Does this sound like an admonition? Such as in “run for good health”. Since the writer has experienced the University of Oregon’s legendary Bill Bowermann, moreover, since ever since he stuck to daily running and weight lifting interrupted by reading Russian, such a call would be understandable. (It is not common knowledge: Before inventing “Nike”, the Coach popularized jogging.) No, the subject here is not related to physical exercise –although if it might be relate to an aspect of our mental health.
The topic is the way we allow negotiations to undermine our security and imperil our existence. It seems that we – America, Europe, and advanced systems - repeat the errors of the 1930s. The implication is that a link unfolds between the present and the past. Yes, history is open to abuse. Bad history assumes that history will repeat itself. By itself, it does not, and when it does, it did not have to and was avoidable. A mutant of this is when history, - the warning precedent- is overlooked by the ignorant, misinterpreted by the confused, or misunderstood by the superficial.
What is the original sin that is recreated in the present to imperil our future?
Since the Enlightenment, we have assumed that “all men”, implying that man regards certain matters as “self-evident”. This assumption puts pleasing ideology above the facts. Proceeding from there, a culture emerged that created a democratic civilization that made progress into a goal. The vision of a better future replaced the return to a golden past and its idealized static and harmonious ways. Concurrently, the idea emerged that, regardless of the culture that men inherit, they would be able to assess their interests by universal, “self-evident” standards.
The resulting system functioned well on the local and the international level. After the First World War, changes occurred that brought a breakdown. The follow up that of the conflict - the Depression being a catalyst- gave elements power whose ideology and modus operandi negated the progressive-democratic-humanistic order.
Communism, Fascism, National Socialism and the combative mutants of sick nationalism, have turned on the system they were committed to abolish. These foes of an order of rational democracy differed from earlier rivals. Not a retreat into a simpler order and the security of inherited status was the goal. The new challenge was revolutionary and propagated the values of the equalitarian submission of a marching column. These emerging entities saw the world governed by conflict and not by competition within reason-governed pacific structures.
Our assertions have a global validity. Totalitarian movements are universal. They also see security as guaranteed only if it is total; that is achievable only by world dominance. The upshot of that flows into in a conflict, which is waged regardless of the reason-fed will of the designated victim to seek a compromise.
A further aspect of substituting the doing of deals with making war into a preferred instrument is the emergence of new players on the world scene. The mutants of “third-worldism”, but also of militant Islam, inserted new elements into world politics. These do not fit the system that had developed since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.
The clash deepens by the sentiment of the newcomers that the system to settle conflicts contractually and without violence has unfavorable outcomes. Doubts of that system arise because it is not a product of the culture of belated participants and so it is said to ignore their interests. Furthermore, the game’s roles leave late entrants unsuccessful if they stick to their traditional ways. Nationalism, the most easily imported Western idea, confirms that the copy of alien ways to success implies dishonor leaving as the manly alternative self-asserting conflict. Notably, this view does not correlate fully either with race or with religion. However, it makes the closing of the developmental gap, and thus the good life for all, unattainable.
Outsiders might consider underdevelopment in modern times as largely self-inflicted through the wrong choices. However, those that are left behind differ. From their perspective, underdevelopment is caused by the tutelage of “colonialism”. (The attraction of the blame is expressed by updating it to “neo-colonialism”.) From foreign control in the past, the logical distance is close to blame of present backwardness on foreigners. Those that accept the thesis will resist the use of outsider techniques of government, social organization and law. An exception is the militarily relevant products of the cursed modern world.
A doctrinal belief in past wrongs that confirm victim status completes the list. Actually, the world is full of nations that can claim that they have been wronged in the past. The more it is invoked, the greater the correlation with contemporary local turbulence.
Regardless of their location, our experience tells that past victimhood serves as a current weapon. Those that are “licensed” to profess their victim status not only go for your purse but also claim immunity from what is a crime if committed by others.
Those systems of the past century that were programmatically criminal have all claimed victim status. In it, they found a moral justification by invoking claimed past wrongs done to them. Victimhood is in such cases attributes moral superiority, which extends from the past’s suffering into the planned misdeeds of the forgiven future. Once a state or a movement convinces itself that the suffering of yesterday justifies the future torment of others, it becomes a threat.
Those that think to possess absolution ahead of their deeds will be cruel. Moral immaculacy detached from behavior also makes for unreliable negotiators. For these, agreements with “sinners” are not binding. Ultimately, an agreement depends not only of verification but also on a felt moral obligation to abide by the covenant.
Developed countries are confronted by the hostility of those that resent their system and threaten their existence. Moved by their tradition, the designated victims of the overthrow of the global order wish to overcome crises within the confines of their tradition. First, there is an attempt to identify the disputed issues. Then follows the attempt to define rationally the position of the parties. Third, an appeasing compromise is formulated. By meeting the outrageous halfway, a deal is proposed that lets the cheeky save face. Conceding what should be rejected, has an intended strategy: Giving in partially is to convince the other side that it can get a hearing for its moderated goals and that the “other side” is not by design an adversary.
This approach is reasonable, yet the results will be disappointing. The attempt to educate to a give-and-take is played with a party that refuses to “give” and plays to “take” all. If you have a chicken and a neighbor wants a few eggs, then you might strike a bargain. If his purpose is not scrambled eggs but fried chicken, then you will not only have to do without eggs, you will consent to lose your hen.
Negotiating according to a tradition that attributes its success to fruitful compromises is understandable. However, given the mindset of those that principally reject not only the status quo but also our right to exist, the tested technique is misplaced.
We desire to preserve the peace because to a sound brain war is a to-be-avoided option. The rational mind sees war as an inefficient last resort that signals the bankruptcy of sanity. The inappropriate projection of our values means that sanity is attributed to those that do not fit the term because they prefer military agendas.
Thusly confused, we pursue our wish to convince those that challenge the accepted procedural ways to alter the world order of our good will. However, permissiveness against the relentless is ineffective because it rewards aggressiveness. This means that, in practice, we tend to run backwards when menaced. We retreat even if the game of chess has muted into poker in which the winner wants all including the board and the table. Running predictably, retreat as a strategy to educate the violent and to save the peace means that, once cornered and forced to react in terms of the threat, it becomes needlessly difficult to hold our own.