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February 26, 2006|
540 Post Office Nantou Box 7-100
Jonghsing, Nantou City, Taiwan 54099 ROC
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Following is my reaction to your paper on Glenn Paige's Nonkilling thesis and political science research.
I want to start with an apology to you for being so unprepared to make an immediate response to your review of Glenn's work. It is outstanding, not because it reflects my views, which it does, but because it talks about a pain in the human spirit that runs as an undercurrent in human thought and occasionally boils up like the unconscious blasting through from the bones to the skin surface like a chemical reaction to a deep seated injury to the body.
Killing is not simply a phenomenon of human life but comprises an element of programming in human cultures around the globe. It is one thing that killing occurs. It is entirely another thing that we cultivate the practice like farming and machining and fashioning products and services. We depict it in the arts and humanities as a way of life, often in a glorified manner when in fact it shows up as the ultimate expression of self-centeredness in expressing oneself as a human being. I don't condemn human beings for behaving in this way. I simply point out that it is dangerous behavior, to be extinguished in the interest of human safety. While we may choose to behave in certain ways, we cannot presume to choose the consequences of our behavior. You and Glenn are absolutely correct in posing a direct challenge to the pro-killing attitude in managing human affairs.
It is one thing for killing to be a byproduct of human interactions as error, entirely another thing to practice it as if it were a cultural norm or otherwise as a desired outcome in an exercise of dominance. It is important that we understand the difference between behavior designed to ensure dominance and behaving to exercise and multiply power and empower in an exponential manner in our human relationships. Power is life and the promotion of life and action, not the engineering of death threatening and death-dealing domineering as a project of life.
Glenn Paige has exercised true leadership in his profession of leaders and scientists saying in the loudest way possible, STOP THIS LETHAL NONSENSE! It is like a doctor telling a depressed patient, "Stop being depressed?" when seeing his patient developing the self - demeaning and de-powering mindset. I remember as a kid learning how to swim. I held onto the edge of the pool - I did not believe I could float by myself on the water. When my grandmother came by the pool and dunked me as she was passing by, I was at first quite angry and then suddenly I realized I was floating by myself. I was alright. I could swim and I could help others swim, perhaps not in such a drastic way - but it did get my attention and got me out of a rut where my life was constrained by fear I could not survive in the water alone. Perhaps that is what the profession of political science has gotten into - a rut - of lethality being so second nature that the academic and scientific communities don't seriously examine programmed killing in a meaningful scientific, academic manner, consistent with the highest standards of scholarship. I am glad people are starting to address this issue forcefully.
By failing to deal with the problem of lethalism (lethal culture of programmed killing) in a systematic, analytical manner, the profession loses the opportunity to exercise true leadership and influence in political affairs and leaves the field to self-centered partisan politics that spread the rot of lethal thought like a virus, infecting other academic disciplines, corrupting science, religion, philosophy, and ordinary transactions within global society with programmed killing dogma. From a professional standpoint, the political science profession cannot afford to become suborned to a political method or ideology or it risks losing its integrity as a community of thinkers that deserves public or private support. The world community needs political scientists to behave like the intellectual leaders they are, not as if they are a community of slaves to a biased mindset supporting dangerous outcomes of a given human or institutional interaction.
A reasonable perspective, in my view, is to treat programmed violence and killing as a private and public health problem, requiring remedial action and preventive measures, as a preventable disease. One can draw examples to analogize, such as Avian Flu and SARS which have been traced to dangerous disease promoting animal killing practices in the production of exotic food and medicine in Southern China, a region dubbed by scientists the Petri dish of the world for the spread of human flu viruses. The fact that the government of China has attempted to shut down live animal markets indicates that the price for tolerating such behavior is increasingly perceived as untenable.
Programmed killing in readiness to cope with violence from rape to holocaust is a flawed intellectual concept because it is based on guesswork and speculation about the nature of human beings and human transactions. I remember addressing the issue of "last resort" in my essay about the impending Iraq regime change war. I argued that the anti-war movement was falling into a trap by embracing arguments that the U.S was not using force as a last resort when it was planning to implement a military solution. I argued that the Bush Administration was prepared to argue that it could not afford to be drawn into indefinite speculation in a situation where its intelligence about Iraq's military capabilities and intentions was limited. What the opposition is left with is conclusion (a) that the administration is negligent and incompetent; (b) the administration is a bunch of liars seeking an underhanded solution to a political problem. The opposition was left with no influence and openly expressed its irritation and frustration with the Bush and Blair Administrations.
