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Monthly Archive: March 2002

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Thursday, March 14, 2002
The Failure of Politics

When the Army ROTC tried to teach me that Von Clausewitz military invective, "War is nothing but the continuation of politics by other means" - I nearly gagged on my peace beads. My ever able, always waiting countermeasure to adult thinking quickly sprung into action and I retorted, "No Sir. War is the failure of politics."

As my 'War and Politics' instructor quickly discovered, there is little chance of winning an argument with a smartass teen who believes he has attained secret knowledge. Nevertheless, in my opinion - and you can debate me on this if you wish - he lost that debate because he lost his cool and control over his class. Despite all his efforts, I managed to pit one side of his class against the other and turned a classroom discussion into a full-blown academic brawl.

A few weeks later, I was called into the unit commandant's office. The captain - a decorated hero of Vietnam - said, in his most officious voice, "The Army is not an environment for you, Cadet Wyman." So ended my short career in the military. Ahl, I didn't look good in green anyhow.

My puerile philosophical debates often got me into trouble with the powers that be; getting booted out of ROTC was one in a series of infractions (and most certainly not the last) and it was very nearly the last straw for my father (a career Air Force NCO). Yet, as war circles round our continental nation, that single event from my childhood has come back to haunt me.

You might crack a smile at my youthful exuberance and even agree with my na´ve notions of politics and war. Certainly, my opinion had some value, if only philosophical. However, I have discovered new evidence that proves that my former instructor was correct and I now seek to remedy that error.

Although I am an admitted dove and self-acclaimed non-interventionist, September 11 is where I have drawn the line. The cultural and systemic differences are so deep, the declaration of violence so dramatic that discussion will not help, and negotiation is not an option. Only a delusional psychotic would take on the US military - I mean, really, the Pentagon AND the World Trade Towers? This leaves us with only one option - pound the crap out of the enemy until the survivors come to their senses or they all croak in their caves. Thus, war IS an extension of politics - it doesn't get any plainer than that.

Now take a situation where the motivator for aggression is more pervasive: Israel and Palestine. Fact number one: Sharon (the Israeli PM) and Arafat's Palestinians are arch enemies. This relationship reached a climax when then General Sharon failed to "capture or kill" Arafat during the 1982 Israeli push into Lebanon, but he managed to kill many thousands of others in the attempt. Since that time, Arafat has been the burr under Sharon's saddle and, for too many reasons to list, nearly all Palestinians consider Sharon a murderer.

Fact number two: the conflict is, in many ways, a personal vendetta. Sharon is engaged in a personal crusade against Arafat and Palestine; Arafat and the Palestinians are against Sharon and his hard line politics. This fact is further exasperated by another: Sharon and Arafat were there at the beginning. Sharon began his military career as a foot soldier fighting to build a country created by international decree; Arafat started his as a member of a rag-tag militia dead set on resisting the decree. This time, however, Arafat and his people have allowed their hate for Israel - and for Sharon - take their eye off the ball. They were never able or willing to take full advantage of the Oslo Accords, the various Camp David agreements, and a supreme effort by the Clinton administration to wrest a lasting peace from the jaws of Israeli arrogance. Had Arafat been a greater statesman, he could have achieved the foundation for an internationally recognized Palestinian state - he and his people could have seen their flag rise to an anthem of cheers that all would have cherished for decades.

There are innumerable examples where the peoples on both sides of an argument have disallowed opportunity for peace and enfranchised violence. I hold that, in many cases - Israel and Palestine as my prime example - war is the result of a breakdown of politics, a failure of leaders to achieve balance for the greater good. They have abandoned active politics per se leaving only tragic short-sightedness to take its own course. Yet, I must admit that 'politics' not only describes the managerial process of government, but also the total complex of relations between people in society. Since war is obviously an acceptable civil response to disagreement, I can only conclude that war is an extension of these relations - and therefore politics.

Age and experience has taught me some severe lessons about debates - not least of them is when to keep my mouth shut. As I have learned, arguing on a purely philosophical basis merely opens the chasm of defeat directly below you; eventually, you will fall in and be crushed by your own rationale.

So, to my poor exasperated instructor, whereever you may be, please accept my apologies: sadly, I must report that you were right. -HP

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