Rethinking Peace

Last weekend, an estimated one million Americans attended an anti-war rally in New York City. Although I do not find such attendance a heroic deed, it is a right every American has and I respect anyone who chose to exercise it. Yet, as I watched news footage and read articles concerning the rally, I found myself gravely disturbed. Nearly all media referred to the demonstrators as “peace protesters,” sending the less-than-subtle message that only those who oppose war want peace, and that Bush and those who support war have no concern for those who might suffer as a result. Let’s first consider the definition of peace. While the “peace protesters” consider this to be the absence of war, is the world truly at peace while the lives of Americans are at risk, while the Iraqi people suffer from their oppressive regime? Peace is the safety and security of all, a truly unattainable state, although we should never stop striving to attain it. War is indeed quite the opposite of peace, yet war promotes peace, as that is often the ultimate objective of war. Furthermore, in some cases, including our current situation, war is the only way to obtain peace. Ask the “peace protesters” and you’ll be even further convinced of this, for I have yet to hear a legitimate alternative to disarming Iraq without war. What responses I do hear are more eloquently stated versions of “I don’t know, but I know that war isn’t the answer and that we shouldn’t rush into this,” or “Let the United Nations deal with it.” First, if one cannot come up with a better alternative to establish peace – and I don’t mean the mere absence of war – he does not have the right to criticize the only alternative that would. Second, for those worried that it is still too early to decide upon the use of force, it has been over six months since Bush first proposed the employment of military strength. He has made his case time and time again, gained support from Congress and, according to recent Gallup polls, from the majority of Americans as well. If the “peace protestors” are truly concerned with peace, wouldn’t they want to obtain it as soon as possible? And lastly, we have let the UN handle the problems at hand. From 1991 to 1998, UN weapons inspectors unsuccessfully dealt with Iraq. To those who demand more time for the inspectors: Are seven years truly enough? If Iraq failed to meet its obligations to inspectors once before, why should we trust it again? But, as my eyes scan the television, computer and newspaper, I find the most disturbing part of the anti-war rally to be the picket signs. Though many are harmless: “Another mathematician against the war” or “Money for tax cuts, not bombs,” a number of the signs focused on the supposed stupidity of President Bush. Some even went so far as to call Bush a terrorist. However, I do not recall ever seeing an anti-Saddam sign. Frankly, if I were “protesting for peace”, I would be more opposed to a man who killed over five thousand Kurds with chemical weapons to “suppress a riot” than with a man who has never pushed the button and who protects my right to protest against him. To those protesters who oppose war on all fronts and say, “War is killing, war brings pain,” no one is disagreeing with you. To bring the end to killing and pain is the very reason to go to war. Military action may intensify the both in its initial impact, but in halting the genocide of Iraqi Kurds and the violent elements of a repressive regime, it will save more lives in the end. Can anyone honestly say that we should have avoided World War II and sit back while millions of Jews were killed because American soldiers would surely die? War has given Americans our freedom from Britain, blacks their freedom from slavery, and Jews their freedom from concentration camps. While the act of war itself is undoubtedly a horrible atrocity, sometimes, and in this case with Iraq, bloodshed is the only answer.