Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Violence

Robert Steinback in the Miami Herald:

It’s easy enough, and proper, to conclude that it’s wrong when a mob burns down an embassy over a cartoon, when terrorists conspire to fly aircraft into buildings, when suicide bombers kill innocent civilians or when insurgents take and sometimes execute hostages.

It’s considerably harder to see the violence we commit — or rather, that which is committed in our names with our endorsement — in a similar light. We don’t participate in it ourselves; we leave that to our military, to government spooks or to third-country operatives. Our part of the deal is to defend our surrogates against all criticism, or resolutely downplay concerns when they go a little too far or operate a little too indiscreetly in the execution of their assignments.

[…]

I’m often asked what we should have done after the unprovoked, unconscionable 9/11 attacks. What we should not have done is answer with an unprovoked, unconscionable attack of our own. The illusion that we were getting even for 9/11 felt good for a while, as if we could just win and be done with it. Instead, we now find ourselves trapped in an escalating spiral of unjustified violence. Even if we find a way to “win” such a contest, we will still lose. We will have lost our souls.

Perhaps that would complete the transit. We lost our minds after 9/11. For one vicious act committed against us, America threw away its centuries-long tradition of hewing to ideals — just when we needed it most — and replaced it with the more primitive notion of domination through violence. We’re no longer campaigning for noble ideals to triumph over deplorable ones. We’re campaigning for us to triumph over them.

When you’re not fighting for, and in accordance with, noble principles, it’s just violence.