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an eye for an eye?

by mg at 09:58 AM on September 17, 2001

Over the past couple days I’ve been variously called everything from naïve to possessed of a “misguided patriotism.”

I may be a patriot, but I am not misguided. I am not confused about the true intentions of American foreign policy. I wont deny that our interests are not nearly as prurient as we’d like to claim they are.

Just look at Japan and Germany. In the first half of the last century Japan was in a constant state of war. Germany was the major catalyst in two world wars in the period of 30 years. After World War II ended the United States poured billions of dollars into countries we had just been at war against. Everyone is calling this attack the “Second Pearl Harbor.” Fifty years ago the United States helped the country that perpetrated the first.

Was our primary interest in helping Japan and Germany or in guaranteeing our interests overseas? It was in guaranteeing our interests, of course! We didn’t want to go to war again and there was only one way to ensure that. By installing more democratic forms of government, by spending billions of dollars to help build infrastructure, by guaranteeing education and by creating a new economy we ensured our interests were looked after.

Today, Germany and Japan are among the world’s super powers. They are among the most educated, wealthy, healthy and technologically advanced countries in the world. Is their current success a result of the United States having an interest in them being successful? Yes, of course. Are they, as nations, better off because of America’s interest? God, yes.

If a full-scale war does indeed break out as a result of the events of the past week, you better believe that, in the end, any country at war against us will end up in a better position than it is now. The type of country that could spawn, sponsor and conceal is most likely impoverished, uneducated and oppressed. It is not in America’s interest to simply destroy another country, because that’ll only make the people hate us more. Our interest is in helping countries like that, so such hatred won’t exist in the future.

The United States may have an empire around the world, but that empire is one of ideology: democracy, freedom, and equality. What is wrong with that kind of empire?

If we use our financial and political might to force our convictions on others, it isn’t exactly right, but it isn’t exactly wrong. Sometimes we use the threat of military force to twist a few arms, which, is morally dubious at best. But, in a time of peace, the United States would never knowingly and willingly kill innocent civilians in order to compel foreign governments to do anything.

Violence is never the appropriate response to a political, social or religious disagreement. It can’t be.

Gandhi had more success in ousting the British from India than any terrorist could have. Martin Luther King Jr. had more success in guaranteeing the equality of all Americans than the Black Panthers ever could have. Violence is not the right way to alter wrong thought.

But violence is certainly the answer to violence. Of that I am absolutely sure.

America, and, in fact, the entire world, cannot allow the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon to go unpunished. People argue against capitol punishment, saying that it is not a deterrent against future crime. Who cares? It may not deter other criminals, but it will certainly stop one person from committing any future crimes.

And, speaking of future crimes, people are arguing against U.S. retaliation, saying any attack will leave us all toothless and blind. These people say that any U.S. (or coalition) retaliation will only bring about more terrorist attacks. Those people are entirely naïve. The terrorist attacks will continue no matter what the United States does in response. These terrorists are at war with us whether we decide to be at war with them or not.

The United States could facilitate an agreement between Israel and the PLO to give Palestine it’s own homeland by tomorrow afternoon, but the Palestinians we saw dancing in the street Tuesday would still hate America. The nations of the world could drop the sanctions against Afghanistan and give them billions of dollars in strings-free aid, but the kind of person who could plan the attacks on New York and Washington would still be able to conceive and carry out those plans unflinchingly.

The events of September 11 were the actions of irrational men. And retaliation won’t turn an irrational person into a rational one. But here is an analogy: what if someone was to walk up to you and punch you in the face. Would you be able to turn the cheek? If this were an isolated incident, I know I probably would be able to turn the other cheek, forgive and move on with my life.

Now, lets say someone was to come up to you, punch you in the face, kick your wife in the stomach and hit your daughter in the knee with a baseball bat. Turning the other cheek becomes a little harder, doesn’t it?

Now say that person comes up to you, punches you in the face, kicks your wife in the stomach, hits your daughter in the knee with a baseball bat and tells you that he is making it his personal mission to destroy you and everything you hold dear and he has ten friends who will carry on that mission, even if you find some way to stop him. Do you turn your other cheek in that situation? How could you possibly? Your life, and the lives of your family and friends will be constantly at risk until that person and all his compatriots are stopped.

