Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Price of War, The Cost of Peace; 1 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, September 26, 2002.

Part I: Overview. For a nation that claims to be one which loves and embraces peace, we have managed to be at war for the majority of our existence. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War against Terrorism. (And coming soon, to a theatre near you, Gulf War: The Sequel.) This is what some would call the cost of peace, or, as author Robert Heinlein put it, “If you would have peace, then prepare for war.” Many argue that peace must be paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of soldiers, but there are other courses available. The price of war is paid in blood, sweat, and tears, but these are not the denominations of peace. Peace can be purchased on credit.

The traditional war formula of nation-state versus nation-state has been going out of style. This is why many people today think that there is relative peace around the globe. However, that is not the case. There are very few, if any, traditional “declared” wars occurring right now, but there are thirty-six countries on this earth that are currently embroiled in armed conflict. These regions and nations are paying the price of war in lives by the millions. It has gotten so bad in most regions that the individuals living there are no longer living in a culture of life, but a culture of death. These people do not wake up in the morning and wonder if their loved ones are alive and well, they wonder how many have died in the passing of the night. That is the dreadful price of war.

The models provided to us by such great leaders as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are not being given enough credence. Most argue their ideas of peace are worthless and that they will accomplish nothing. I ask, what is this world accomplishing now by violence but the death of millions? What is this world accomplishing by making the streets run red with blood? That is not hyperbole; there are really streets today that are covered in blood, often the blood of innocents. Violence has begotten violence in a vicious, unending cycle of victim/aggressor. That has been the price of war. The cost of peace is not meted out in blood, but in hope and in faith.

Gandhi was committed to non-violence and his followers stepped out on a limb to believe him. His accomplishments in India were vast, and his hand fired not one bullet. He was able to do this because he believed in peace and in a culture of life. He was filled with hope. The hearts of many today have not felt hope in years; it has been blocked out by the shadows of doubt and fear.

When I say that peace can be purchased on credit, I am referring to the breaking of a cycle. When one group of people is victimized by another, they identify themselves as the victim. Naturally, the other group becomes the aggressor. Yet when the victimized people retaliate, they become the aggressor and the former aggressor, the victim. These two cycles of victim and aggressor become inevitably linked as the two groups move between them.
Now that I have spoken about theory for a time, I would like to use a present day example. This is what is going in most regions of the world beset by war today. But I want to focus now on Palestine and Israel. It seems peace is far away, if it can be envisioned at all. Neither group will accomplish their goals by means of violence. Someone must have the courage and the faith to purchase peace on credit. Someone must be brave enough to say, “We’ve both had enough. Let it end here.” This breaks the victim/aggressor cycle and it is from that point that both sides can move forward towards a lasting peace. The danger of falling back is always present, but as long as hope remains, peace can be purchased on credit.

The difficulty in Palestine and Israel is that there are too many separate groups with different interests involved. I fully believe that the only solution to that problem is the creation of two separate states with clearly defined boundaries. Two people, two states. Within Palestine, Arafat is losing power everyday and the hard liners are gaining it. Those groups willing to talk with Israel to move towards the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state are being hamstrung. Groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad declare they will never accept a Palestinian leader who acknowledges the state of Israel.

Sharon and his IDF are no better. They do not desire the creation of a Palestinian state. What they want is for all Palestinians to be either dead or gone. This is not a culture of life, nor is it a culture where peace can easily be sought. The people are living in fear and until that fear is relieved peace has little chance. From the Gaza Strip, the words of a friend of mine: “I was in the middle of Gaza Strip while the IDF invaded the place, they started shelling and shooting. People here are awake all the night afraid of the planes and the shelling, and afraid of the invasion that may occur at any moment.” Living with that kind of fear is not conducive to moving towards peace.

Once the violence is stopped and peace is purchased on credit, it will take a generation to come and go before peace is secured. There are people living in Israel and Palestine right now who are not old enough to remember a peaceful time, and so they believe violence to be normal. Once that equation is reversed, and there is a generation not old enough to remember war, they will believe peace to be the norm. Then, and only then, will peace have a chance. But, it will take courage to make that first step. It will take faith to ask for peace on credit. It will take bravery to put down a gun. It can be done. Peace can succeed. All it needs is an opportunity. The price of war has been far too high. Isn’t it time peace was offered a true chance? Part II: Details – next week.


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