I argued that such polemics fail to substitute for quality analytical thinking. A Canadian government official called President Bush "stupid" because she disagreed with his position on prosecuting the war in Iraq, also opposed by the Canadian Liberal Party leadership. Bush has also been labeled a latter day "Adolf Hitler" and the most dangerous man in the world. When a friend of mine expressed dismay at being American because George Bush was reelected after no weapons of mass destruction were found, Bin Laden remaining uncaptured, a raging post-war campaign of violence in Iraq, Abu Graib, Rendition, Guantanamo detentions, I suggested that he begin really thinking about the question "Why didn't these "outrages" turn the American public against George Bush? Does the Bush faction have a point of view that has a fundamental appeal to "decent" human beings, despite pitiful media poll numbers? Is it possible that while we argue under what circumstances the country's politicians are able to call for programmed killing behavior by our military, we are failing to give ourselves, our politicians and our military the equipment, training, technologies, and philosophies - even the religious or theological bases that can help us formulate nonkilling solutions even in the most dangerous and difficult circumstances?
This partisan political attitude toward lethal war, in which we debate circumstances of using lethal means, as opposed to examining lethality itself as a phenomenon only highlights the dangerous way human beings treat themselves in this world and justifies a vigorous effort at prevention and remediation avoiding such shocks to the human conscience that brought out millions in demonstrations against the Iraq regime change war.
When its critics excoriated the Administration for going to war on faulty intelligence, it appears that the two sides were talking past each other because the Administration argued that it was precisely the problem with limited intelligence that made the decision for lethal war appropriate. The Administration argued that it was foolish to assume Saddam did not pose a threat because the Administration did not have good intelligence about Saddam. It was up to Saddam to prove he was not plotting a long distance war against the US and that he had no means to conduct such a war with unconventional weapons of mass destruction.
The intellectual construct in the administration was programming for lethal war, possibly driven by paranoia, but in any case reasoned and rationalized. Once people argued on this basis, the debate became when and under what circumstances to kill, the anti-war movement didn't have a chance. The anti-war forces seemed to have pinned their hopes on continued sanctions and weapons inspections to stop a military assault on a regime well known for its brutality on its own people. When an anti-war or peace movement is prepared to oppose lethal military measures against a brutal dictatorship, it has to be prepared to establish unquestioned moral authority for its stance- a stance that implies support for justice and clear opposition to inequity and oppression. In this, the anti-war movement was in a rather ambiguous moral position.
Indeed, the arguments against the war tended to be narrow centered on questions of whether the war was justified by national and international security needs. Fundamental relief for Iraqis from oppression by the regime seems to have been bogged down or ignored as people fought over whether the international community was threatened by the regime. Such is the tragedy of war debate driven by national security and legalisms while injustice and oppression and programmed killing arising out of Saddam's injustice and oppression were unaddressed.
The upshot is that the anti-war movement was a late awakening phenomenon stimulated by the fact that many people failed to understand the Administration's argument that it was part of the war on terror. In fact, many have condemned President Bush's thinking as conducive to engineering dangerous conflict in the service of narrow perceptions of interest. Yet condemnation is not necessarily effective argument. An effective argument had to be based on a consistent moral and public policy theme grounded in solid fundamentals of thought in managing human and international relationships. US policy over many years had been pushing the nation in the direction of a confrontation with Iraq and Iraqi policy did likewise. This statement is not made as a condemnation but an observation, an observation that programmed killing would and did become a part of the policies of both nations in handling their dispute. The pro-war and anti-war factions were ill-equipped to avoid the conflict. The Saddam regime similarly was unable or unprepared to avoid the confrontation. The stage for tragedy was set.
