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  • Doug Dix

Thinking About Peace

Think like your kid's life depends on it because that's precisely what that life does depend on. And it depends on your thinking more than on anything else. So, get that thinking right. It's not easy. If you think like a normal parent, your kid will live with stress, eat junk food, and die early. And your grandkids will live worse and die even earlier. To save your kid and all kids, you have to think abnormally, and in just the right way. How do you accomplish this? You have to want to be right bad enough to admit that you're wrong when that's the case. It's not easy. We all have egos that make us think we want to be right all the time. You have to get over this. We do want to be right all the time, but in order to have any shot at this, we have to admit that we're wrong most of the time. It's called humility. It's a hard trait to acquire because we must realize that everyone else suffers from the same predilection for error as we do. Life-saving thinking, therefore, requires that we challenge everybody, including, or especially, the experts, and that's called arrogance. It's hard to hold both humility and arrogance in the same mind. But there's no other way to save your kids and all kids.

How can you tell when you and others are thinking in the life-saving way? You, and they, are arguing, and the argument is spirited but friendly. I love to argue because I always win. Either I help others see the truth, or they help me see it. Either way, I win, as does everyone else involved. The following are examples of what happens when people fail to argue.

Hitler made no secret of his genocidal hypothesis, having published "Mein Kampf" in 1925. It was an easy hypothesis to refute, and there were Jews in Germany and elsewhere capable of definitive refutations. They might have kept Adolf out of power and prevented the holocaust and WWII. But they shunned this argument, preferring instead to pursue fame and amusement in science (Einstein) and art (Yiddish Theater). After 1933, reuting Hitler became life-threatening. And the whole world suffered the consequences of his wrong idea gone unopposed.

A reporter at Yalta asked FDR what would it take to end the war. Without thought or consultation, FDR answered, "unconditional surrender." Churchill agreed. In that moment, these two leaders handed the enemy control of the end game. I would have said that war will end when the allies declare victory. But there was no argument and, when Japan refused to surrender, Truman dropped the A-bombs. It seemed less costly for both sides than invasion. But Japan was no longer a threat in August of 1945, and, except for FDR's off-hand answer at Yalta, there was no need for "unconditional surrender." A blockade would have kept Japan impotent and permitted the allies to declare victory.

In return for help against Japan, FDR promised Ho Chi Minh self-determination for the people of Indochina. Had Truman followed through, there might have been no war in Korea or Viet Nam. But Truman and subsequent presidents sought to stop the spread of communism. Not only did they fail at this, but they proved that communism is not the enemy of the people. An unbiased observer might concliude that America had become that enemy. Government of, by, and for the people perished when American presidents after FDR began lying to the people, first about Viet Nam (Pentagon Papers), and, then, about Watergate, and a sexual romp in the Oval Office, and a tax break for the middle class, and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and COVID, and a stolen election, and, now, whatever else seems convenient to lie about. If you want to be right, you can't just believe the president or anyone else. Read your money. If you're not listening to God, don't trust what you've hearing.

In August of 1964, reports emerged of two North Vietnamese attacks on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. LBJ asked Congress for permission to retaliate. Except for two doissenting senators (Gruening and Morse), both houses voted unanimously to empower LBJ to take whatever action he thought necessary to protect American interests. If there was ever a time or argument, this was it, but there was none, and countless Vietnamese and 59,000 American soldiers paid for this mistake with their lives. Later evidence suggested that the second attack along with the domino theory were fictious.

"Search and Destroy" was the strategy in Viet Nam and, later, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's a stupid strategy that hands the enemy the critical decision on where and when to fight. It would have been defeated in any rational argument, but, of course, no one gets to argue with generals, and American generals, at least, never learn from their mistakes. To listen to them, you'd think they never make mistakes. So, from Westmorland to McKenzie, American soldiers wandered the enemies' backyards waiting to be caught by surprise, and, then, killed or injured while inflicting minimal harm on the well-positioned enemies. I would have put down security perimeters, put the good guys inside, and kept the bad guys out. Build forts, in other words, and defend them. That's a strategy that inflicts maximum damage on the enemy, while affording maximum protection to our soldiers and the innocents. And in the end, we could recognize the good guys on the inside as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or whatever other country we chose to fix.

