Another response to Terrorism: "Good" vs. "Evil":
By Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, USA (Ret)
The peace movement did itself GREAT harm during WWII. We had an evil enemy. We attacked, occupied, and pacified them. It worked. Today Japan and Germany are, for the most part, giants of pacifism and productivity. The peace movement ended up looking foolish and deluded.
In WWII the pacifist movement was truly set back by their unwillingness and inability to take anything but an extreme position that looked very much like appeasement. I remember a few years back when the student body of a major British university made a public apology, decades after WWII, for failing to support WWII. (I probably have some of the facts off a little, but I think the sense of it is correct.)
An attack is GOING to happen. Our nation is very, very, angry. The latest poll says that 88% of Americans support military action; two-thirds are more concerned that we will UNDER react. Anyone who gets in the way of the charging bull is going to be seriously damaged, and for no purpose or accomplishment, whatsoever.
Our job is to GUIDE the attack. To help direct the charging bull away from innocents. To make sure that we do it humanely, without violating our principles. And THEN (here is the hard part) be SURE that we are in this for the long run. Which means doing to nation "X" (Afghanistan, Iraq?) what we did to Japan and Germany. No more and no less.
Included below is one of the best things I have seen written on this topic. The author makes it clear: Afghanistan is a broken nation, being run by criminals. If we go in as liberators, they MIGHT welcome us. We ARE going in. Any effort to stop it will simply discredit the whole concept of peace. But (perhaps) if we go in as liberators, helping them to rebuild their nation (complete with a Marshall Plan), then (perhaps) we can do this in a way that will not cause us shame in the years to come, and will add one more nation in the community of democracies.
I had the privilege to do some work in Switzerland with the International Committee of the Red Cross. I think that they may well be the greatest Peace Warriors on earth. They know that wars are going to happen, and their goal is to be sure that war is fought humanely, with deep and abiding consideration for noncombatants.
The problem is that we will be inclined to want to use air power. I presented a paper to the US Air Force on the ineffectiveness and immorality of air strikes. Unless VERY carefully followed up with ground forces, all air strikes do is "piss 'em off." (Please forgive the crude language, but that is really about the best way to put it.) If Hitler had followed up the conquest of France with an invasion of England, today we might all be speaking German. Instead he chose a method of waging war that was counterproductive, and accomplished nothing but to harden the heart of Britain. (Pissed 'em off!) If we are not careful we can do the same.
You know me. I am always looking for points of consensus. Searching for the area where you disagree with someone and then emphasizing that point may be emotionally satisfying, but is generally counterproductive in all other areas. For the peace community to call for "restraint" is to wave a red flag in the charging bull's face. (Heck, a whole herd, a whole NATION of charging bulls.) Any celebrity that does that might be permanently stained as the "Jane Fonda" of this VERY popular war. BUT, if the peace movement calls for a "FULL WWII model, complete with occupation and Marshall plan" then THAT may strike a real, historical chord in the American people, and move them in a productive direction.
For what it is worth, those are my thoughts at the moment, and I sincerely hope and pray that this is where we are headed.
Rob's first reply (10/01/01)
I don't think we disagree much. I'm basically a hawkish Democrat when it comes to using military force. I say explore all other options first—which we've barely done in this case—but use military force when necessary.
I'm even more hawkish when it comes to protecting "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for non-Americans. When it seemed clear that negotiations wouldn't get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and wouldn't stop the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, I supported intervention there. I supported it in Haiti and Somalia. I would've supported it had we deemed genocide in Rwanda a US interest—but of course we didn't. (Who cares if a million black-skinned people die—they aren't Americans!)
Bush hasn't set a timetable for invading Afghanistan, which is fine with me. It might take days, weeks, or even months. The later the better, as far as I'm concerned. And if the troops go in to protect and liberate non-terrorists rather than kill anyone who looks "evil," they're essentially playing peacekeeper rather than warrior. Again, I've supported "good" interventions in the past and I'd support a good intervention here.
