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Obama does Osama

This is why I didn’t vote for Obama and why Hollywood scripts should not guide foreign policy

First two personal assertions:

1)      Barack Obama is not the pathetic and intellectually incurious enabler of criminal doctrine that his predecessor G.W. Bush was. And he is certainly not the dark and Machiavellian spook that Bush senior was.  Cleary Obama is more affable and intellectually competent than GW.

Consequently, I prefer him over Bush the way I prefer a cautious panther to a rabid hyena. In other words, I find Obama potentially dangerous, albeit more reserved. After all in voting record and substantive policy practices Obama is not widely different from his predecessors. And he is arguably not bucking the status quo and putting us on a more humane and compassionate path.

2)      Neither this article nor any of my convictions have a disparaging attitude against soldiers who risk their lives to protect the lives of the innocent. It has always been my hope to use my research and work in industrial psychology and stress management to support and improve the way in which the warrior class is trained up. A class I believe will always be needed even in the best of times. But there are rules to war  and the way we abide by them defines us as people.

That said I can make the unpopular suggestion that the raid against Osama Bin Laden is nothing to cheer about. Yes, he was a bad man. Yes he deserved to be punished for exploiting religion to justify violence and murder. But there is a reason why we don’t approve of other governments illegally assassinating unpopular personalities. It is because contrary to the hormonally stimulating depictions in many Hollywood films, we as Americans (at least an overwhelming majority of us) do NOT believe in the doctrine that might makes right.  We want to be the land of the free, not the home of the Stasi or the KGB.

Each time we surrender to the emotionally appealing but ethically destructive lure of the ‘might makes right’ mentality, we take a step on to a slippery slope that ends in the destruction of the humane and uplifting fabric that if not in practice at least in principle has always been our defining value as country.

The concept that might makes right is central to any totalitarian regime and anathema to the land of they who would be free. It is the foundation of all racist movements and almost always leads to oppression and then genocide.

What makes us strong and free is our ability to be just and fair by resisting the emotionally easy displays of violence as a means to solve our problems. Destroying your enemies is understandable.  Destroying your enemies without becoming them is venerable.   This is why we win when we put off revenge for justice, and overcome rage with wisdom.

Remember we were the country that put off Stalin’s show trials and Churchill’s summary executions and brought the perpetrators of the Nazi regime to stand relatively bona fide trial in the city of Nuremberg. We set an important standard in that era, we were not afraid to be better than our enemies.

When we rally around the simplistic devices of a Hollywood action film as a means for assuaging our political fears we do not become stronger, braver or freer. Instead we are diminished; reduced to cowering animals that lash out at what they fear. Courage requires compassion or else it becomes just a subterfuge for despotism. This is why assassinating Osama was wrong and capturing him would have been the far more American thing to do.

As a people we should remember that (at least) philosophically we have always championed the opposite of might makes right. We are Americans and we have a duty to be the best example of all the important virtues; courage, kindness, and wisdom.

As Abe Lincoln said, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it”

Terror in Times Square

Islamic militant terrorism is a Muslim problem. American military and diplomatic efforts, while necessary, will not succeed. Even now American forces, Nato troops and Pakistani soldiers are chasing down militant types with great determination. Most of the time, the hunted extremists disperse and disappear in a very cockroach like manner. Hiding amongst the population (or in caves) they simply wait for further opportunities to pursue their agenda. In some cases wrongheaded military action like the invasion of Iraq actually makes things worse. (In September of 2006 a combined National Intelligence Estimate by 16 US intelligence services concluded that the invasion of Iraq has led to an increase in global terrorism.) In the long run western involvement will probably make things worse. A long term significant solution must come from the ranks of the Islamic. Furthermore, this solution will have to be spiritual if not religious in scope.

The beauty of Islam is that at its heart, it is a peace loving and devotional religion. Consider this important quote from their scripture, “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if one has killed all humankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if one has saved the life of all humankind.”(Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

Islam is also a deeply ingrained culture. The nature of Islam as religion and culture dictates that the solution and leadership needed to solve this problem come from one of their own. For this a new Muslim hero is needed. One who will champion the ideals of Islam and will fearlessly denounce those would selectively abrogate the true teachings and goals of Islam. The Muslim nations need a kind and courageous hero who is willing to describe those killers of innocents as traitors and offenders to the great Mohamed.

As frustrating and scary as the recent New York near misses are if we want to see the terroristic chicanery cease and desist then we should hope and pray that some brave new hero emerges from the millions of intelligent and peace seeking true believers of Islam.

Is there anything we can do besides hope and pray? Sure! Step out of your culture and get to know the Muslims in your community. Dialoguing, sharing life experiences, just getting to know one another is a valuable step. Another important way non-Muslims can encourage an outcome-where any sign of direct involvement can be construed as a tainting influence-is by setting the example. When any one person acts with kindness and courage in their culture it will have an impact on the consciousness of others. This is the legacy of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Elie Wiesel, Aung San Suu Kyi…

We have ample opportunity these days to stand up to intolerance, exploitation, and ignorance.

What ideas do you have for exemplifying courage and kindness?

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