Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Final sale, as is, no warranties

A new album I posted on my Facebook page with photos from some of the more notable terrorists attacks and activities in recent memory elicited a strong response.


I'm glad to know that people on both sides of the aisle still recognize that there are people in the world who intend to do us grave and permanent harm - who would like to see us wiped from the face of the earth, if truth be known.

One person suggested that there's no way a liberal President would just 'forget' about terrorism. I'm not worried that the Big O will forget about terrorism. I'm worried sick that his new approach to dealing with these evil people will be ineffective at best and destructive at worst.

This brings me to the fundamental difference between hawks and doves (or, conservatives and liberals, generally).

Hawks see the world as it is, guarding against the atrocities of the past. Hawks believe in the idea that we need to take the actions of other actors on the world stage primarily at face value and deal with the situations at hand in ways that best contain/eliminate threats and protect the people we are sworn to defend: American citizens, our allies and others who ask for our help. Hawks believe in the validity of protecting American interests, because hawks believe that the American way of life (generally the Western society we recognize of Greco-Roman lineage) and government is superior to other ways of life and other forms of government. Hawks believe freedom and democracy are worth fighting and dying for, whether it's for America or another country that shares our values (or whose people demonstrate they want to adopt those values in spite of oppression/brutality/dictatorship).

Doves use a completely different operating system. Doves see the world as it could be, with the ultimate goal of global peace and harmony. Doves believe that love really does conquer all, and that everyone, if given understanding and support, will eventually respond in kind. Doves genuinely believe that all cultures, religions, histories and global actors have relatively similar value and can add positive attributes to what they believe is everyone's ultimate goal: world peace, harmony and equality. Therefore, Communism has just as many positive attributes as Democracy (albeit in different ways). The idea of peaceful coexistence is the highest ideal. Doves are so commited to this ideal that they will sacrifice their own self-interest and the national interest of America to try to achieve it because they want to put what they perceive as others' needs ahead of their own.

We need both perspectives.

We need to believe in the positive potential of humankind even as we recognize and accept that not everyone will achieve it. We need to believe in the idea of global peace and prosperity while understaning that not everyone does or wants to share that belief. We need to believe in the possibility of redemption for every soul, even though we know that many souls will willingly reject the chance. It's a bit like trying to reconcile some of the things we know about Christ as recorded in the Bible:

- the man who preached love, forgiveness and understanding was the same man who bodily whipped and threw merchants out of the temple without warning - he didn't waste time talking to them;

- the man who commanded us to love one another as we loved ourselves was the same man who told his apostles to shake the dust from their sandals and move on from any town that didn't listen to them, and told them that the poor would always be among them;

- the man who told us to forgive 70 times 7 is the same man who said he came into the world to divide it rather than unite it, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to spit the lukewarm from his mouth;

- then that man allowed us all to brutalize him in front of his mother, willingly dying in agony so we could be redeemed, knowing that some of us would still willingly reject the chance.

2,000 years later, we still can't figure it out.

We need to understand that the world we live in is a fixer-upper, that our time in it is non-returnable, non-refundable and non-transferrable. There are no warranties, no guarantees that any of our approaches will work 100%. In fact, history has pretty much shown there is no 100% solution. There are, however, a few approaches with a track record of working better than others:

First, we have to protect the people and things we've sworn ourselves to protect. Without our word, we have no credibility. Without credibility, we have no negotiating power. We need to say what we mean, and follow through with what we say. Every time. No exceptions. It's the foundation of behavioral modification, and it works better than anything else I've ever seen.

Second, we need to bring back Pres. Reagan's policy of "trust, but verify". That was the best example of balance that I know of in the modern world. Work together where we can with those whom we can, but never just believe that what they're telling us is true without third party verification.

Third, we need to live up to our own ideals as best we can in order to win the hearts and minds of people around the world who want democracy in their own countries. Spreading democracy is easier than ever now with the interconnections we have via modern technology; we need to take responsibility as a nation and as individuals to be positive ambassadors of freedom, opportunity and democracy.

Fourth, we need to accept that not everyone wants to coexist peacefully, and we need to have the testicular fortitude to deal with them on their terms in ways they understand, because there is no other way. There was never an example in the Bible of Jesus sweet-talking a demon out of someone. He commanded it to leave, and forced it when it didn't go on its own. There is real evil in the world, and doves need to accept that the only way to deal with evil is to exterminate it. Even as we look for ways to spread peace and prosperity in partnership with those who share our ideals, doves need to cope with the reality that we still need to do some demolition on this fixer-upper to achieve the world of our dreams. Not everything or everyone should be saved.

Fifth, and I think this is important as an American, is that we all need to be a little less cynical and get back to the rock solid conviction that America is the expression of all that is best in humankind. Even if our leaders don't always make the right decisions, even when our government's policies don't work the way we think they will, even when we as American citizens forget to live up to the ideals of our Constitution - America is still the shining city on the hill. Some people hate that, and we need to be steadfast and unwavering in our commitment to defend her. Most people love that: they look to us to lead the charge for freedom and democracy even when they grumble about how we do it. Hawks need to remember that this fixer-upper has limitless potential. We don't want to get so caught up in defending ourselves against the evils of the past that we miss the opportunities to build the future of our dreams.

Give us another 2,000 years - maybe we'll get the job done by then. In the meantime, I am a hawk who believes that we need to do whatever it takes to stop the bad guys in their tracks.

But we need to keep sending out the doves to see if they come back with a live olive branch.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you aren't getting comments. Your posts, and especially this one, are so eloquent. The analogies in this one really hit home for me.

    I never really had a stand on foreign policy but reading this makes me think I'm a dove who knows we need the hawks to have our backs when our course fails.