I've read Ansary's letter and I like it. He clearly repudiates the idea of bombing Afghanistan. He adds that sending in ground troops, the only way to get Bin Laden, would be exactly what Bin Laden wants:
The war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.
Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
I'm not sure what Ansary thinks we should do, but he makes it pretty clear what we shouldn't do. And projecting millions dead doesn't seem like an argument for ground troops. In fact, he seems to be taking a pacifist position.
Would he disagree with my statement that any military action should be "cautious and measured"? I don't think so. I think he's warning us to use extreme caution before sending in the troops.
There are a few huge differences between this situation and WW II. One, we had clearly defined enemies then—unlike now. Two, those enemies were seeking global domination and had the wherewithal to accomplish it—unlike now. As for treating Afghanistan the same as Germany and Japan, I'd be happy to, as long as it doesn't mean another fire-bombing of Tokyo or Dresden or nuking of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
As someone recently wrote, at least Japan attacked a military target at Pearl Harbor. By fire-bombing innocent civilians, we—the peace- and God-loving USA—were the first to violate the unwritten rules of war in WW II. That's mainly what I oppose: stupid, senseless, brutal, barbaric wars that serve no good purpose. Vietnam falls into that category. WW II doesn't.
Antiwar pacifism may have been wrongheaded in WW II, but it was right on in the Vietnam War. If I've read the historical consensus correctly, it's that peaceniks were right and warmongers were wrong. Jane Fonda may have gone too far in one direction, but no one remembers LBJ, McNamara, Nixon, or Kissinger as wise military leaders. Kissinger will go down in history as a diplomat/war criminal in many people's minds.
The present generation barely remembers Vietnam and has never fought a "dirty" war, one lacking video-game precision and filled with blood, guts, and body bags. The country has never fought any war where the Internet made every rumor of atrocity plain to a global population. The enemy was clear in the Gulf War, the military censored news of civilian deaths...but even then we stopped after pushing Saddam back to his borders, unwilling to risk American lives. This "war" will have an analogous outcome.
If Bush captures or kills Bin Laden quickly, he'll declare the invasion phase of the war over. Maybe he'll engage in "nation-building," which he denounced as a candidate, but I suspect he'll withdraw the troops instead. Concern for the huddled masses isn't high on his priority list.
If he doesn't take out Bin Laden quickly, he'll be faced with invading other countries—some of which have nominally joined his coalition. Who's he going to attack next: Iraq? Iran? Syria? Sudan? If he does, the civilian casualties will mount, the coalition will fall apart, and the worldwide protests against war will make the Vietnan protests look like a tea party.
A Marshall Plan for Afghanistan—and several other places that need one—would be fine with me. I'm posting a note about that on my site as well. But as you probably know, we spend a lower percent of GNP on foreign aid than any of our peers.
Look to conservative Republicans for the obstacles to aid. They're the ones blocking expenditures if the money might go to family planning services somehow. They're the ones ignoring how well Truman's plan worked.
As for being demonized, I think I'm already on the margins (or as I prefer to think of it, the cutting edge) by publishing a comic book titled PEACE PARTY. Peace advocates are already getting hundreds of hate e-mails, so how much worse can it get? It's the nature of America to laud its cowboys and warriors and demonize its intellectuals and peacekeepers. There's no point trying to escape my position and I'm more than willing to defend it.
The "war" hasn't even begun and already thousands are marching for peace. If Bin Laden isn't found quickly, and the death toll mounts, the huge majority favoring Bush Jr.'s actions will evaporate faster than the huge majority favoring Bush Sr.'s actions did. The antiwar protesters will number in the millions, not the thousands, and I'll probably be one of them.
