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"In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior." -Sir Francis Bacon
Today, as on most days since Al Qaeda's surprise attacks on the U.S. five years ago, my thoughts turn to war. Not any war in particular - and there are certainly more than enough from which to choose - but rather, the insanity of war in general.
For as we look today at a Middle East rapidly spiraling toward a wider and more devastating level of regional violence, it seems only rational to give voice to the fundamental question, "What good is being accomplished?" That basic query is the one which should be foremost on the mind of an enlightened society, any enlightened society, in its search for a solution to human conflict.
"Little, vicious minds abound with anger and revenge..." -Earl of Chesterfield
But, sadly, it is the single important question that has been left intentionally unanswered, willfully ignored and glossed over by petty leaders around the globe, who too often are consumed only by self-righteous justifications for their policies of murderous revenge against an "evil" enemy - even when they've had a hand, however slight, in creating that enemy to begin with.
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." -Confucius
So what will be accomplished, realistically, by a continuation of the killing in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel, or an expansion of that bloodletting to Syria, or Iran? To me, the only guaranteed outcome will be a perpetual cycle of revenge, a never-ending pattern of guttural, animal lust to strike back at those who've struck "first."
And why not? For each dead Lebanese child or parent or lover or friend, it's only logical to assume that there will be at least two survivors who will dedicate themselves to the destruction of Israel 'til their last breath. Just as every civilian death in Tel Aviv or Haifa or Jerusalem has left in its wake an Israeli devoted to the total eradication of those even obliquely responsible for the senseless slaughter.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." -Mahatma Gandhi
Which leaves me wondering: How does either side in a cycle of revenge really believe that war will solve the problem? That it will win allies and converts to "the cause"? That it will do anything other than affirm the grievances of the opposing party, and push millions of moderate thinkers from a place of rational and nuanced thought to one convinced of the "necessity" of tit-for-tat vengeance?
Where are the great statesmen, I fret rhetorically, who will strive for Francis Bacon's "superior" behavior, those who would see the bigger picture and seek restrained, long-term, peaceful solutions, rather than the quick and facile squeezing of an arbitrarily pointed trigger? Rotten luck for all of us that leaders of that caliber are in woefully short supply.
"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also." -Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 3:39)
And what of our own Dear Leader, whose unwarranted military escapade continues its own downward spiral in Iraq? The belligerent, violent policies and actions of our Administration in its crusade to "spread democracy" at the working end of an M-16 have made us no safer from acts of terror. They have only unleashed a deepening hatred of America throughout the Islamic world, glibly exacerbating very real problems and misunderstandings by perpetuating that cycle of revenge instead of working to interrupt it.
While the attacks of September 11, 2001 were a shocking, inexcusable act of callous murder, they were not the "unmistakable act of war" our leaders self-servingly made them out to be. They were a desperate and despicable use of violence by a motley band of criminal fanatics, for publicity, for spectacle.
Of course, the perpetrators and planners deserved swift and decisive justice for their crimes. But, as of this writing, they are still roaming free, their pursuit abandoned by a group of small-minded would-be despots with delusions of broader world conquest and subjugation.