American retaliation will do nothing to stop that hate that could cause the events of September 11th, but it will surely remove the means of perpetrating further attacks. Give someone a tool, and they’ll find a way to use it as a weapon. When we discover who brought about these attacks, and who supports those groups, we should remove every potential weapon from their toolbox. Retaliation may not convince those who hate us of anything, but it will surely remove their capability to cause any further damage.

comments (14)

This was well written and well thought out. It was good writing MG! I cannot imagine anything further to add, just wanted to let you know I agree.

by Pristine at September 17, 2001 11:52 AM

Well said. I agree.

by kd at September 17, 2001 11:56 AM

To compare Japan and Germany to Afghanistan in possible benefits gained from a war with the U.S. is ridiculous. Japan was a tremendous strategic gain for us in the Pacific. It was in our interest to pump as much money into them to remedy the costs of dropping a nuclear bomb on thousands of civilians and gain a foothold in the Pacific during the Cold War. Afghanistan does not provide us with a strategic benefit. We already have our positions in the Mid East and southern Asia. Both Germany and Japan are better off resulting in America’s interest, but Afghanistan does warrant U.S. interest, thus is it going to really be any better off? You don’t want to destroy the country, yet military action makes sense to you? Is some democratic leader just going to magically appear in Afghanistan following a U.S. attack? Realistically, the economic, political, and ideological structure of the country does not lend to a leader coming to power that the United States would find oh-so-acceptable.

Violence is the answer to violence…and lynching of innocent Americans didn’t take place all over the South! Martin Luther King grew up in an incredibly violent period for African Americans. The church bombings in Birmingham did not cause him to take arms against white people. His resolve for a peaceful approach continued, and despite his assassination (a violent act), continued on by his followers. Violence does not correspond to violence.

You are walking down the street and you see a man beat another man, his wife, and his child. Do you run over and then beat up him, grab his wallet, find out where he lives, find his wife and child and continue to beat them? His friend sees you do this and does the same to you. Your friend sees this and attacks him…the system perpetuates itself. Screw that. The correct thing to do is to seek remedies for what was the cause of the original attack. No action is irrational; it only appears that way to a party who judges it. There are variables that cause one to act a certain way. Remedies are found by altering these variables favorably.

You are just as naïve and an idiot (as you claim others are). You claim that an attack is better than not attacking. Not attacking would not bring an end to terrorism so we should attack. How does attacking end these terrorists’ actions? It is obvious that this kind of hate doesn’t disappear upon word of no military retaliation, but it is even more obvious that going after terrorists while killing innocent civilians (and it will happen) will, without question, add even more fuel to this hatred.

The United States could not and will not bring peace to Israel and Palestine. This is such a lofty claim of yours. It is not in the political interest of this country to have peace there. Sharon is not an individual who has the slightest desire for peace. He is a war criminal. He slaughtered people. He is the Israeli President.

Solutions are not easy in this situation. I am in favor of a military action, but not to the extent it appears imminent to occur. We should be going after terrorists and only terrorists. The attack on the Afghani government, no matter how ruthless they are, will result in fueling support behind terrorist groups. The real solution needs to be broader. Why is it that so much of the world harbors bitter feelings toward the United States? Are our global economic and political stances fair to the rest of the world? What is it that makes an American more important and entitled to so many resources while much of the world lives in poverty? Once again the solution is not easy.

by handyj at September 17, 2001 12:04 PM

any response that the US takes now is just that - a response. the attack has already been made by the terrorists. the government of afghanistan is not the enemy, but they shelter and defend the enemy. one small country will not be the only focus of the effort. it will be widespread across the nations who harbor terrorists or who espouse the terroritsts' doctrine, but afgahanistan is where it starts. the moment to present themselves as impoverished peasants has passed. if those innocent citizens are in jeopardy, it is bin ladin who put them there, and now he hides behind them. too late.

by bobthecorgi at September 17, 2001 1:08 PM

You say that the conditions aren't right for a U.S. friendly govrnment to take over in Afghanistan. I think you are wrong. There are plenty of Muslim coutnries that have friendly relations with the U.S. And there are plenty more countries that don't encourage their citizens to kill us.

You ask if aiding Afghanistan is really in the U.S. interest to since it is of no strategic value. I think the strategic value is in having a government that doesn't support and encourage people to blow up buildings. Isn't that enough of a reason to warrant U.S. interest there?

I used Israal and Palestine as an example but I don't expect a resolution there any time soon. (as an F.Y.I. I support the Palestinian's right to a homeland and detest some of the actions taken by Israel). I used that as an example because I don't think anything the U.S. could do politically would stop people from hating us in Palestine.

Suicide bombers and terrorists are irrational. The people who crashed into the WTC made no demands before they acted. They did what they did for one reason and one reason only, to cause pain and destruction. They hate America. There is no appeasing such hatred.