Finally, I don't have a problem with disagreement unless people make it personal. You haven't and neither have most of my correspondents. Only when someone insults my intelligence or integrity do I fight back with a vengeance. I may not win wars, but I do win arguments. <g>
Grossman's revised message
On 10/2/01 Grossman sent a modified version of his letter to his mailing lists, of which I'm a member. Among the changes, he limited his condemnation of WW II's pacifist movement:
In WWII the extreme element of the pacifist movement was truly set back by their unwillingness and inability to take anything but a position that looked very much like appeasement. I say the "extreme element" because many Quakers and Mennonites were willing to serve in WWII, as medics, etc. It was only a small handful who were not willing to find a compromise position, but that small handful did the peace movement great harm.
Instead of the Ansary letter, Grossman attached two commentaries by Bill O'Reilly and Richard Kidd with the following remarks:
Here, written by Bill O'Reilly, is one useful "take" on those who want to "understand" those who murdered 6,000 of our citizens. Whether you like it or not, I believe that his perspective represents the views of the vast, vast majority of Americans. Those who are calling for "peace" (appeasement for terrorists?) may well be doing themselves and the cause of peace great harm, for many decades to come. This view (as so well written by O'Reilly) will only harden as more information comes out.
Below the piece by Bill O'Reilly is another piece, the important piece: a call for a campaign that is humane, and integrates a powerful "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan. As the author (Richard Kidd) puts it. "we must show a level of compassion probably unheard of during war." I sincerely believe that this document deserves maximum distribution. THIS, is a plan that every one interested in peace can take to the table, as a reasonable starting point for discussion.
I've posted the O'Reilly commentary separately. An excerpt from the Kidd commentary is below. Kidd wrote it as a letter to his West Point classmates:
Many of you are probably not aware that I was one of the last American citizens to have spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan. I was first there in 1993, providing relief and assistance to refugees along the Tajik border, and in this capacity have traveled all along the border region between the two countries.
In 1998 and 1999, I was the Deputy Program Manager for the UN's mine action program in Afghanistan. This program is the largest civilian employer in the country with over 5,000 persons clearing mines and UXO. In this later capacity, I was somewhat ironically engaged in a "Holy War," as decreed by the Taliban, against the evil of landmines; and by a special proclamation of Mullah Omar, all those who might have died in this effort were considered to be "martyrs" — even an "infidel" like myself.
The mine action program is the most respected relief effort in the country, and because of this I had the opportunity to travel extensively without too much interference or restriction. I still have extensive contacts in the area and among the Afghan community and read a great deal on the subject.
I have been asked how I would fight the war. This is a big question and well beyond my pay grade or expertise. And while I do not want to second guess current plans or start an academic debate, I would share the following from what I know about Afghanistan and the Afghans.
First, I would give the Northern Alliance a big wad of cash so that they can buy off a chunk of the Taliban army before winter. Second, also with this cash, I would pay some guys to kill some of the Taliban leadership, making it look like an inside job to spread distrust and build on existing discord. Third I would support the Northern alliance with military assets, but not take it over or adopt so high a profile as to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghans.
Fourth would be to give massive amounts of humanitarian aid and assistance to the Afghans in Pakistan in order to demonstrate our goodwill and to give these guys a reason to live rather than the choice between dying of starvation or dying fighting the "infidel." Fifth, start a series of public works projects in areas of the country not under Taliban control (these are much more than the press reports) again to demonstrate goodwill and that improvements come with peace. Sixth, I would consider very carefully putting any female service members into Afghanistan proper — sorry to the females of our class but within that culture a man who allows a women to fight for him has zero respect, and we will need respect to gain the cooperation of Afghan allies. No Afghan will work with a man who fights with women.
I would hold off from doing anything too dramatic in the new term, keeping a low level of covert action and pressure up over the winter, allowing this pressure to force open the fissions around the Taliban that were already developing — expect that they will quickly turn on themselves and on OBL.
We can pick up the pieces next summer, or the summer after. When we do "pick up" the pieces, I would make sure that we do so on the ground, "man to man."
