Posts Tagged ‘pacifism’

June 6, 1944

June 6, 2014

imagesOn this day 70 years ago the greatest invasion force in the history of the world, led by the United States of America, set out to liberate Europe from barbarism.

My father, and my wife’s father, though they did not hit the Normandy beaches on D-Day, did sacrifice years of their lives and took part in the overall enterprise. I salute them, and all those like them who (unlike me) made such sacrifices, including the ultimate one. But if I had been one of those men jumping from landing craft at Normandy, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have lasted two minutes. In fact, many never even made it as far as the beach.

Bumper stickers saying, “War Is Not The Answer,” or “War Never Solves Anything” are puerile. War isn’t always the answer, and doesn’t solve everything – but sometimes it is, and does. Diplomacy could not have rescued Europe from the Nazis; nor freed America’s slaves (nor will it free Syria from Assad). images-1Sometimes the reality of the human condition requires us to face up to hard choices, and not wish them away with shallow pieties. It isn’t noble to renounce violence and leave the world at the mercy of those who don’t.

In his March 28 West Point speech, President Obama (otherwise so fond of “false choice” rhetoric) drew a false choice between war and no war. images-3Nobody is suggesting we rampage into, say, Syria, or Ukraine, with boots on the ground and guns blazing. Yet plenty could have been done*, short of “blundering into war,” to prevent or at least moderate the indisputable crumbling of international order and security that has occurred on Obama’s watch. His assertion of undiminished American global puissance was ludicrous empty swagger. The world knows that actions speak louder than words.

Obama also said terrorism is our biggest threat. images-5How foolish. The threats that can really harm America include that mentioned crumbling, of the paradigm that has until lately kept peace among big powers; flagging support for economic openness and trade; rising authoritarianism; climate change; and humanity’s age-old nemeses of disease, ignorance, hunger, and intolerance. Meantime, at home, America’s political paralysis and failure to tackle fiscal imbalances presage economic ruin.

Terrorism? images-4Its main threat is provoking yet more over-reaction, and distracting us from those other far more dangerous challenges.

We rose to the challenge on D-Day. Would we do it again today?

* We still have not answered Ukraine’s plea for military aid to suppress Russian-instigated thuggery; nor fulfilled Obama’s previous promise of aid to Syria’s rebels. His 3/28 speech re-promised it. Three years ago it might actually have made a difference and advanced our interests.



Albany Peace Project: Peace Through Magical Thinking

November 18, 2013

I recently reviewed Steven Pinker’s excellent book about why violence is declining. But one thing he failed to take into account was the power of wishing it.

My friend Frank Zollo alerted me to the local Albany Peace Project (APP; click here), pushing three of my buttons: pacifism, supernaturalism, and pseudoscience. A perfect trifecta. Unknown

I’m no war lover; I hate war. But I also hate pacifism because it’s an empty sanctimony that only serves to evade the real and difficult issues human conflict entails. As the one-time pacifist Christopher Hitchens eventually came to realize, there are things worth fighting for (and against); and pacifism would make the world safe for non-pacifists willing to use violence to gain their ends.

APP manages to compound the misguidedness of pacifism by adding paranormal nonsense and pseudoscience. APP is seeking participants “to meditate/pray/focus intention together for 15 minutes a day for the month of January 2014 while sending peaceful intentions to the City of Albany.” APP expects this will reduce crime rates, and plans to conduct research to document this. Its website says dozens of studies, many published in peer reviewed journals, suggest that meditation by a “small amount (sic) of people” positively affects an entire population.images

One example promin-ently discussed is a 9/11 10th anniversary “peace experiment” which was “especially beautiful” because “it began with a bilateral forgiveness ceremony.” Participants beamed “healing inten-tions” to lower violence in two Afghan provinces. And guess what? Attacks and casualties subsequently went down! Post hoc ergo propter hoc!

Translation: “after which, therefore because of which” — one of the commonest thinking errors. X happening after Y doesn’t mean Yimages-3 caused X. In the Afghan case, if violence decreased after the prayer fest, that doesn’t prove the latter caused it; you’d have to investigate what might have changed in the military/strategic situation. Duh.

A similar case discussed on APP’s website was Sri Lanka’s long vicious civil war, whose violence was allegedly reduced by a 2008 “peace intention experiment.” But possibly an intensive 2008-09 military offensive, that crushed the rebels, ended the war, and pacified the country, also had something to do with it.

APP cites a host of other studies, supposedly also documenting mental doings reducing violence. They are bogus, prima facie. images-6Invariably studies like this are shown to be faulty, often simply from the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy, as in the examples above, and sometimes from simple fraud. That was true of a famous study purporting to show that praying for heart patients improved their outcomes. It was phony. (So was a study claiming prayer helped in-vitro fertilization; one con man responsible went to prison.)

Much though people have long striven mightily to produce such a result, there has never been any scientifically valid evidence for any sort of extrasensory or paranormal phenomenon. Nothing happening in your brain can have any effects outside the confines of your skull. Period. Only actions can do so. images-1

I am an optimist and do believe that positive thinking leads to better action. But that’s not the same as wishful thinking. Belief that praying for peace will bring it about is wishful thinking. The world does not work that way. Unknown-1