Friday, April 4, 2008

The Basic Rules of Conflict

Rifles for Peace 18

Military conflicts, no matter who hosts them or what the prize might be, are habitually fought at levels. There are players who involve themselves -- or, in fact, instigate the matter -- for the final incentive of great material gains, usually the control of resources or stabilized power for all sorts of advantage. There are the others, aside from the plebiscite who inevitably make the armies of the ambitious, who will struggle to resist the reassignment of wealth sought by the former, commonly those with control of such advantages at the outset.

In the isolated calm of the United States we receive the news of such conflicts portrayed as abstractions. And not, by the way, as innocent portrayals. Our images are always constructed from the fabric of the implied interests of the participants if not outrightly as their conveniently named ideologies. National sincerity which would reasonably be directed at the man with his finger on the trigger or the man with the new bullet hole in his chest is de-energized as these players are replaced with speech makers and bar charts estimating the change in ownership of, well, everything involved.

We indulge media focused on the reasons for conflict rather than the results of it. As a consequence, we willingly make the assumption that the whole affair is little more than a misunderstanding, one we could correct if only all those at war weren’t so mistakenly head strong. Or religious. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or even, perhaps, if these victims didn’t mind so much when they were raped. Or enslaved. Or made into refugees. Sometimes, there is not enough of anything for both sides to have what they need.

Oh, it all seems so intractable! We simply must take sides or miss the opportunity to flaunt our sterile high ground. Yet, all these people are so difficult! Our historical national maturity makes the enticing suggestion that it might be better to let them get it all out of their systems. After all, in every case future peace has begun with the stink of the moments after the battles have ended.

Is there a possibility of ending it? We seem, as a nation, unable to rise above our greed long enough to make much of a contribution. Every time it appears that we are ready to help, we see the same depressing old style U.S. subterfuge. Fifteen billion dollars for AIDS in Africa seemed like a truly high-borne idea. Yet, we find contracts for the most expensive drugs from our U.S. suppliers. We see a nifty new trade agreement with India to stop producing generics. We see a grotesque President with his erectile fascination with abstinence.

Is anyone else embarrassed?

There might be a solution arriving on this troubled scene -- one materializing from an unlikely quarter. Returning to this violent inclination infecting our world, we have always been, at least we have said we were, strong proponents for disarmament. Gee, if we could initiate a cease fire and follow it up with a major dose of “turning in” weapons, peace might break out in these four hundred or so constant local wars.

Perhaps the solution lies in driving these ugly little situations in a different direction. Instead of disarming the combatants, perhaps we should consider arming them!

Now, with existing technology this might seem to a bit of a stretch. However, with new technology there might be, at least, a fleeting promise of making sense from some of this chaos. After all, what is going on now is a picture of refugees, rape victims and other war torn civilians. Military violence has a special attraction when one side is heavily out gunned in the conflict. This idea holds true whether you find the conflict in the deepest jungles of Africa or in the first class section of a hijacked air liner. Indulging either temptation turns out to be much less “manly” when everyone can shoot back!

Yet, pouring guns into unstable regions, at least guns in the current sense of the word, can guarantee and endless struggle. Placing guns, again guns in the current sense of the word in the hands of every airline passenger, would probably evoke all sorts of mischief. We will need different guns!

Visit the train wreck at Darfur. Supply them all with weapons and ammunition, but supply them with weapons which can last no longer than one year. At the end of their usable cycle, these guns become permanently worthless. During the year, put such a rifle in the hands of the woman who was raped and beaten on the way to her watering hole. See if conditions change.

Weapons such as these could probably never be used in much of an offensive way [there is still the issue of ammunition supplies]. On the other hand, slugs pass through the bodies of bullies with the same effect as they do when passing through the bodies of civilians.

As for the jet liners. Put a pouch under the tray table. It is locked until the pilot throws a panic switch in the cockpit. Then it falls open, placing an airline version of a single shot, gas cartridge driven weapon in the hands of every passenger. It fires a tumbling plastic bullet that cannot penetrate the shell of the fuselage, but can penetrate the body of a hijacker.

Gee whiz! Can we think that passengers could handle this? Possibly the young men, perhaps soldiers on the way home, but never the old man who has already had a couple of beers or the old lady who was doing her knitting just before the mad man took over. Gosh, some of them would miss! Darn, some of them would never do it!

On the other hand, if you were a nervous hijacker and you suddenly saw twenty or thirty of these little guns pointing at you from the passenger seats in the plane, well, it might change the way things turned out in the end.

Arms for peace? Why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment