Monday, February 19, 2007

On Renouncing Violence

The BBC is reporting that there has been a meeting in the middle East, concerning the relationship between various feuding factions. Needless to say, Condoleezza Rice showed up, to grin on behalf of the US.

This is certainly not the first meeting of this kind, nor will it likely be the last. Indeed, this kind of meeting occurs frequently around the world, between feuding factions. There is something about this type of meeting that has always puzzled me. Why is it that one side, or another always calls upon the other to 'renounce violence'? The request is not the puzzling part. After all, violence is usually a bad idea for some group, or other. The puzzling part is that such requests are always so very one sided.

Consider the case of the US. If the US asks some group to 'renounce violence', would it not be reasonable for the group to whom the request is made, make a similar reciprocal request to the US? Yet, this never seems to happen, or at least, does not get reported.

The bizarre asymmetry here appears to arise from the apparent inconceivability of the US government renouncing violence. After all, one important function of any army is to inflict the will of one group upon another, by violent means, if necessary. The US is currently involved in the 'War on Terrorism'. This is a war that currently has two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars, by their very nature are violent. Thus, for the US to make such a renunciation request to any other group appears hypocritical. It is a bit like those curious folks who resort to verbal abuse, in putative attempts at stopping verbal abuse!

There is usually some 'fig leaf' justification offered for wars. They are justified by appeals to 'freedom', 'democracy' and other lofty sounding ideals. However, why do these ideas (and others like them) justify war? This I do not get. Surely, if all parties renounced violence, then wars would stop. Rather than making bizarre requests of other groups, would not violence be stopped more directly by sending all the troops home?

Well, I now know the 'surge' is really coming. Before the latest invasion of Iraq, I would see train loads of weapons travelling East. Just today, I had to wait at a crossing, while a very long train of Hummers, painted in desert colors again travelled East. So much for renouncing violence.

The CP


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