Wars are like heated arguments, a disagreement that turns into a clash of egos. Many times, conflicts spin out of control deviating far away from the original point of disagreement. It is inefficient, a waste of energy and resources but yet we indulge in it. After all, winning egoistical battles and turning vindictive victors are what many gain much utility and satisfaction from. We like to believe that wars are no longer prevalent after world wars of the past century. But conflicts and bloodshed continues unabated in lands that we didn’t hear much from. This century, terrorism brings a renewed focus on the dichotomy between the West and the Middle East. Here we are again, disagreeing, fighting and killing those who oppose us.
Winning Battles, Not Wars
The United States has been the main driver behind the fight against terror and also the bringer of conflicts to many portions of the Middle East. Yet, no one can undoubtedly say they won any of the recent wars they fought. Yes, Osama has been killed, Saddam Hussein executed and the Taliban has, in a sense, receded from Afghanistan. But has the United States simply dethroned the current alleged heads of terror just to breed new ones?
No one can undoubtedly say that the United States and its allies won any of recent the wars they fought.
I have been keeping up with the BBC World Service on a daily basis and have been listening in to many programs where journalists talk to the citizens of the affected countries on ground zero. What I hear is a stunning contrast against what most mass media outlets usually depict. Many homes, civilians and innocent bystanders have not just been inconvenienced but killed in raids that target terrorists. This is not unexpected when one considers the modulos operandi of most forms of terrorism. However, the fallout from using heavy weaponry against such targets are high.
The Obama administration has jumped on the heavy utilization of Air Drones to take out targets. It’s a smart move on their end because you don’t risk your own soldiers and drones can go to places where normal operations can’t. Yet, these drones have not been as surgically precise as the United States would have you believe.
What would you do if your family was brutally butchered because they happened to be collateral damage?
Remote pilots of these drones have admitted that it is very easy to mistakenly hit a civilian. A retired pilot revealed on the World Service that he nearly fired a missile on a child. Accidents have occured and too many of them have gone under the radar. An interview with a Pakistani man who lost his entire family to a drone attack portrayed a grieving husband, father and son who does not understand why his family was not given a chance to live. None of the them had links to terrorism but were wiped out by Hellfire missiles sprayed at the area next to their home because intelligence reports suggested that some targets were nearby. He vowed revenge and who can blame him? What would you do if your family was brutally butchered because they happened to be collateral damage?
It is situations like these that we must ask ourselves if we are using the wrong tools and approaches in solving critical issues that have repercussions worldwide.
The Much Overlooked Art of Persuasion
There are two ways to end an argument or a war. You can knock your opponent out cold (both literally or figuratively) or you can persuade him to join your side without force. There are times when you have to resort to a violent end. World War 2 needed two atomic bombs that bore unimaginable atrocities to cause an immediate surrender. Similarly, many murders are the violent conclusions of arguments that crossed boundaries where peaceful resolutions could no longer be found. But do the so called victors truly feel a sense of victory? Or is it more of a successful suppression?
I am an argumentative person by nature and that’s how I landed up in debating teams and such. In the years after turning 20, I learnt that a subtle persuasive approach is often a lot more effective in yielding results without needing much effort. Yes, you can go for the jugular and argue for hours before finally agreeing to disagree. This is a complete waste of time because the issue is left unresolved and you can be sure the same conflict will reappear in time.
Pakistan’s 14 year old Malala Yousafzai has done what brute force failed to. Her staunch yet peaceful defense of the right for girls to attend school caused her to be shot in the head by Taliban forces. Thankfully, she is alive and recovering. The brave yet peaceful actions of this young girl is the silver bullet against the Taliban – a bullet that millions of spent U.S. marked ammunition have failed to find.
Giving the population something to work towards, to build, cherish and hold is the single most effective method of preventing terrorism and other crimes.
Malala has embodied many elements of the problem that we should be solving. These include improvements in the lives of citizens and ensuring economic opportunities in nations that are bereft of them. Crime commonly sprouts from unemployment in many ways. Giving the population something to work towards, to build, cherish and hold is the single most effective method of preventing terrorism and other crimes. I do not understand how using brute force actually solves such problems in the long run. Silencing is not winning. All silencing does is to create a far greater response in the near future.
Too Idealistic and Not Realistic?
It may not be realistic to believe that every conflict can be resolved by persuasion and aligning intrinsic sources of motivation to nudge your opponent to your side. Nevertheless, wars only come to a true end that way. You only know that a disagreement is put to bed when you can return to a normal cordial relationship with your opponent.
It is ironic that the short term vindictive egoistical desires often cloud our longer term needs for peace and stability. Maybe this is what makes mankind so interesting. Maybe we only desire peace after we have gone through periods of strife and insecurity.
Wars that don’t end in peace breed new enemies.
Nonetheless, one can only hope that foreign policy makers would better utilize the domestic needs of their counterparts in resolving conflicts. Wars that don’t end in peace breed new enemies. Understanding this might be useful the next time we have the urge to argue and not persuade.