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9 Years After 9-11, Justice on an International Scale

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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.

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