On the eve of the 9th anniversary of 9-11, reflection is in order. What were the lessons we learned from this tragic event, and what lessons have we yet to learn? Perhaps giving consideration to how unitive and punitive justice play out on an international scale can provide helpful insight.
Whether a few individuals are locked in conflict or millions of people are involved, the unitive and punitive models of justice show up with equal clarity. Our history books are full of examples.
What happened at the end of World War I and World War II provides a concrete example of how duality, retribution and vengeance lead to more war, while Oneness, generosity, inclusion and forgiveness lead to peace.
World War I was launched when Germany attacked with a vengeance and wrought havoc upon the continent of Europe. The death and destruction was devastating. As the war escalated, the U.S. was drawn into the conflict.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson told the U.S. Congress that a Declaration of War by the U.S. against Germany was necessary in order that the world "be made safe for democracy." U.S. forces were then instrumental in defeating the Germans.
Out of the ashes of war, a fledgling liberal democracy was established by the 1919 German constitution, but supporting it was not high on the Allies' agenda.
When the Treaty of Versailles that concluded World War I was being negotiated in Paris in 1919, the allied leaders knew that imposing reparations on Germany that were too burdensome for Germans to repay meant more conflict was inevitable. But the people of the victorious nations wanted vengeance. In Britain, posters read, "Make the Huns pay!"
Faced with the unpopular choice of granting Germany the leniency that was necessary to sustain its democracy, or serving their political interests by giving the voters what they demanded, the Allied leaders chose political expediency. They sought retribution and revenge. Had they done otherwise, their political opponents would have labeled them "soft" on the Germans. They saw this as political suicide.
As a result, the Treaty of Versailles demanded unrealistically high reparations from Germany for the destruction its war machine had caused. It forbade Germany to have a military and paved the way for later French occupation of a portion of its land. This precluded Germany's recovery, undermined political stability and left its people angry, in pain and fearful. The consequences were predictable.
Hitler offered the German people what they wanted: retribution for the wrongs they perceived were being done to them. Had Germany been offered a measure of forgiveness at the end of WWI, democracy would have survived and Hitler would have been deprived of the conditions needed for him to become Fuhrer of the Third Reich.
Under a democracy inGermany, six million Jews and untold numbers of gypsies, homosexuals and the mentally impaired would not have been exterminated. Thousands of soldiers would not have died in the next war. How do we know? The evidence lies in what happened at the end of World War II.
Aid offered after World War II to all the war-torn nations of Europe, including the enemy, Germany, demonstrates how different the outcome can be when vengeance is relinquished in favor of restoration and reconciliation.
The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration helped millions of World War II refugees, and was instrumental in achieving European postwar recovery. Through the Marshall Plan, the United States spent billions of dollars on economic and technical assistance to help the recovery of the European countries that shared our system of representative democracy and free market economy, which included postwar West Germany. It helped establish an environment that promoted European integration by reducing tariff trade barriers and setting up continental-wide institutions to coordinate the economy.
In a relatively short time, the economy of Western Europehad grown beyond prewar levels. Only West Germany lagged behind, but eventually it, too, caught up and excelled.
The United States instituted a program similar to the Marshall Plan inJapan, the other major World War II enemy. By joining the Allies in stopping the bloodshed, then commencing programs of restoration, without seeking retribution, the United States helped its former foes recover.
Out of remorse in Germany and Japan arose a commitment to be good neighbors. Democracy flourished in both countries, and they became strong U.S. allies. Germany became a leader in the European Union, and the small nation of Japan became one of the world's strongest economies.