19 February 2010


Two recent posts may have left the reader with the impression that I am a political hawk. This is not the case. One must always give peaceful means a chance first. Diplomacy and economic/political sanctions are the interaction of choice, with military intervention as a last resort. My only point is that when force is called for, it should be used wisely and well, adapting strategy and tactics to the situation on the ground rather reacting with a formulaic response.

Events over the past several weeks illustrate my point.

On 19 January, Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was surgically assassinated at a hotel in Dubai. It is suspected that the team of eleven agents were members of Israel's Mossad.

On 8 February, Afghan Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in a covert operation by CIA and ISI agents in Karachi, Pakistan.

Each event was professionally planned and carried out, with no collateral damage or loss of life. This would not have been the case if a larger military unit attempted, Hollywood-style, to track down and neutralize the threat in question.

I am not persuaded that violence is always justified. But we live in a world of fundamentalist extremists (Islam, Christianity, pick your faith) who have no respect for the rule of national or international law. It would be naive to react to their terrorism with talk alone. Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt summed it up best when he quoted a West African proverb: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." The world is changing, the lines between good and evil are gray and shifting. We must be adaptable, always ready to negotiate, yet always ready to greet force with force. Sad, I know. I wonder if humans will ever evolve into a true, diverse global community based on mutual respect? I am reluctantly pessimistic.

But then I read a finely-crafted book, or listen to an elegant and moving piece of classical music, or watch a brilliant film from another country, or immerse myself in nature, and a soft glow of cautious optimism persists.

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