Thursday, July 27, 2006

To Play the Barbarian

A couple of my favorite Star Trek (TOS) episodes were Mirror Mirror and A Taste of Armageddon. In the first, for those not familiar with them, Captain Kirk finds himself in a parallel universe where the Enterprise is a pirate ship and he and his crew are barbarians. The second episode is where the Enterprise finds itself a "victim" or a virtual, yet suicidal war fought by computers.

What these two episodes share is a realistic appraisal of human nature. We are barbarians. We are killers. But a civilized human normally chooses not to kill Today. What I especially appreciated in Mirror Mirror was the observation that a civilized man can act the part of a barbarian, but a barbarian finds it very difficult to play the part of a civilized person. That is because the barbarian killer is part of our very essential nature while the civilized man is something that we must force ourselves to be. (I sadly laugh at those who call violence "learned behavior"; it is possibly the most human thing there is.) Recognition of this fact could well be the key to peace because only when you recognize the problem can you realistically deal with it.

This also means that civilized people must sometimes play the barbarian in order to survive. A prime example of this was America using nuclear weapons against Japan to end WWII, an action which, in my opinion, probably saved millions of lives on both sides because it forced Japan to face the fact that it could not win and Emperor Hirohito recognized this and ordered the military to surrender to save his people. It was nukes or invasion, because the Japanese mindset at the time gave us no other options, and an invasion would have been a bloodbath far worse than, the horrible enough, nuking of two Japanese cities.

Even in the brilliant book, Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein, it is recognized that even the most civilized people must be capable of violence in order to protect themselves. Those who recognize only strength, and no other source of authority, must be dealt with violently. I don't like it and it goes against all that I try to be, yet I see no other options. (Metaphorically speaking, if you can speak two languages and you are talking to someone who speaks only one, you must speak the only language he understands.)

Israel understands this. Israel is a civilized country being threatened by barbarians. Israel, though civilized, must play the barbarian to survive. Diplomacy only works when both sides respect each other or when one side fears the other, but a buck cannot negotiate with a pack of wolves, it must fight or die, and wolves typically back off from a real fighter and go seek easier prey. Diplomacy will not work because the Jihadis 1) do not respect Israel but consider it an interloper that needs to be destroyed, and 2) believe they have infinite strength because it comes from Allah.

Some pacifistic groups recongize this problem and believe the solution is for Israel to disband, in the name of peace, and give the land to the Muslims. There is only one problem with this solution: It will not end with the destruction of Israel. The Jihadis want a world-wide Caliphate where infidels live in dhimmitude but the "peace at any cost" people are in denial about this simply because its meaning is too horrible for them to accept. If you are willing to pay any price for peace, and the bad guys know it, you will pay a horrible price for it.

The only solution is to show the Jihadis that their strength is not infinite but there is a greater strength within ourselves and a willingness to use it when there is no other option besides surrender. We played the barbarian against Hitler and Japan and won. We, the civilized people, must once again play the barbarian and win.

Update: Dr Sanity has a similar posting with her own insight. Much more worth reading than my rants.

I especially agree with this statement by her:
I am confident that we will not lose our values; and that our overall moral heading can be recovered should we need to temporarily deviate from the course of the moral compass that guides us. Because, in order to combat and defeat this new barbarism, we must confront it and be willing to do whatever it takes to defeat it.

Update 2: A number of years ago, on Fox television, I saw a made-for-TV movie called Missing Link. It was an absolutely PC absurdity in which the peaceful creature that was between man and ape in evolution, made the intellectual choice of extinction rather than becoming violent as its human relatives were. That really showed me the mindset of some.


Blogger Gayle said...

Shoprat, I think this is one of your best posts. WOW!

I saw both of those Star Trek episodes, and have also read Starship Troopers. Before I began blogging I had a lot of time to read and I'm a huge Science Fiction fan. I think I've read everything Heinlein and Assimov ever wrote, or close to it anyway.

Your take is exactly right: we have to learn civility. Just watch two little tots fight over a toy and you will understand civility is not inbred, it's learned behavior.

Israel has to understand that in order to defeat Hezbollah they have to be every bit as uncivilized as Hezbollah - and we'd better get it through our heads too!

7:51 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I sort of agree, but I don't think I want us beheading people on TV. I will say that I like the Sean Connery line from the Untouchables "He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!"

My favorite Trek is "A piece of the action" where the whole world is based on the 1920's Chicago Mob.

9:20 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Thanks Gayle

tim I would rather not behead people at all (now give them a heart transplant using the heart of a pig -- which we have done but not to them -- might be useful). There were so many good Star Trek shows in every series.

9:56 PM  
Blogger John Eyler said...

My favorite episode was "Balance of Terror", it showed that great leaders struggle with the ambiguities of war and their responsibilities to the state.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Excellent post, Shoprat!

For an opinion on what it might take, please visit The Swordfish Option over at my blog.

5:52 PM  

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