Love and Peace in an Age of Madness

Holy crap, the Moscow train bombings really just bring it all back home again, don’t they? How the Hell are people supposed to remain peaceful and kind when faced with monstrous acts that can occur randomly and without warning?

I was originally writing this to say that old warfare meant battlefields and strategy and that civilian areas were by and large kept cleaner than those battlefields. You worked to keep the fight out of the city, or to break your enemy by taking the city.

But then I had to ask myself honestly, hasn’t war always been this messy? Yes. Look at the bombing of Dresden – it was a factory town, but approximately 100,000 people lost their lives in one action. Not soldiers, either.

Look at World War I, where France basically lost an entire generation. Look at the campaigns of Alexander and Napoleon. Look at the Romans, period.

Let’s be honest. The concept of a ‘clean war’ with few or no civilian casualties is the product of marketing campaigns from defense technology companies who want to be accepted in a softer, friendlier post-Hippie world. We’ll launch missiles that emit a fragrant pine scent while obliterating a hard target!

Now, we didn’t necessarily go after civilians, but pre-Vietnam we didn’t blink if they were in the way of a target. Civilian deaths could also prompt a quicker end to a war; break the people down to the point that the rulers eventually have to follow.

But the intentional killing of an innocent populace for political goals would be kept largely “in-house” in the past. The most bloodthirsty in history, like Stalin or Pol Pot, kept their slaughters within their borders to box in their opponents who would play by rules of non-interference when possible. While it didn’t make their acts more palatable, people unwilling to go to war over it could at least ignore it.

In the tactics of today’s global terrorist, incinerating women and children is a desired goal in and of itself because anyone “of the enemy” is the enemy. And since we’re moving to a ‘global society’ where national borders mean less (if anything at all) then we can expect this type of insanity to spread as well. Because when you take the borders away from the madmen, they’re going to run free – without fences the mad dogs will attack.

So do we become monsters to destroy the monsters? Putin swore that those responsible for the slaughter would in turn be slaughtered. (I’ll be interested to see if he’s pilloried as much as W was when he said basically the same thing.) Is that the answer?

The only way to break the Japanese in WWII, after all, was to drop not one, but two atom bombs on them to make sure they got the point. And they still made a condition of their surrender that we wouldn’t prosecute Hirohito. Think about that. They were still speaking about conditional surrender after two atom bombs. And our current enemies not only don’t fear death, they consider it a personal goal. One of them was willing to light his junk on fire to try to blow up a plane on Christmas. There is nothing that could convince me to light my junk on fire. Nothing.

It’s one of the greatest internal struggles I have. Logically, it makes sense to eradicate your enemies when they pose a threat. Spiritually, I’m very much of the opinion that we need to love our enemies and work to change their lives so that anger and hatred are not so much a part.

But it’s like we’re not speaking the same language. We probably never will. How can we? The people recruiting the bombers are pure, unadulterated evil. The bombers being recruited are destitute and largely uneducated. And if we can’t speak the same language, what option do we have except to harden up and strike viciously. Not surgically, but without remorse and without quarter.

I don’t want that to be the answer, though. Everything about my theology and my heart screams that it shouldn’t be the case. But how else can we destroy a vicious monster than to strike it viciously?

I’m open to suggestions.


6 thoughts on “Love and Peace in an Age of Madness

  1. We not only bombed German cities with high civilian populations during WWII, but we targeted them because we were desperate and needed get an edge over the Germans. I don’t hear anyone bitching about that. If we want to preserve our way of life in the long run, we have to be willing to get our hands dirty. It is simple. Defend yourself or become someone else’s bitch.

    1. Logically, I agree. Where you and I will differ is spiritually/morally. That’s not a jab; I think I’m much more guided by religious tenets than you, which is just a difference in POV. I’m by no means a touchy-feely Dr. Phil type on this front.

      Also, Dresden and even Hiroshima were at the very least tangible factory targets. We weren’t just saying let’s kill as many people as possible – we were saying let’s blow up the factory and if some people die, too…well, TS. The key difference now is that the terrorists – be they IRA, al Qaida or Chechens – view the slaughter in and of itself as the goal. To rise to that specific challenge – to get soldiers to, say simply walk into a crowded market somewhere in Iran and blow up some poor person just trying to survive who needs to get a couple of grapefruits or might just want to get into work so that they can wrap up the day – is a frightening thought because eventually if you rise to a monstrous enough level you lose your soul n exchange.

      I’ll accept and admit, though, that we’re too focused on the idea of a bloodless war now. They’re just not possible. Once you commit, you have to accept that you have to make some tough and bloody decisions and just pray they’re the right ones to bring it to a quicker end.

  2. “But the intentional killing of an innocent populace for political goals would be kept largely “in-house” in the past. The most bloodthirsty in history, like Stalin or Pol Pot, kept their slaughters within their borders to box in their opponents who would play by rules of non-interference when possible. While it didn’t make their acts more palatable, people unwilling to go to war over it could at least ignore it.”

    This is only true if you omit the single most barbaric episode against civilians and non-combatants in modern history.

    Nothing, and I mean nothing – not Dauchau, not Dresden, not the Killing Fields, not the purges, not 9-11 – compares to the barbarism of Nanjing.


    1. Fair point. The Rape of Nanking is on a psychological scale that I can hardly approach. I’d hope that it’s the exception that proves the rule. I could be wrong about that.

      Its omission is a great point as well. I left it out of my thinking unintentionally, but now that you’ve mentioned it I realize that it’s a typically unacknowledged historical point. In a way you could say it’s amazing that the finer points of Japanese cultural history tend to get highlighted while its sins get largely overlooked. I’d dub it ‘The Samurai Effect.’

  3. There’s a theory that the US didn’t press Japan too hard upon their surrender because we wanted to avoid their falling to communism, while the PRC and China didn’t retaliate too hard because they were desperate for the post-war trade relationship.

    Forgive me for being obnoxious in my first post. I just got back from China yesterday and the visit to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial was, frankly, scarring. To tell you the truth, Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking” is actually more brutal (but somehow also more balanced than what they tell you in the museum). I actually was reduced to tears while reading it…….it’s just un-flipping-believable.

    Getting back on point, its interesting to consider how the context of the broader question of your post would have been shifted if the US had dropped those bombs in retaliation for Japanese crimes against humanity, rather than in retaliation for an act of war against our military base.

    1. The theory I’d heard was that they were just bats*** insane enough to keep fighting if we went after Hirohito.

      You weren’t obnoxious by my read in your first post, because you had a good point.

      The saddest part is that there were all sorts of ‘reasons to drop the bombs’, but I think that it really boiled down to the fact that we had to justify the investment and prove the theories.

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