By arguing that Saddam was not a threat unless the Administration proved otherwise, the polar opposite of the Administration's position, that it was up to Saddam to prove he was not a threat, it focused the argument not on the question of killing itself, which brought the parties - Iraq and the US- to the brink of war, but on the question of when and in what circumstances we could program killing behavior as a tactic or strategy in conflict. There is a built in assumption or presumption that favors killing tactics and facilitated the tragic suffering of Iraqis and Americans. .A nonkilling approach is specifically tailored to help decision-makers avoid accommodating or embracing tragedy in the pursuit of perceptions of their interests. Iraq's tragedy is indeed the world's tragedy and the very nature of tragedy is a failure of power and the phony triumph of the spirit of dominance and oppression.
Political scientists either had nothing new to offer President Bush to help him avoid armed conflict or the politicians and their staffs were not familiar with or prepared with adequate nonkilling thought to help Saddam and Iraq escape a war. Saddam himself predicated his political life on programmed killing and threats to kill and avoidance of his being killed to obtain and maintain dominance. Perhaps this is why he was not prepared to be up front about disarming, fearing his enemies' intrigues if they thought he was weak. Therefore it seems like the thought of the time on both sides was conducive for the two sides to have a train wreck that might have been avoided with reasonable care.
Governments including their militaries need assistance from political scientists in nonlethal wargaming to test nonkilling tactics and strategy with the means of dropping programmed killing as a tactic or strategy in conflict. Gene Sharp has made a heroic effort to compile a list of nonkilling actions that can be taken for purposes of defense without programmed killing. More help is needed. After the sanctions and the oil for food program disasters in Iraq, it is important that these failures get serious objective study to carry on further the magnificent efforts of Gene Sharp and others in the area of nonkilling alternatives - so as to avoid other miserable confrontations such as the Iraq conflict.
Certainly antiwar activists will and have justified their position against the Iraq regime change war on the basis of its enormous cost. People spend money for many reasons and not only because something makes economic sense. My thought is that people are emotionally tied to programmed killing practices as a means of acquiring and demonstrating and maintaining dominance. Money is a useful tool to buy lethal behavior in support of various objectives - whether for suicide bombers in Israel or cash for planting improvised explosive devices in Iraq. It would seem that someone believes there is a payoff in killing practice, economic or otherwise. Money has long been a lure for violent and lethal behavior.
I don't agree that money is the root of all evil. Money is simply a symbol of mastery and dominance over a given situation, circumstances, and environment and thus tends to reflect attitudes that suggest where money comes from and where it flows. Nevertheless, financial support for lethal policies and activity is a driver of violence accepting systems and behavior.
I agree that the nonkilling construct is philosophy, a spiritual - religious hypothesis, and a practical policy tool. It makes moral and analytical sense. I worry however that people have long made a distinction between moral values and peculiarly placed interests and have long concluded that there is a place for both nonviolence and violence and killing in support of peculiar interests. My view is that nonkilling is the norm and programmed killing a problem in itself.
As a linguistic proposition, Morality deals with life itself including the protection of life at its heart. Many people get the idea that morality is something that is imposed on people in an effort to exercise dominance and produce correct behaviors and products. Yet morality empowers and dominance oriented thought and action expresses a perception of a lack of power and a desire to influence others to give up power. Power cannot be collected like rainwater in a can. It can only be given away and thrown away.
As a teacher in a classroom, I have seen young students giving up power over their own lives in an effort to exercise dominance over their environment and over other people within a classroom. By doing so, they limit their choices in life inside and outside the classroom. This is the making of human tragedy. When we tout law in its social engineering aspects, we often fail to appreciate the operation of law as the outcome of tragedy, where people are penalized or deprived in an exercise of dominance by individuals and groups over individuals and groups and societies over individuals and groups. Thus dominance should be understood as denial of choice, denial of freedom, part of the institution of oppression and killing.
I would suggest that we seriously examine the very concept of morality as nonkilling, sustaining of life, supportive of life and as a warning of uncontrollable consequences. What is most insidious in crossing morality in our behavior is that there may be circumstances perhaps of grace where consequences that we might predict to happen do not happen as we might expect. At another time they could occur. Because we don't control consequences, we could add to an existing deception. Therefore, science - behavioral and otherwise - like anything else we do in life - should service moral values, not be exalted as co-extensive with morality.
