Tina K. Russell

March 21, 2008

On the lack of a way to peace, and what peace is

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:01 pm

Pakistan to Try New Approach to Militants – New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with a sharp escalation of suicide bombing in urban areas, the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government say they will negotiate with the militants believed to be orchestrating the attacks, and would use the military only as a last resort.

“We are dealing with our own people,” said Mr. [governing coalition co-leader Nawaz] Sharif, who was twice Prime Minister of Pakistan in the 1990s. “We will deal with them very sensibly. And when you have a problem in your own family, you don’t kill your own family.

“You sit and talk,” he added. “After all, Britain also got the solution of the problem of Ireland. So what’s the harm in conducting negotiations.”

I was a little skeptical of this, at first. After all, extremists are crazy, you can’t negotiate with them! But, I know we have a parallel in the United States: the drug war, where we tried to fight the problem guns blazing and didn’t realize that every dealer and every user was someone’s brother or sister, someone’s son or daughter, someone’s best friend, and when you target too many people (and assume too many are beyond reason) you turn the entire community against you. This is seen in the unfortunate “Stop Snitching” saga, a cancer that is preventing police from doing their jobs.

And then I realized, duh, I’m a Quaker. People don’t generally try negotiation enough, and we know (people used to kill us for being so creepy and… peaceful). So, maybe this will work. I want to emphasize that not me, nor Sharif, nor Zardari, nor Bush, nor Condi Rice have the silver bullet to solve this complicated problem. I am, however, happy that this is being treated as a complicated problem.

Which isn’t to say I like terrorists. I freakin’ hate them and everything they do. (Remember, I don’t like violence. I’m a Quaker!) But, hate makes us stupid, so we can’t be governed by it. In Pakistan, when I hear about DVD shops being bombed and women being harrassed for wearing skirts and such–this never used to happen in Pakistan, as is my understanding–I become very sad because I know I would be the very image of a decadent Westerner in their eyes, being transsexual as well as sexually and socially liberal. The women they attack seem like they could be my sisters, even if that’s overreaching, appropriating, and condescending for me to say. It just makes me sad, and want to find some way to end the violence…

I don’t mean that we should be super nice guys to the terrorists (though kindness can go a long way, and you must remember to choose your battles…. oh, Iraq, Bay of Pigs, and Vietnam were lemons, by the way), just that diplomacy is a very delicate give-and-take, and must be focused on de-escalating the possibility of war, and not escalating it. That’s not to say that the terrorist’s deeds aren’t heinous and thuggish and murderous or that they shouldn’t be condemned with the strongest language and actions possible… only that the safety of the people must be our first priority, and that must come before our pride.

Teddy Roosevelt was hardly a pacifist… he ushered in an unfortunate imperial era for the United States and wrote of his exploits in the Spanish-American war as though he were a pulp hero. He did, however, leave us important words on diplomacy, both inside and outside your country: “speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.” Don’t be afraid to throw around your country’s weight… but keep an eye on how much weight your country has left to throw around.

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