While I would never want to advocate American causalities, it is essential that we communicate to OBL and all others watching that we can and will "engage and destroy the enemy in close combat." As mentioned above, we should not try to gain or hold terrain, but Infantry operations against the enemy are essential. There can be no excuses after the defeat or lingering doubts in the minds of our enemies regarding American resolve and nothing, nothing will communicate this except for ground combat.
And once this is all over, unlike in 1989, the US must provide continued long-term economic assistance to rebuild the country.
Since this was the second time I'd received Dave's message, I responded in more detail.
Rob's reply (10/26/01)
>> My friends, the peace movement did itself GREAT harm during WWII. <<
Luckily, it redeemed itself by doing great good during the Vietnam War. And during the civil rights movement. And during the environmental movement (Greenpeace, etc.). Every progressive movement of the last 50 years has been intertwined with the advocacy of worldwide peace and justice.
That would include your media violence coalition, I'll bet. I'll bet a greater percentage of us are peace advocates than in the general public. That's because peace is consistent with opposition to media violence. It doesn't make sense to fight media violence and then advocate real violence.
>> Our job is to GUIDE the attack. To help direct the charging bull away from innocents. To make sure that we do it humanely, without violating our principles. And THEN (here is the hard part) be SURE that we are in this for the long run. Which means doing to Afghanistan what we did to Japan and Germany, complete with Marshall Plan, etc. <<
Peace advocates are in the forefront of those advocating all these things. It's the warmongers, not the peace advocates, who are fighting a war with a singleminded determination to kill.
>> Included below is one of the best things I have seen written on this topic. The author makes it clear: Afghanistan is a broken nation, being run by criminals. If we go in as liberators, they MIGHT welcome us. <<
Kidd's letter is largely compatible with Tamin Ansary's earlier letter. Ansary made it pretty clear that an all-out war against Afghanistan would be a tragic mistake. Kidd offers political, diplomatic, and "covert" solutions that don't require an all-out bombing campaign or ground siege.
>> Any effort to stop it will simply discredit the whole concept of peace. <<
History, not rhetoric, will determine who was right and wrong. And since Bush's war to eradicate evil or terrorism worldwide will never succeed, or even happen, peace advocates have little to worry about. History will show that a police action against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which is what peace advocates have advocated, was the correct course.
>> their goal is to be sure that war is fought humanely, with deep and abiding consideration for noncombatants. <<
I'd say that's everyone's goal except the warmongers'.
>> For the peace community to call for "restraint" is to wave a red flag in the charging bull's face. <<
And yet, bullfighters routinely do wave a red flag in front of a charging bull and live to tell about it. Too bad the charging bull can't say the same thing.
>> Whether you like it or not, I believe that his perspective represents the views of the vast, vast majority of Americans. <<
I don't like it, since it's stupid and myopic. I agree it represents the views of most Americans. Most Americans advocated slavery and genocide at one time, and would vote today to repeal the Bill of Rights, so what most Americans advocate isn't a persuasive argument.
Peace = appeasement?
>> Those who are calling for "peace" (appeasement for terrorists?) <<
What part of the word "justice" is so hard to understand? Justice means bringing evildoers to, well, justice. I'd love to hear how bombing civilian targets or creating starving refugees is compatible with the concept of justice.
>> This view (as so well written by O'Reilly) will only harden as more information comes out. <<
The peace movement will only grow as the unnecessary death toll mounts. O'Reilly's view is about as sophisticated as a four-year-old's and deserves about the same consideration.
As for Kidd's letter (quoted below):
>> OBL and the Taliban, absent any US action, were probably on their way to sharing the same fate <<
Bingo. This statement alone suggests why the rush to war was unnecessary.
>> The Afghans, while never conquered as a nation, are not invincible in battle. <<
They don't have to be invincible in battle to "win" this war. They can wait until growing disdain for the pointless shelling of hospitals, homes, and civilians causes the American coalition to fracture and the war to end. We can only hope we take out Bin Laden before then.