My thought is that religious institutions historically have been mistrusted and condemned for moral hypocrisy - promoting war and killing and oppression. Christianity was co-opted as a state religion and fractured into quarreling and infighting over both matters of doctrine and the most venal corruption. Europe was torn apart by sectarian violence for many years. Islam fractured into Sunni, Shiite and Sufi denominations and over a 1300 year history Muslims have suffered enormously in conflict against each other and the Christian west and in conflicts with Hindus and Jews. Even Buddha images in Afghanistan were dynamited by Taliban that seemed to go out of its way to alienate people in the interest of promoting its beliefs by force of arms.. It is difficult to see a line between religious institutions and overly narrow self-centered political behavior poisoning the moral atmosphere and polluting relationships between people who after all may control what decisions they make but do not have a full understanding of and choice in the matter of consequences. Consequently, we humans are exceptionally vulnerable to deception and all the injury that goes along with lack of knowledge and control of the past and future. Moral leadership includes the education of the young of the importance of placing limits on themselves and influencing others to do likewise in a dangerous world.
In post Saddam Iraq, the ongoing religious institutional assaults against worshippers and mosques and clerics seem to be escalating in outrageous ferocity, symbolizing enormous disrespect and intolerance for religious practice and institutions - perhaps reflecting a consciousness that religious institutions are not guardians of morality but must be reflective of moral values to survive as credible institutions through which people can express their respect and love for life itself. The Islamic religious leadership of Iraq is torn and increasingly militarized and collectively is having great difficulty protecting the wider community. Tribal leadership and other institutions that might tend to exercise social control seem to be failing. A weak government seeking sectarian consensus is struggling to prevent civil war. Perhaps something here explains how a brutal leader like Saddam Hussein could develop and rule this unfortunate country. In any event, we need to work with Iraqis to address a moral and morale problem which requires all available tools including academic and scientific and political to open doors through which healing communications must flow.
Glenn Paige is correct in distinguishing nonkilling from nonviolence and peace. Nonkilling reflects the approach that killing not be the programmed consequence of any actions human beings take. Nonviolence deals with a tactic that may help avoid killing consequences in given transactions but this is not assured. Nonviolence tactics may indeed stimulate a lethal response. Peace implicates a time of freedom from war and conflict but where programmed killing lays dormant, deadly transactions are a program away.
Programmed killing results from choices we make but we can't choose the consequences of killing because we can't choose the past, can't choose the present, and can't choose the future. We choose only what to do in the present, using facts, perceptions, illusions, guesses, estimates, choices, we or others make - of past, present and future - to guide us. I remember hearing that Prime Minister Tony Blair, when recently asked about the wisdom of entering the Iraq regime change war indicated that history would be the ultimate judge of this. He maintained he felt he made the right decision at the time. Yet what is history but an imperfect and incomplete collection of facts about the past and the opinions of various people as to what is important and what is not important.
Blair's remarks made me think of a conversation I had with a Taiwanese friend that arose from my asking simple questions about his family history in the area where he was living. He indicated there was a lot he did not know. He remarked that prior to 1992 when Taiwan was under martial law, people were constrained in discovering and understanding history including even family history. Today, Taiwanese are struggling to uncover the truth about their land and its history - a history that includes fifty years of martial law, a White Terror, persecutions, mass jailings, disappearances of people, and allegations of tens of thousands of people being killed, a history which allegations have become the subject of reparations and lawsuits. What do we humans really know and understand about history?
It has been said that people who do not remember history are bound to repeat it. If this is indeed true, it is a poor prognosis for humanity, especially where oppression and programmed killing influence human conduct. With an unclear, incomplete understanding of the past and a future with prospects of deadly interactions we can only imagine, it seems reasonable that a good choice is to refrain from programmed killing as a behavior and product of our interactions.
Refraining from engaging in programmed killing is ultimately the best choice human beings can make because while we can't choose the future, we can help others impose limits on themselves and at least avoid contributing additional injury and damage from our own actions of programmed killing.
