Sunday, August 06, 2006

Life in the shadow of war

This weekend, in between going to wedding receptions and ripping out thornbushes, I watched the Errol Morris' documentary Fog of War.

One of the things I that stood out to me was McNamara's statement that the generals wanted to go to war with the Soviet Union because:

1. War between the US and USSR was inevitable.
2. The US should strike while it had missile superiority.

If you assume that proposition 1 is true, then proposition 2 makes sense.

Of course, proposition 1 turned out to be pure manure. But it's a reasonable mistake for a military mind. McNamara (for all of his flaws) realized the danger of this line of thinking and was able to hold the Joint Chiefs in check at least on the pre-emptive strike issue.

I've been thinking about these propositions in terms of the Israeli-Lebanese border debacle. If you have an enemy with whom reconciliation is impossible, then there is no hope for peace. But how can we know that reconciliation is impossible?

If there is any hope of peace, then certainly it must be seized. Perhaps it is our fate in the 21st century to be constantly on the edge of war, dancing along the fine razor's edge of mass destruction and we will enternally be unable to find a complete peace, one free from the threat of war.

Benjamin Franklin once said that there was never a good war or a bad peace. The counter-argument to that statement is the realization that Neville Chamberlain ceded most of Eastern Europe to Hitler and failed to enforce the (arguably unjust) Versailles accord thus ushering in the bloodiest war in human history.

The stakes are high for our leaders, never has the world been so populous, and we've reached new heights in our ability to inflict mass destruction.

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