Monday, March 20, 2006

Conflict - In General - Specifically Iraq! A MUST READ!

The following is the entire post from Ben Bateman's blog. I didn't want to risk the fact that you might not read it all. Please read it. Send it along to others.

On Conflict
Filed under: Philosophy and Culture — BenBateman @ 7:29 pm

Musing on the Iraqi civil war that never seems to materialize, much to the MSM’s disappointment, Michael Williams says:

[A]m I the only one who thinks that a civil war might be the only way to really establish peace? The fighting will never stop as long as both sides can and choose to make war, and I can’t think of many (any?) violent conflicts that resolved themselves through choice. The way most conflicts get resolved is when someone wins and the losing side can’t continue fighting even though they want to.

He’s right, but I would state the point differently. Talking about “resolving conflicts” implies that conflicts just sort of happen, like the weather. On this view, the world is normally at peace, and then these tensions arise inexplicably, so we should try to soothe the tension and return the world to its usual peaceful state.

I see it very differently. In a world of infinite desires and finite resources, people are always in conflict. Everyone wants more: more power, more wealth, more affection, more fame, more whatever. Each of us would like to receive as much as possible while giving as little as possible, so conflict is eternal and ubiquitous.

I want to pay less money, the shopkeeper wants to receive more, and so we haggle. Each congressman wants more money for his state or district and less for everyone else’s, and so we have the many complex deals at the heart of American politics. Each country wants to be more powerful, rich, and influential than the others, so they struggle against each other in various ways. And within each country there are out-of-power parties that yearn to rule; they scheme constantly against the dominant party or coalition.

So it’s silly to talk of conflicts as if they can be cured like the common cold, or resolved into non-conflict. The world is perpetually in conflict, with every person against every other person, to a greater or lesser degree. The question is how people act on those conflicts.

Suppose that I’m hungry, so I go to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread. I would prefer to pay nothing for the bread. The grocery store would prefer that I pay a million dollars for it. Conflict looms.

There are many ways for me to resolve my conflict with the grocery store. I could try to shoplift the bread, or rob the store at gunpoint. People do that from time to time. I could tell the cashier a sad story, and see if I can convince her to give me the bread. Or I could pay some money for the bread.

Why not steal the bread? For you, no doubt, your noble character and stern moral code would prevent the very consideration of such an act. But surely the possibility of being caught and punished looms somewhere in the back of your mind. If there were no punishment for stealing the bread, how many moral codes would hold up under the strain? Not many, I would wager, but we needn’t debate that point. It’s enough that a significant minority, at least 10%, have weak enough consciences that they would gladly steal or engage in violence to get what they want.

Now consider Iraq. In a country of about 24 million people, how many would murder their countrymen to become part of a ruling faction? How many would commit mass murder to rule like Saddam? I would bet a couple hundred thousand, at least. And that desire will never be resolved in the sense of going away. It’s simply built into human nature. In every country there will always be large numbers of people willing to plant bombs or fire machine guns to overthrow the government. The question isn’t why they have the desire, but rather why they don’t act on the desire.

If they don’t act, it’s because they don’t think that they’ll succeed. The people who want to overthrow governments are generally not insane. (In fact, there is some evidence that terrorist groups tend to reject insane people as unreliable) Terrorists are generally quite rational; they just have different goals and morals than you and I do. They aren’t wild animals; they don’t have rabies. They’re just evil human beings, as smart on average as the rest of us. They don’t want to die, and they don’t want to get hurt. But they will kill or hurt others, if they think that they can do it safely.

So the key to “conflict resolution,” in Iraq or elsewhere, is to convince the other side that they’ll lose. There are few insurrections in the United States, because there are few people dumb enough to believe that they can actually topple our government. There are many attempts to topple the new Iraqi government precisely because so many people believe that the government might fall. So if you want to stop the terrorists from attempting to topple the government, then you should try to convince the terrorists that they’re going to lose. And if you want the conflict to continue, then you should convince them that they’re about to win.

I often wonder whether Democrats and people in the MSM think about this as they relentlessly spread doom and gloom about Iraq. It would be fascinating if we found a terrorist’s diary with entries like:

“Monday: More losses to our ranks. The American devils never let us rest. Morale is low. Some men speak of deserting.”

“Tuesday: Our leader strengthened our resolve today, telling us that victory is near. He showed us video of an American journalist saying that the Americans will leave Iraq if they lose many more men. He showed video of an American congressman urging the wicked Bush to withdraw all the troops. When the Americans leave, our leader promised us, then Iraq will easily fall, and each of us will be rich and powerful within the new Baath party.”

“Wednesday: Another successful bomb attack, with what the Americans call an IED. Three men killed, according to the press report.”

Let’s imagine that we find such a diary, and that the information is specific enough to identify the journalist, the congressman, the IED attack, and the men killed by this wavering terrorist. Now imagine that the families of those three dead soldiers meet the journalist and the congressman. How does that conversation play out, exactly?

But I probably overestimate them to imagine that the journalist or congressman would feel any sense of shame. After all, the Democrats and liberal journalists worked hard to force the US to pull out of Vietnam, and the subsequent Communist takeover of Southeast Asia seems not to have bothered them in the least. If they can sleep soundly after helping monsters like Pol Pot or the Vietnamese Communists to power, then who cares about the deaths of another couple of American soldiers?

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