This week’s news headlines run something like this:
Russia, U.S. Disagree on Iran Sanctions
Israel Vows to Respond to Rocket Attack
China Declines APEC Meeting With Canada
Bush Warns N. Korea on Nuclear Transfers
…and so on. Notice anything missing?
Diplomacy is an artform that has never been well understood by most, and in recent years has all but vanished, under the increasing tendency to view anything less than full military force as the arena of the ” weak”.
“All war represents a failure of diplomacy” — Tony Benn
Where do we expect this policy of tough talk and fast action to take us? In the movies, the Good Guys are usually able to take out the Bad Guys with one carefully planned excursion, perhaps a massive shootout, and some classy dialogue followed by single, well-aimed bullet. But out here our roles are not so clearly defined, and the stunt guys just don’t fall down when they are supposed to. Somehow, in spite of everything we have been taught to believe, the Bad Guys just keep coming back, and violence just keeps breeding more violence.
Recently, a study published by Johns Hopkins University estimated the Iraqi civilian deaths at 655,000. This was a careful, scientific study, peer-reviewed and meticulously backed-up by other sources. The statistic is horrendous, the implications ominous. You would think that someone other than the families of those killed would care.
Oddly, however, it seems that in the U.S. our need to justify our actions makes it imperative that we dispute even the most solid evidence that our actions may have had disastrous results. We pick apart numbers which would make us reconsider, hearken to higher goals, and remonstrate with ourselves to “keep our eye on the prize”. Those who find themselves righteously outraged are all too often ignored by those who are trying to find the truth, as their outrage hints at a brand of extremism, and we have enough of that going around already.
Obviously, presenting hard numbers is not enough. Holding out summations by our own intelligence services which indicate that our activities are counterproductive to our proclaimed goals is not enough. Providing evidence that our leaders have deceived us is not enough to change our minds, or even to make us insist on an investigation. And yet, we are cautioned to be moderate in our statements, to consider the other side, to above all make our loyalty to our country foremost in all our thoughts and deeds.
At what point is the middle path the path to hell?