The logic of war, the logic of peace.


We are shocked by the images of American and British troops abusing and torturing Iraqi detainees, but in fact, we should not be shocked that these things are occurring.  They are the natural consequence of what we may call “the logic of war”.  In order to go to war and “win” a war, it is necessary to build an intense hostility or anger towards the enemy.  This was done by our government by their repeated insistence on a link between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government.  This was instilled so pervasively that a strong majority of Americans favored the war in Iraq on the grounds that we were striking back at those who attacked us.   Even today a majority of Americans still believe there was a direct link and they believe therefore that the war in Iraq is basically “payback” under the theory of “an eye for an eye”, rather than the Christian ethic of “turn the other cheek”.


The fact is that the decision to go to war inevitably unleashes a logic of its own that leads inevitably to abuses at the point where enemies face off against each other.  Whether it is the killing of civilians in indiscriminate bombing, or sweeps to take all young men out of a neighborhood by force, or the type of brutal sadistic images that we see in the jail scenes currently being broadcast around the world, we still see the “logic of war” carried out in basically a predictable sequence.


What war in history was unaccompanied by rape, pillage, looting, humiliation of the losers, and torture?


When we add our nation’s fixation on saving our troops from harm at any cost, it is clear that the normal logic of warfare now is taken to the extreme of eliciting information from detainees by virtually “any means necessary”.


As we see in the war crimes trial of Milosevic, the leader of a country is held responsible for the war crimes of the troops on the ground by virtue of setting in motion a sequence of events that is essentially inevitable and predictable.  We cannot shuffle off responsibility by claiming that this is the action of an irresponsible few sadistic guards.  In fact, as this situation unfolds, we shall inevitably find out that they acted under various types of “orders” from higher ups or from intelligence officers, and that the problem is far more widespread than just six or seven guards, but it permeates our entire approach to dealing with the enemy detainees in Iraq.


All of this is what we might characterize as the “logic of war”.


If we want to build a stable and secure world, however, we must find a way to move away from the “logic of war” to the “logic of peace”.


The ”logic of peace” is based on the idea that rather than using brute force to achieve our ends, with its inevitable consequences of individuals who get “out of control” and create situations that stir up resentment through imposing humiliation on people, it is necessary to understand and respond to the underlying needs and motivations of people all around the world and create a current of good will, mutual support and willingness to honor and respect others.  For far less than the cost of a war, we could provide opportunities for people throughout the Muslim world to have hope, create economic opportunities for their future, and give them the ability to build their own institutions in their own way, with a showing of good will from our side.  As the majority of the people begin to respond to this open-hearted method, it takes the fire out of the hearts of the people, refocuses their efforts on building their own future, and replaces hatred with gratitude.  This in turn removes the fuel from the fire of extremist recruitment, and eventually, we can see a path toward world peace rather than world conflagration.


The problem with the “logic of peace” from the viewpoint of America however is that it would imply that Americans need to live in a world of shared resources.  In a time where Americans devour far more than their fair share of the world’s resources, and create far more than their share of the world’s pollution and devastation, there can in fact be no peace, because there is no balance or harmony.  Rather than take the attitude that the rest of the world is there to serve us, which is basically the logic of empire, we need to begin to understand that all beings on the planet have both the right and the need to survive, and if we refuse to recognize this basic principle of existence, we will have to fight to maintain our control and domination, which is where we are locked in at the present moment.


With a slight change in viewpoint, it would be relatively simply to begin the process of the “logic of peace”.  The first step is for us to confront our own wasteful and decadent concepts of mass consumption and begin to change in the way we use energy and water, in the way we create waste and pollution, and in the way we drive our economy on artificially developed “needs” and “desires”.  We should begin to put in place mechanisms of conservation, healthy respect and gratitude for the bounty of the Divine that has been showered on us, and good will toward all others regardless of their race, creed, religious conviction or philosophical background.


In such an atmosphere, we would do well to work on reviving the values of family, community, culture and personal growth, and turn our attention away from mindless desire and consumption for the sake of consumption.  We may even find that the logic of peace pays dividends, not just around the world, but right here in our own communities, in our cities, and in the quality of the environment within which we live and breathe.


The first step in creating a “logic of peace” is to recognize the necessity for such a step.  The second step is to make sure that we begin to implement the right actions into our own lives and that we demand this level of intelligent leadership from our leaders—that we abandon the politics of fear and incitement to hatred, and begin to reach out across time, space and culture to people across the world with understanding, good will and support.


Santosh Krinsky

May 3, 2004