Recently, NPR’s Talk of the Nation did a program on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. A female soldier (and trainer of Iraqi military) that just got back from Iraq called in and made a comment about the fact that most of the U.S. soldiers there believe that they’ve done all they could, and it’s time to go home. She finished with an analogy: “I can teach a runner how to run, but I can’t teach him the mentality needed to complete a marathon”.
I never know where to focus my criticism of the neocon foreign policy, because it’s fundamentally an emotional framework and thus doesn’t quite sit comfortably in the realm of reason. It lacks concrete goals and realistic plans of accomplishing those goals. ‘Eradicating terrorism” is not a concrete goal. “Establish democracy and freedom” is not a realistic plan. But most importantly it lacks the kind of empathy needed to understand the other side, the families in Iraq that are trying to live a peaceful existence day to day. What do they want? How do they see U.S.? Because we are only safe if they see us as the good guys: as a country that values the rights of every human being.
Bar fights (my own, and those I’ve watched) have taught me all I need to know about conflict. An eye for an eye escalates tension and transforms into generational hatred. There has to be room for “turning the other cheek”. Not always, but just often enough to give our animal instinct a chance to be pacified by reason.