by Jay Johansen | Jan 3, 2009
Retaliating against violence is counter-productive because it only leads to a "cycle of violence": they attack us and kill some of our people, we retaliate and kill some of theirs, they retaliate against the retaliation and kill some more of us, and so on, round and round it goes, until the original cause of the conflict is irrelevant or even forgotten, and the violence just feeds on itself.
Bunk. People who says things like that demonstrate that they have no concept of what war is about. War is not about intimidating your opponent, teaching him a lesson, or sending him a message. War is about destroying your opponent's ability to resist.
If two groups of people were able to discuss their disagreements politely and negotiate a mutually-agreeable solution, they would not resort to violence. Countries go to war when they cannot resolve their disagreements peacefully, and they believe the issues are important enough to impose death and destruction on others and risk suffering death and destruction themselves. At that point, the goal is to force your enemy to give in to your demands, or to be completely destroyed. A war ends when one side is completely destroyed, when one side concludes that their situation is hopeless and surrenders, or when both are exhausted and give up.
Yes, ineffective, pointless violence could conceivably lead to a "cycle of violence". If you have a disagreement with another nation and you throw a grenade over the border and kill one or two people, and think that that's going to scare them into giving up, you are a fool. Of course they are not going to give up. They are going to retaliate. And if they are equally stupid and their retaliation consists of a similar attack that kills one or two people or blows up a building, then yes, such an ineffective conflict could go on forever with many futile deaths on both sides.
That's why real armies rarely do anything so pointless. When an army goes to war, they plan how they are going to completely destroy the enemy's ability to resist. They plan to wipe out the enemy army, destroy their factories, capture their capitol, etc. There is then no cycle of violence. There is a steady stream of violence until one side or the other has been defeated.
Now please, don't tell me that saying this makes me a war-monger or a crazy violent person or whatever. I am not saying anything here about when war is good or justified, if ever. I am simply explaining what war is. When I say that driving very fast may result in an accident in which you are injured or killed, simply stating that does not mean that I believe you should drive fast or that I think you deserve to die. I am simply stating a statistical fact.
The fact is that the point of war is to destroy your opponent. War does not and can not lead to a cycle of violence, because when the war is over, one side or the other is incapable of any further violence. They are all dead or in prison camps or at the very least have been disarmed. The winner may be the side that was in the right or they may be the side that was in the wrong. The violence may have been justified or it may have been completely disproportionate to the offense. But when the war is over, the winner will have his way, because the loser will be incapable of stopping him.
If you have a conflict with another country which you cannot resolve peacefully, and you want to completely destroy them and force them to agree to your demands, go to war. If you want to send a message, get an e-mail account.
© 2009 by Jay Johansen