Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Four planes, three buildings, many many people

Well, right about now is when it stinks to be a pacifist. Some terrorists drop both trade towers and the pentagon. It's time for Clancy-type moves, this is a clear and present danger.
First, let's talk (briefly) about pacifism. It's a big statement for me to say I am a pacifist, but I need to tell you that I believe there are two levels of action, those personal and those communal, and those communal vary greatly.

You may be able to deal with the consequences of not defending yourself, but there is a level of responsibility you adopt when you are engaged in events concerning a community.

A definition of community is necessary for this to make sense. A community is a group whose quantity is greater than you alone. That's terse. If your actions impact others, you are acting in a communal sense.

This is more than just the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few.

Here's an example, someone wants to treat you unfairly because of a belief you hold. You may or you may not get a raise. You may or you may not get a ticket to a show. You may or you may not get a parking spot - or even a beating. You should, and I think it is right to, stand for what you believe and confront injustice. That is not a lack of pacifism.

Pacifism is the choice not to respond to injustice in a violent way.

In a communal sense, however, your choices may include individuals who may not share your willingness to suffer. Pacifism is a unilateral decision, that overlaid on the unwilling recipient stops being pacifism and begins containing traits of dictatorial tyranny.

Therefore, I find it appropriate and correct to suffer personally the injustices of the world without individual responses of violence. I do not, however, feel it is a type of justice or rightness to allow harm.

By this I mean, if you see an airplane about to crash into a mall and you have a missile at your disposal, it is better to kill the occupants on the plane than it is to allow those inside the mall to die with them - all from a sense of non-violence.

Again, if you see an angry army approaching an undefended village, and you have an opposing army at your disposal, to allow the village inhabitants to be killed due to your sense of non-violence, is an action that holds no characteristics of justice or rightness.

Finally, if the first village cannot be saved because the approaching army's arrival was too swift, but an angry courtship with that same army would discourage their forthcoming attack against the second village, logic dictates that the very act of violence would be the least violent response to choose.

What we want is to minimize violence.

Now, back to today's events. Four planes were high jacked, three reached their destination and the forth is reasonably assumed failed in its intent to cause its damage. The pentagon is nearly destroyed and both world trade centers have been completely destroyed.

Let's step into the shoes of the President of the United States. There are a few things you have to think about here. First, there could be more than ten thousand people dead. Second, the perpetrators may all be dead, or scattered throughout the world.

Consider the ramifications of those two facts.

First, because of that many dead, the mood of solemnity will prevail in our country for years. At the same time, that magnitude of loss will mandate a public cry for revenge or vindication in some way. They will look to the President as the provider of that vindication. If you are the President, you will have unbearable pressure externally and internally to deliver on those demands.

Second, in your desire to relieve the agony of the people and re-instill a sense of control and safety to the public, your search will lead you to a group of people likely spread throughout a myriad of countries - making your ensuing action either immeasurable (which will be important to relay back to the American public) or somewhat impossible without tangling the international efforts between nations started long before your term.

Finally, if you discover a small band of offenders in a single place, you will have to consider how to act against them in such a way that the psychological healing you seek from their overtaking will be relayed back to national society without offending their natural sense of conscience.

Let me tell you, terrorism stinks. First, they are stupid, because their intended results are never realized because their tactics preclude their success.

Moreover, we cannot say that the Middle East is our enemy, because it is not true. Also, we cannot say that a single country is our enemy, because more often than not these acts are grounded in a sense of religious duty which spans across national borders.

As a result, terrorism is self-defeating. Their goals are nebulous to begin with, in no small part because their motivations are foreign to the understandings of the targeted culture. Then, their efforts shadow their goals, and minimize their potential of future recognition.

Here's a fact, however. Some of the motivation of Middle East-sourced terrorism is their option that the United States has sided with any entity whose intent is to undermine Arab nations. In that same light, the African nations could also find a certain fault with the United States, but because they cannot use the zealousness of their religious foundation to unite and motivate their peoples, we rarely consider the implications of or actions in African theater of the world. The Middle East, however, gets plenty of attention.

Because the pilots of the planes were killed, I will assume their deaths were suicides. I think that is fair. If I were the President, I would be able to conclude that a motivation in their attack is beyond political tendencies, and must be religious.

So, since I am the President - or, since we are the president, let's consider how we might react. If we elect to do nothing - that may be the last election we will ever see. Not that office is the motivation, but the President has a responsibility to the people of the nation, the symbol of the nation and the international tenor of the nation. If we took a licking and just kept on ticking - it would be a dramatic show of strength in a philosophical sense, but in a practical sense it would degrade the reputation of America in the global marketplace.

At the same time, you do not want to create a sense of war in the nation and you especially do not want to ruin the delicate tension of international politics.

However, like no other time, you will have a sense of vague justification behind your actions you will never have again. If you over-react, it will be easy to forgive your response in light of the national loss.

Extreme action would be tempting, but might not be possible if you are unable to locate a significant enemy to move against. Without that action, or some significant action, the American public may not feel safe. Now, we definitely do not want to get the wrong people, and we definitely do not want to manufacture a response.

Something has to be done. We are not a great enough people to take a bruise in stride;hope) an action will be required. We might look back on this day as a pivotal moment in American society when we become militant and internationally abrasive. As the President, you want to prevent that - because you are ultimately a man of peace (I hope).

Needless to say, I would not want to be the President of the United States right now. I am not convinced I would ever want to be the President of the United States, but for sure, I know I would not want to be right now.

Then I wonder. How will China respond? How will Russia respond? Should we rebuild the towers? What happened to the 4th plane in Pittsburg? And, of course, are all the alien ships okay at the Pentagon? Then I also think, the World Trade Towers killed the most people while killing the fewest children.

What we need is an international consortium of nations to help us seek out the perpetrators and bring forth justice - that is the only way we can seek our end while maintaining the thread of politics that spans the countries.

But we want action now. We aren't a society of instant gratification for nothing. We want to see General Schwartskoff in a tank, headed to the deserts of XYZ to kick some serious tail-or the video of pilots zapping buildings from afar.

Is that really what we want? Just kill them and that will do it? Kill the rats and we're happy? And if their children are in their homes, just kill them too? They should know better? That's what they get? What did they expect? So, then we're better than they are?

Justice is something that is served, not observed. It is a necessary part of peace, and cannot be overlooked. Justice should be swift, but not so swift as to be no longer just.

Justice. As the President, that is is your goal - but with so many other things in mind. I envy you. But not today.

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