Thus we are not free to choose the consequences of programmed killing by engaging in this behavior. Others will make choices relating to the choice of killing. Mass killings or genocide policies may reflect consciousness of this. Indeed, the Iraqi killing campaign seems calculated to incite Shiites and Sunni Muslims to program killing between them.
Nuclear bombings in Japan wee designed to force Japan to stop fighting World War II. Yet for all the destruction, many Japanese soldiers were determined to fight on. Bin Laden made reference to the nuclear bombings as a justification for acts of horrendous violence and mass killing that his Al Quaida movement might conjure up.
This is why true power, as Spence (1995) stated, is given and can only be given away or thrown away. It can't be appropriated or taken by killing force or other oppressive means. There is only so much of it. Dominance is not a substitute for power and is not power in itself. It merely demonstrates the slavery to the instincts of frustration with human beings. In programmed killing, the very existence of human beings is a source of frustration and irritation, a goal being to eliminate the problem.
In the case of fighting invasions of a person's home or the Grand Mosque, Koranic scripture appears to provide the defender no option but to inflict death on the invader so long as fighting takes place. The invader makes the choice to invade and fight and therefore has no choice in the matter of consequences and has therefore failed to guard against danger. Neither does the victim have a choice in the matter of consequences. If the aggressor survives long enough to desist from fighting, it appears that the Muslim defender must desist from further attempts to kill and therefore cannot presume to control the consequences of the deadly deeds of the invader. (See Mohammad 47) Consequently, any programmed killing engaged in by Muslims - killing for any reason given - would appear to transgress the limits of the faith and be scripturally unIslamic.
I fear that honest, well meaning people of the Muslim faith who are prescribing programmed killing, such as stoning to death adulterers or engaging in programmed killing jihad, including suicide attacks may have mistakenly grafted a killing culture onto Islamic morality. Likewise, committed Christians may have made the same mistake in promoting programmed killing, such as the remarks of the Reverend Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez.
The Old Testament relates that pervasive violence on earth made God cry. God made it clear that human deaths gave God no pleasure. The New Testament was a story of human beings in trouble who were shown profound love through the sacrifice and martyrdom of Christ. Christ was a teacher for Muslims but was not a suicide bomber martyr for lethalist jihadism. The Prophet Mohammad in dealing with Jihad warned against phony Muslims engaging in programmed killing and made it clear that whatever their deeds, they provided no basis for entering Paradise.
I have to reread Glenn's work but I sense that his concept of nonkilling is the absence of programmed killing through such devices as the tolerance of conditions conducive to lethal war or other lethal activities. Non-killing in thought, word and deed implies activist nonkilling thought, nonkilling words and deeds. One acts out of a presumption that nonkilling behavior is the social norm, rather than the presumption that nonkilling is the exception in dangerous conflict.
It is indeed a very legitimate inquiry to attempt to understand the causes of killing and nonkilling behavior, develop understanding of the causes of any nonkilling transitions, and to identify and describe the characteristics of killing free societies. Anything less constitutes a compromise with honesty, judgmental bias and prejudice unfairly favoring lethal policies and behaviors, moral failures including the failure to respect and honor the needs of others or seek counsel of others affected by overly narrow concepts of the consequences of human interaction, lethal or nonlethal, a failure to defend those who can't defend themselves, failure both of sincerity and decisiveness in protecting human life, promotion of negative attitudes toward others that redound to ourselves. We need to have high expectations of human beings and to believe in our success as human beings, respecting the right to temporal existence even during very bad, very frustrating, and dangerous times.
We need to seek first to understand why killing occurs, how nonkilling occurs, how transformation into nonkilling political arrangements can be and are made, and how societies are able to get along without killing. Then we are in a position to be understood in advocating nonkilling change. We must assume and believe that nonkilling is Win / win - seeking to win and to make others win at life as well.
We need to understand that unlike the dismal capitalists and others who fight over resources and the fruits of labor, the world has plenty for everyone. To promote nonkilling behavior, we need to value the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of others through the way we manage and control our own affairs, act on situations and opportunities to promote nonkilling behavior. It is not proper to permit ourselves to be acted upon and pass responsibility all on to others while permitting ourselves to retain destructive options. We need to keep ourselves from the addictive and destructive habits involved in endorsing programmed killing behavior and develop nonkilling habits that expand our capabilities and choices. Nonkilling is a matter of living with integrity and making a positive difference in the lives of other human beings.