In 2002, G. W. Bush proclaimed that Sadam had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Inspectors from the UN could find no such weapons, and American intelligence on this subject was flimsy at best. But Bush and his lackeys made the case appear convincing: "You don't want the evidence to be in the form of a mushroom cloud." Colin Powell confirmed the case, and noted Holocaust survivor, peace advocate, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, sold the public his faith in Powell. The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to attack Iraq for the purpose of destroying Iraq's weeapons of mass destruction. In March of 2003, "Shock and Awe" was launched on Baghdad, a city of seven million people. In the first day of that attack, 500 cruise missiles and 1800 air sorties were launched causing some 6,000 civilian deaths. The war continued for eight years, but no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. That didn't deter G. W. from declaring "mission accomplished." He made this declaration after only six weeks of war. Why continue the war for eight years if the mission had been accomplished in six weeks?

Now there's a war in Gaza, and, worse than war, a "total siege." It's Netanyahu's temper tantrum. There was no referendum. Some experts think this siege violates international law. But there was, and is, no argument, and, among Jews, only the faintest whisper of dissent. One rabbi told his congregation to sit quietly and trust the moral clarity of others. Most rabbis have been silent. And by their silence, they imply consent. It's a legal maxim. But the people who care about being right argue. The lack of argument about Netanyahu's tantrum suggests that Jews, for all their ostensive care for ethics, care more for Israel's security than being right. That's not how to think to fix the world, or your kid. And it's not how to protect Israel or Judaism. It makes Judaism seem useless.

A local rabbi criticized U. S. Senator Chris Murphy for criticizing Israel on its slaughter of civilians (Hartford Courant 12/3, p. 1). According to this rabbi, no legal or moral code allows terrorists to render themselves immune by use of human shields. I'll bet he's right. It's ok to kill bad guys in the midst of good guys. So what? That's not the issue. Every community that hires an armed police force accepts that by shooting at bad guys some harm might come to good guys. The question is how to minimize that harm, and the correct answer might not be a total siege. We can't know the correct answer because alternatives have not been considered, let alone evaluated. The total siege was simply imposed without even asking if there was a less harmful alternative. And the Jews stayed silent. This lack of empathy is a violation of the Golden Rule, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and God's law as articulated in Gen. 4:1-9, Gen. 18:16-33, Lev. 19:18, Lev. 19:33-34, Isaiah 2:4, and Matt. 5:43-48.

The only cure for war is an effective plan for peace. But that requires that one side, at least, cares enough for the other to minimize risk of harm to innocents. Jews should be experts at such care because it's the essence of Torah: "What is hateful to you, do not do to others" (Hillel, Shabbos 31a).

There are questions about Israel's right to eist, and how the Arabs residing in the territory that became Israel were treated, and how Israel came to occupy Arab land, and why the Palestinian state hasn't come to fruition, and why terrorists are tolerated in Gaza and on the West Bank, and on and on. They're interesting questions, but irrelevant. There is only one question that matters now, and that's how to end this war and prevent it from recurring. Other questions are about the past, and that cannot be changed. Here's my suggestion.

"Good fences make good neighbors" (Robert Frost, Mending Wall). I suggest making Israelis and Palestinians good neighbors by building a good fence in north Gaza. Fix both ends in Israel south of Ashkelon. Push the middle into Gaza. Clear this fenced area of weapons and people, and, then, allow unarmed innocents back in through a maximum security gate. Push the middle further south and repeat the procedure until all innocents are unarmed and on the Israeli side of the fence, and all terrorists are on the other side. Help the innocents build houses, schools, hospitals, parks, etc. and a government of, by, and for the people with liberty and justice for all. Incarcerate those who reject rehabilitation. Cultivate enduring peace within Palestine and between Israel and Palestine. Enforce this peace with U.S., UN, or other multinational, or private agency protection.

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