>> It goes back to Dr. Kern's point about will. <<
The world's will to fight a war on America's behalf doesn't appear to be that strong. Nor does Bush's will to risk American body bags. Hence my estimation that we'll be lucky to take out Bin Laden and Al Qaeda before this war peters into stalemate.
>> Indeed after the absolutely inane missile strikes of 1998, the overwhelming consensus was that we were cowards who would not risk one life in face-to-face combat. <<
Judging by America's warfare in the last decade, this assessment has some validity.
>> More importantly though is that we have to take steps not to play to their strengths, which would be to unite the entire population against us by increasing their suffering or killing innocents <<
We're already beginning to increase their suffering and kill innocents.
>> First, I would give the Northern Alliance a big wad of cash so that they can buy off a chunk of the Taliban army before winter. <<
Again, Kidd's suggestions tell us why war wasn't necessary. He lists several ways we could've attacked terrorism by more peaceful means than warfare.
Kidd says "hold off"
>> I would hold off from doing anything too dramatic in the new term, keeping a low level of covert action and pressure up over the winter, allowing this pressure to force open the fissions around the Taliban that were already developing — expect that they will quickly turn on themselves and on OBL. <<
If you're offering Kidd as a war advocate, I'd offer him as a peace advocate. He came up with solutions far short of the present war that offered a good chance of success. Many peace advocates have offered similar solutions.
If the world had followed a similar course after World War I—e.g., helping to rebuild Germany with compassion—appeasement of Hitler never would've been an issue. Peace advocates are saying do the right thing now, before it's too late. If we demolish Afghanistan as we did Germany, we'll create a new generation of Bin Ladens who want nothing but revenge against the West. Exactly as Hitler did after WW I.
>> And once this is all over, unlike in 1989, the US must provide continued long-term economic assistance to rebuild the country. <<
We peace advocates have said that also, repeatedly. Aid is part of a peace program. It isn't part of a war program.
>> Towards our enemies, we must show a level of ruthlessness that has not been part of our military character for a long time. But to those who are not our enemies we must show a level of compassion probably unheard of during war. <<
I'd bet on American ruthlessness before I'd bet on American compassion, but I wouldn't bet on either. These are more reasons why this war will go awry unless we end it short of an all-out jihad.
Another response to Dave's message (10/28/01)
Thank you for your wise commentary below. I, too, have been concerned about peace activists (and I think of myself as a peacemaker) who have rushed too quickly to say we need to understand the anger of the perpetrators, etc., etc. I think they are right, but there is an enormous problem of timing in these comments. It is ridiculous to think that we can move beyond this devastating event without first fully recognizing the horrendous evil that has been acted out by the terrorist attacks. This bad timing violates all restorative justice principles, which emphasize that the first step in restoring justice is to fully recognize the impact of the wrongdoing and the responsibility of the perpetrator. There is not, and never will be, an excuse for this kind of evil.
I have recommended to several people that we need to focus on the word "and" rather than "but" in this dialogue. For example, "A horrendous evil has occurred, the perpetrators must be held accountable AND we need to understand how this kind of anger and evil came into being" is a much more effective sentence than the same sentence with the word "BUT" substituted for "AND".
I also agree that military intervention is likely inevitable. I wish you were wrong about that, but I think you are correct. I would like to think we had adequate structures already in place to contain and corral the terrorist network that is apparently responsible for the attacks. However, we do not yet have those structures in place — perhaps some day we will. Structures that I think will ultimately diminish the capacity and effects of terrorists are those that promote adequate health, nutrition, and basic rights for all; internationally enforced standards against terrorism; etc. We're not there yet, and so I think the peace community has no adequate alternative to military intervention to offer in this instance.