The next section of your paper dealing with the problem of institutional support for violence and policy related killing behavior is tremendously insightful. The Koenigsberg studies of warfare involving sacrifice heroics is something that I have thought a great deal about and wrote to Glenn about. I think I shared some of those thoughts with you.
Sacrifice has come to take on two meanings in the English language. One meaning is that which is given out of love and the other is that which is given to manipulate and exploit others. I read materials about Pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and South America, Japanese, Etruscan, Roman, and other ritualistic killing and referred to them not so much as sacrifices but in terms of sacrifice for gain - a sort of chess gambit in which one trades off something demeaned in value to obtain a greater value. Life is demeaned in value in its being relinquished. The martyr Jesus Christ stood to gain nothing but simply confirmed love - did things for people just because of who they were, even in encountering death by execution on the cross. He urged forgiveness of his killers and those demanding his death because they did not know what they were doing.
On the other hand is the lot of suicide bombers who seek Allah's paradise following their loss of life in delivering death and destruction. It is a product centered behavior centered approach to earning through death and destruction. It involved a bargained for exchange, in behavior of dominance over other human beings and their lives. It is oriented to personal benefit of some sort - at the expense of others. The martyrdom of Christ, on the other hand, was true sacrifice in genuine love because Christ personally gained nothing from it. Christ simply behaved out of the nature of who he was - one in love with the human race. In his dying moments, Christ appealed for the safety of all including his tormenters. Christ did not wheedle, con, or manipulate people or God.
True sacrifice has nothing to do with self seeking that we may see in a game of chess where a player sacrifices a pawn to improve his position in trapping and checkmating a king. True sacrifice has nothing to do with paying off debts or receiving rewards in the afterlife like a rat in a Skinnerian operant conditioning experiment trying to get food pellets. After all, if God created life, why would he desire what he has already created and controls in a death roll? The Old Testament God detested violence and killing and exhorted believers to get a new heart, a new spirit, and avoid being killed.
Men were charged with managing conflict so as to avoid bloodshed and were to be held accountable for bloodshed by God. Your observation that a programmed killing policy directed at terrorists has killing consequences is just as true as 9-11 created killing consequences from New York to Kabul. For Bin Laden or for George Bush to argue they chose the actions is not to equate the behavior of either as empowering them to choose the consequences. This was Cain's mistaken assumption - that he could and should be able to control God by manipulating, conning and wheedling favors. If this is the spirit of sacrifice in this war, biblical precedent suggests it will gain nothing of true substance.
As you imply and the preceding imply, love is the powerful force of life. Power is not dominance, trickery and manipulation but the genuine act of empowerment of people multiplying and exponentially increasing effort and work by the maximum number of people in the interest of productive life sustaining and life supporting activity.
The last part of your essay - Is a Nonkilling Society Possible? I share the view that it is. My thought is that morality would not call for something that Man was incapable of doing. It is a matter of making choices to support life and living so that one can protect against non-choice consequences. We don't have full knowledge of the past, ability to undo all past inequities as if they did not occur and we cannot select consequences of events we or others set in motion. We can choose what we do so as to guard against danger - to ourselves and to others. Glenn Paige has observed that most people do not kill, that there is great spiritual, scriptural support for nonkilling behavior, that the sciences show that nonkilling behavior is within human capabilities, that policy shifts away from programmed killing are, in fact, occurring, that there is a significant growth of nonkilling institutions in world society, that there are historical precedents supporting the notion that a nonkilling global society is possible, and human beings are exercising leadership to bring nonkilling conditions to the political life of the world.
You and Glenn empower me both in studying the subject and most importantly in inspiring me to want to live better and more effectively. It is my hope I can one day be in a position to really help, as opposed to simply cheering from the sidelines. Thank you for including me as a participant, even in the smallest way, in perhaps the most worthwhile endeavor I can imagine, saving and promoting human life.