Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Price of Appeasement

Two events today illustrate what happens when evil is not confronted.

Former Serb Dictator Slobodon Milosevic, the "Butcher of the Balkans," was found dead in his cell at the Hague, where he was imprisoned on war crimes charges for his role in the ethnic cleansing that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

As the Serb leader, he was responsible for the death of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs. Rape, mutilation and murder were methods used routinely by his forces.

The world was slow to respond, and before he was removed from power more than 200,000 men, women and children had been killed.

Also found dead today was American peace activist Tom Fox, who was kidnapped with three companions last November in Iraq.

Fox's body was found in a Baghdad street, a bullet in the head and marks of torture on his body.

He was a member of the Quakers, and as such voiced opposition to any armed action again terrorists or others commiting violence. No doubt a moral and righteous man, he failed to understand that some people are so blinded by hatred and evil that they are beyond reason, and there are times when such evil must be confronted in order to protect the innocent.

He paid for that mistake with his life.


SB said...

Hang on: If he paid with his life for the mistake of pacifism, what mistake are our troops paying for with their lives? I guess I'm just confused by your conclusion.

JBlog said...

It comes down the math essentially.

If you resist evil, some people will be killed, but others protected.

If you appease evil, more people die ultimately.

We've seen this movie and we know how it ends. When the U.S. and the European powers ignored the growing threat of Fascism in the 1930s, the result was a World War that killed 40 million people.

If we had acted sooner, fewer would have died and the Holocaust would have been prevented.

So we're really not talking about whether or not people are going to die, but rather how many.

So you tell me what the moral position is. Is it to confront evil and protect the innocent or is it to appease the evildoers?

SB said...

Thanks, J -- this helps me better understand the framework of your argument. To my way of thinking, you are setting up a false dichotomy. I don’t believe there are only two polar options: violent confrontation versus codependent appeasement. I am nowhere remotely close to being an expert in these things, but it seems to me that peaceful resistance is an honorable (and sometimes effective) approach.

JBlog said...

I agree to a point. Peaceful resistance works with rational, morally conscionable people.

It worked for Gandhi against the British in India because at their core the British held to a set of moral ideals that could be appealed to.

History has shown, however, that such appeals don't work against irrational people who don't hold such values, such as the Nazis and Al Qaeda.

SB said...

That's a fair point; however, it is not always clear (without the benefit of hindsight) which is which.

JBlog said...

Also, true.

But I think it's pretty safe to assume that people who kidnap innocent civilians and cut their heads off probably are beyond being reasoned with.

SB said...

...As are people who would blow up an abortion clinic. But we expect that our entire society will not be pigeon-holed into the image of its religious fanatics.

JBlog said...

I agree.

Can also we agree that people who bomb abortion clinics and those who chop off the heads of innocent people and set off car bombs in crowded markets are both committing evil, and that they should be confronted and stopped?

I'm not suggesting we commit genocide against all Muslims. Just that we pursue and stop the fanatical ones who are committing these evil deeds.

Just like we pursue and prosecute abortion clinic bombers.

SB said...

Agreed. (I was confident we'd find a patch of common ground if we kept at it for a while!)

JBlog said...

As is frequently the case with reasonable people.

As Chance the Gardener told the Russian diplomat in the movie Being There,"Our chairs are almost touching."