before in the history of this nation did we seek to kill people for what they believe. We didn't kill Nazis and Communists for being Nazis and Communists--we killed them for working with and for people who sought to harm America. Nazis and Communists today are harmless crackpots, if they are kept from being in charge of anything.

Nazis and Communists, however, saw no problem in killing people because they were Jewish or because their parents went to college. They had no problem with lumping individuals into faceless groups to be exterminated. This is why we fought them. They argued, too, that the defence of their civilization required these measures--but their civilizations were evil, largely because they required these measures to defend themselves. If the defense of civilization requires wholesale extermination of people with dangerous THOUGHTS, then civilization is not worth defending. But it might be more accurate to say that it is no longer civilization, if such methods are required to protect it.

People can be free to hate us. It is the cornerstone of our civilization that they must be free to hate us. But they are not free to kill us, or aid those who kill us. (And "aid" is not carrying signs that say "behead those who insult Islam". "Aid" is not sympathy, thought, feeling or shouted slogan. It must be a concrete act.)

People are always going to be found who hate civilization. Civilization is profoundly unnatural. Wars of extermination, however, are completely natural, and for the first 1.5 million years of human existence were the only kind of war. Ask a Neanderthal, if you can find one. Civilization will not be preserved by abandoning it.

In short, when RT says "negotiated peace with Muslims", he is trying to discredit a position that does not exist, and the alternative to "negotiated peace" he presents is quite simply the destruction of everything we are trying to defend.

We're all trying to find our way here, and a lot of times no options sound good. I felt like RT did when I saw "Palestinians" dancing on 9/11 and Iraqis jumping and hollering when they shot down a drone. It is natural and human to feel that way, and act on it--and it is the duty of civilization to repress that.

And I hope he has taken no offence by anything said here. It's no sin to be wrong, and since there is no chance he will ever be in a position to actually kill all the Muslims, there is no harm if I don't convince him--just as, since I will never be making the decisions, if he is right and I am wrong there is no harm if he doesn't convince me.

I'd like to hear from everybody about this, especially RT.