Tags: What | Peace | Isn't

What Peace Isn't

Tuesday, 17 June 2003 12:00 AM

At least we should be able to say what it isn't. And if you know where not to look, you're more likely to find what you're looking for.

In this sense, Stalin's Gulag was peaceful. But unless we identify with tyrants and bullies, this is not the peace we hope for. And a cemetery is really peaceful. But unless we're suicidal, this is not the peace we seek.

You can call the grave peaceful, but that's not where you yearn to be. You can call a prison peaceful, but that's not where you want to live. Mere absence of open war is peaceful only in this narrow sense.

By what stretch of the imagination is it peace when thousands die in collapsing office towers? By what twisted logic is it peace when men, women and children are blown to pieces in buses, malls and pizzerias?

The same Bible that tells us to make peace also tells us not to stand by idly while our brothers' blood is shed. Perhaps there's a clue here.

Doing nothing while innocent blood is shed isn't making peace. It's apathy at best, and being an accessory to murder at worst. Making peace requires that mass murderers be arrested if possible, and killed if not. A structure of peace can't be built on a foundation of mass graves.

To condone terrorism is wrong as well as cowardly. It's an insult to human life. To call this a "peace" movement is an insult to the concept of peace. It dirties a beautiful word and robs it of all meaning.

In genuine negotiations, each side gives up something to reach a compromise. You can tell when both sides are sincere, because each matches concessions by the other with concessions of its own, and agreement nears.

But you can tell that a side is insincere if one side makes concessions but the other side moves the goalposts, so agreement remains as far away as before.

And you can tell that a side is insincere when each concession by the other side is matched by increased violence. Terrorism in Israel increased to its current intolerable level not under the conservative Shamir and Netanyahu, but under the liberal and conciliatory Rabin and Barak.

Violence didn't decrease after the Oslo Accords – it increased. And now Sharon offers a "contiguous" Palestinian state, something demanded by the Palestinians, and what happens? Violence increases again. There's a clue here, too.

It's possible to reach a compromise with those who want more territory. But it's impossible to reach a compromise with those who want your nation destroyed. How do you compromise with people who want you dead – offer to be half-dead?

In the past, it took time to raise large armies. And masses of men, tanks, trucks and artillery couldn't be hidden.

Hitler came to power in 1933, but World War II didn't start till 1939. It took that long for Hitler to build up his forces. We condemn those who refused to act, in part because they had so much time to act.

Things have changed. A first strike using chemical, biologic or nuclear weapons could kill hundreds of thousands. And it may leave doubt as to who is responsible.

Suppose nerve gas is released in the New York subway. Suppose anthrax is spread at the Super Bowl. Suppose a nuclear bomb is detonated in Chicago.

Analysis of the anthrax spores may show where they originated. Analysis of the radioactivity may show where the nuclear material was made. But this wouldn't prove who actually carried out the attack, much less who ordered it.

Suppose tests revealed that the nuclear material was produced in Russia. But it might have been sold to another country, which furnished it to terrorists. Would we start a nuclear war with Russia? Is this what the "peace" movement would risk?

Waiting for the enemy to strike first may have been unwise, but in the past we survived and eventually triumphed, though at great cost. Today, the first strike may be a horrible attack of uncertain origin. Those who insist that we sit and wait may have a lot to answer for.

Israel was established in 1948. But after 55 years, maps in Palestinian schoolbooks still fail to show the country. Diplomats from some Arab nations walk out when an Israeli gets up to speak at the U.N.

Arab leaders insisted that Israel not attend the recent Middle East summit meeting with President Bush. What good is a meeting with one of the parties absent?

Literature distributed to Arab youths describes Jews as "descendants of pigs and monkeys." Some Muslim clerics preach that Judaism and Christianity are not valid religions, and that Christians and Jews may be killed freely. The new Palestinian premier wrote a book denying the Holocaust, and he promises not to use force to stop terrorists.

To put things into perspective, change the scene to Ireland. The Northern Ireland problem is as hard to solve as the West Bank problem.

But suppose that British maps failed to show the Irish Republic.

Suppose that most Britons believed all of Ireland was rightfully theirs.

Suppose that Britain insisted that Protestants continue to live in the Irish Republic, but that all Catholics be removed from "settlements" in Northern Ireland.

Suppose that Anglican clergy preached that Catholicism is an invalid religion, and that the Irish are descended from pigs and monkeys.

Suppose that Britons blew up Irish in buses, malls and churches.

Suppose that Tony Blair announced he would do nothing to stop this terrorism, and that he wrote a book claiming the Potato Famine was a hoax.

All this would make the Northern Ireland problem impossible to solve peacefully. One does not reach a goal by moving away from it.

The Middle East is a lesson in failure. Each time terrorists blow up civilians, our government declares that this must not "derail the peace process," and Israel is pressured to offer concessions. That is, terrorism is rewarded.

Instead, Israel should offer more land for each month there is

If this law applied here, those who repeatedly condone terrorism couldn't call themselves the "peace" movement. And policies that consistently lead to increased violence couldn't be called the "peace" process.

Peace is a condition in which people live in safety and freedom. Whatever brings that goal closer is peacemaking. Whatever does not is fraudulent if it is called a "peace" movement or a "peace" process.

If we keep in mind what peace isn't, we will know what it is – and be more likely to achieve it.

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At least we should be able to say what it isn't. And if you know where not to look, you're more likely to find what you're looking for. In this sense, Stalin's Gulag was peaceful. But unless we identify with tyrants and bullies, this is not the peace we hope for. And a...
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Tuesday, 17 June 2003 12:00 AM
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