Finally, I want to support your comments regarding helping to guide the discussion. I think the peace community will do well to focus on what we CAN do to promote peace (such as helping the many Afghan victims as well as the U.S. victims), instead of preaching about what we SHOULDN'T do, especially in the absence of a viable option for bringing justice to this situation. Justice will not occur until the perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. If and when that ever occurs, we can begin to talk about what true restoration could look like.
Thanks for your continued contact!
Professor of Peace Studies
North Newton, KS
Rob's reply to Flask (12/17/01)
>> I, too, have been concerned about peace activists (and I think of myself as a peacemaker) who have rushed too quickly to say we need to understand the anger of the perpetrators <<
In contrast, I've been concerned about the warmongers who have rushed too quickly to revenge as an answer. It's all well and good to call for a period of "recognizing the horrendous evil," but we didn't sit back and reflect on the events of 9/11. Our leaders moved us to a war footing as fast as possible.
>> the first step in restoring justice is to fully recognize the impact of the wrongdoing and the responsibility of the perpetrator. <<
That's what many of us have done by analyzing the US role in creating Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban.
>> There is not, and never will be, an excuse for this kind of evil. <<
There will be and have been explanations, which are wholly different from excuses.
>> I would like to think we had adequate structures already in place to contain and corral the terrorist network that is apparently responsible for the attacks. <<
We're doing in the rest of the world what the peaceniks have advocated: using diplomatic, economic, and intelligence means to track down and take out terrorist cells. If this nonviolent strategy is working elsewhere, there's no reason to assume it wouldn't have worked in Afghanistan.
>> However, we do not yet have those structures in place — perhaps some day we will. <<
Sure we do. Read the newspaper. In cooperation with our allies, we're conducting operations and arresting suspected terrorists around the world. It's happening. Now.
I'll repeat what I said about the Kidd letter before—a comment this correspondent didn't address: "Kidd offers political, diplomatic, and 'covert' solutions that don't require an all-out bombing campaign or ground siege." Nothing that's happened has changed the situation.
War has worked reasonably well at eliminating the Taliban—but the Taliban didn't attack us. War hasn't done much to bring the perpetrators to justice, which was our alleged goal for going to war and bombing people.
>> Structures that I think will ultimately diminish the capacity and effects of terrorists are those that promote adequate health, nutrition, and basic rights for all <<
For the long-term eradication of the conditions contributing to terrorism, these things would be good too. But I repeat: We're conducting a nonmilitary campaign (primarily in Europe) against terrorism now. That's the short-term solution many of us advocated for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
>> I think the peace community has no adequate alternative to military intervention to offer in this instance. <<
Once again, look at what's happening in Europe. We peaceniks have a more than adequate alternative to offer. I think we've caught more suspected terrorists in Europe than we have in Afghanistan—with no loss of innocent life.
No viable alternative to killing?
>> instead of preaching about what we SHOULDN'T do, especially in the absence of a viable option for bringing justice to this situation. <<
The viable option is outlined in The PEACE PARTY Position. Bush is implementing it the US and Europe while pursuing the military option in Afghanistan. For his stated goal of bringing terrorists to justice—not overthrowing repressive regimes—it's arguable which strategy is working better.
What "justice" have we achieved in Afghanistan, exactly? Not much that I can see. We've helped overthrow the Taliban government—but that government didn't attack us. It harbored the camps of the people who did. These people have scattered to the winds—to their safe-houses in 50 or 60 other countries. We've captured a smattering of them.
>> Justice will not occur until the perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. <<
Most of the perpetrators are dead—they committed suicide, remember—as are a few thousand Afghan civilians. We've killed or captured very few, if any, of the people who had a hand in 9/11. While overthrowing the Taliban and hunting terrorists worldwide both may be good things, they have little to do with "justice" for the "perpetrators." Despite widespread propaganda to the contrary, they're two separate goals.
Diplomacy works, violence doesn't
Reality check for warmongers
More Grossman: The evidence against media violence
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