Finally, you ask "What is it that makes an American more important and entitled to so many resources while much of the world lives in poverty?" I have never understood why, but for some reason, people feel guilty about having when other people don't have.

Why does America have freedom and prosperity when so much of the rest of the world lives in opressed and impoverished? I don't know. Why was I lucky enough to have been born here and not someplace like Afghanistan or Somalia? I don't know. But America does have these things and I was born here, and I'm not going to feel guilty about either of those facts.

America hasn't caused the poverty in the Middle East. Most of the countries in there are EXTREMELY rich. They've got billions of dollars of oil money, yet the people are still impoverished. It is their own government that keeps them poor, it is their own government that to deprive them of basic human rights.

Anyone in Afghanistan who blames the U.S. for the state of their lives is misguided. And it is completly incomprehensible to me that anyone in the U.S. would believe that.

by mg at September 17, 2001 2:14 PM

Wow! Incredible article, mg! I award it the "eeth award of excellence." (You probably don't want to display it. Might affect your social standing and all. :) )

And handyj? Get stuffed. I'm not loving an enemy that kills as indescriminately as the terrorists did. Jeez, I am so sick of hearing whining about talking our way out of aggression. It won't stop the bad crazies from attacking us. It will, and recent history proves this, lead us into a state of complacency. On top of that, what an insult to the deceased and their families! What an insult to ourselves!

by ethereal at September 17, 2001 2:41 PM

I agree with most of what you said. Now don't get me wrong - I think the guy deserves to die, put him in front of me and put a glock in my hand and I'll do it myself. But I think we should try to arrest and put Bin Laden on trial - and here's why.

Vengeance is a never-ending cycle, The Israelis having been assassinating Palestinians since the 70's, and it has not brought them any peace, obviously. So why a trial? Such a move provides an historical record and account. The fundamentalist Muslims will put no stake in our system of trial and judgment. Even with all the due process in the world, they will call it an invalid decision and a kangaroo court - true. BUT, the moderates may take a look and say "wow." Such enlightened principles as democracy and trial by jury do not exist in the Middle East. The moderates have the most influence over the fundamentalists. After all, the US is based in religious freedoms. If our special forces just go in and murder Bin Laden, he becomes a martyr for thousands of others. If we put him on trial, he becomes a criminal. Look at the Nazi trials. The people hanged after those trials were not seen as martyrs, but as evil. Also, look at the International Criminal Tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Millions of people killed, genocide, crimes against humanity. 800,000 innocents killed in the Rwandan Massacres in just one year. That's staggering. Many of the people behind these acts are seen as the Hitlers and Stalins of our day. The nations they terrorized are on their way to tolerance, democracy, and religious freedom.

I'm not saying arresting Bin Laden and other terrorists and giving them a trial will end these acts and bring democracy and enlightenment to the Middle East. But it's a step in the right direction. In short, it is in the best interests of the US. It doesn't feel as emotionally gratifying as just blowing them away - but in the long run such a move will do much more damage to these people and what they stand for. So, I say go for a death-penalty trial, if possible.

A great article today here:


This is also pretty long but well-written:


by Charles at September 17, 2001 6:25 PM

I should say I what I meant was I agreed with most of what mg said. handyj, you seem intelligent and also make some valid points. But by saying to Michael "You are just as naïve and an idiot" you lose all credibility - not to mention the fact you post no email or web page. This is his personal web page. He is entitled to write his opinions here, he provides a comment system for others to leave feedback - you are way out of line calling him names simply because you disagree with some of those opinions. He could have just removed your post - yet he did not. In fact he even answered you very intelligently!

by Charles at September 17, 2001 6:33 PM

We sat back after the first bombing of the WTC, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, etc..............The time for a reaction from America is now. Here! Here! MG!

by othercheek at September 17, 2001 8:44 PM

It occurs to me that you're really trying to earn that tagline.

by space at September 17, 2001 9:14 PM

And since the grammar bitch has fallen silent: that's not what "prurient" means.

by space at September 17, 2001 9:24 PM

actually, the US (via the CIA) has deposed numerous democratic governments...

in indonesia, sukano was deposed and replaced with suharto, just because sukano was left-leaning.

in i`ran in the 1950's, the cia deposed a left-leaning, democratically elected govenment.

the south american examples are too numerous to mention...

notice the trend...

by minja ninjarama at September 18, 2001 7:46 AM

Oh yeah, I mean we've done it dozens of times when it was in our "interests . . ." I just meant, generally, our reaction to this crisis is an oppertunity to bring in some ideas that are at least better than what they have now.

by Charles at September 18, 2001 11:59 PM

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by ali at October 24, 2006 3:01 PM

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