November 27, 2008

Let's drop the labels "terror" and "terrorist". They are useless. Terror has always been a tool of war, "ours" as well as "theirs" -- and the attack on five-star hotels in Mumbai is war, make no mistake.

There is nothing righteous about war, ours or theirs. War is a form of negotiation, and negotiations are always best undertaken from a position of strength. For weaker entities, guerrilla tactics have always been the way to recover that strength. It is only the most powerful countries which reject guerrilla tactics, and then only while they remain in a position of power. From Lao Tsu onward, the first rule of war has always been never to fight a battle on ground of the enemy's choosing. Why assume that those who happen not to fight on our side ought to be stupid?

Guerrilla tactics are often derided in the mass media of the targeted peoples as "cowardly". We see here the use of yet another tool of war. Propaganda needs not be state-run to support one side in a conflict by shaping popular opinion. He who shapes the message wins the war. But if we should think for a moment that our message alone is the rational one and must inevitably dominate: take another look at what just happened in Mumbai.

If you are reading this without translation, odds are very good that your country is among those caught up in that war in one manner or another, even if you don't happen to reside in the United States or Great Britain. World War II did not initiate war as industry, but it may have been one of the first times industry was visibly driven by war: and that this was to be condoned as the shape of things to come became especially clear after the German industrialists were spared when Nuremberg II was cancelled. (Consider now the true role of the political leader vs. that of the multinational industry leader.) What has just taken place in India is only another expression of what is rapidly becoming a world war in the most literal sense, one which will almost certainly last at least a generation if not longer.

It would be tempting to see this solely as a legacy of United States president George W. Bush, but that would be overly simplistic. If we no longer find military conflict along the ideological divide between capitalism and communism, still we do find a powerful ideological divide along essentially economic lines, which happens just now to express as materialism vs. puritanism. We ought to recognise this line in the sand. Most modern western nations were founded on a variant of the same theme.

Have we really seen true peace at any point since the end of World War II, or have we permanently devolved into a state of localised and all too temporary ceasefires?

It remains only to determine at what point this particular negotiation will be abandoned by one side or the other as being too personally costly. There may even be several separate, isolated breaks, each of which will be called a "win": which makes it even less likely that any of us will be forced to face "losing", and consequently less likely that any of us will be forced into any real incentive into actually ending this. Simply invoking overwhelming force to trample down all resistance does just the opposite. Shouldn't that be another of the lessons taught us by the resistance movements of the Second World War?

Then again, by giving us a constant environment of uncertainty and always ensuring the continuing existence of another who can be blamed, perpetual war has a certain safety about it.

None of which makes it any easier on the dead and wounded, or on any of those who have now seen personally what war really is. Still, maybe if there were more people around the world who understood the realities of war, there might be more of a will to bring war to a true end.

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