Violence begets violence but doing nothing assures more terrorism, a peace scholar said.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Warships steam to the Middle East. Military reserves prepare for duty. President Bush delivers a tough speech, offering ultimatums and promising action.
Rick Judy suggests we all take a deep breath.
"We shouldn't rush to military, violent solutions," said Judy, co-chairman of Peace Action Youngstown.
"People want us to bomb Afghanistan into the Stone Age. Well, it's already in the Stone Age. It's been devastated and destroyed already, and there's not much more we can do to them."
As the United States prepares to retaliate, likely with military force, for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Judy and other activists are surfacing to offer an alternative: peace.
"Bush's new war will only strengthen the terrorist's logic," said Thomas Sabatini, also of Peace Action Youngstown. "Whatever our intent, much of the world will see us as barbaric and warring."
Favors diplomacy: Judy, a self-described pacifist whose local organization boasts about 150 members, said he favors legal and diplomatic actions, including bringing the terrorists to trial in an international court. He does not support violence of any magnitude.
"The president is trying to prepare us for our own loss of life of our own people, but if we bomb Afghanistan, again we're talking more civilian lives and more innocent lives being destroyed, and that just compounds the problems in the world," he said.
The issue isn't as simple for others.
Given the unprecedented circumstances, the question of whether to respond militarily to the terrorist attacks has put many peace activists and scholars in a quandary, said Dr. Daniel Flannery, director of Kent State University's Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Responding with violence is likely to result in even more violence, but not responding is likely to allow the terrorists to continue or escalate their attacks.
"There needs to be a response, but it should be an appropriate response and not an impulsive, overly violent response," Flannery said. "While people may feel better in the short term, the long-term consequences will be much more violent."
Different situation: Dr. Keith Lepak, coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies at Youngstown State University, said nonviolent responses generally work only if there is someone to negotiate with and if there's a shared legal framework in which diplomacy can be conducted. Neither is present in the current situation, he said.
"These people don't recognize law as we understand it, and they will not identify themselves as articulated players of the game, so who are you going to talk to?" he said.
Brian Corbin, director of social action for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, said the Catholic tradition has two approaches to war: Pacifism, in which there is no justification for war; and "just war," in which violence is allowed only under very specific circumstances such as grave or massive violations of basic rights and as a last resort.
Corbin said that the White House consulted moral theologians before the Gulf War and that he imagines the administration is doing the same now.
"You just don't rush to violence," he said. "You have to think it through."
Thinking it through, Lepak said, is a rigorous process.
"We need to think in terms of what is the world going to look like when we're done doing whatever it is we think we're going to do," he said. "What will the peace be like that emerges from a long-term war against terrorism?
"That all has to be seriously pondered and thought about, apart from simply reacting to the question of, 'Well, what are we going to do right now?' That's what makes this whole process in Washington oh so, so, so difficult."
Sabatini of Peace Action said the only sure remedy is to eliminate the conditions that make terrorism possible, including many of the United States' policies in the Middle East.
He said outrage over the terrorist attacks have turned into a "bellicose patriotism" that has left little room for those who oppose war.