Now granted, blowing somebody up could be seen by some as a very simple, very visceral, very appealing approach to problem solving.
But I think itís more important to save blowing somebody up for the really, really important things. Like, say, Nazis trying to take over the world, killing millions of people in the process. Blow Ďem up, I say! If there is just moral cause, combined with grave danger, I have no problem justifying a lot of blowing up.
When I look at the world today, I donít see anything nearly as pressing as impending Nazi world domination. Is there anything left in the world thatís so important that it requires blowing people up? (Or, conversely, shooting them?) Some people think so. I do not.
That, of course, is easy for me to say, in my middle-class, Western world kind of way. Iím not facing the truly life-threatening struggles that so many people around the world seem to be dealing with on a daily basis.
I guess, then, my goal is to convince those people that hey, you really donít have to blow something or someone up to get our attention. Why donít we all just calm down a bit, and discuss our differences like adults? There must be common ground somewhere, for we all share common roots. (I believe it to be a proto-chimp hominid called "Ooola" by his fellow tribesmembers, several million years ago. Others say "Adam" and "Eve." Regardless, it seems pretty clear to me that weíre all in this whole Earth thing together.)
Hereís the part that Iím having a hard time expressing, so bear with me if you think Iíve lost my marbles. This gets a little free form, so hang tight.
Thereís a little part of me that thinks, maybe if we, the U.S., would just pay a little more attention to whatís going on in the world, weíd understand why some people want to blow us up. Itís no fun being the "person" that everyone hates. But itís even less fun knowing that there are people out there who really, really hate us, and weíre doing nothing to change that perception.
Then again, there comes the basic philosophic battle pitting the immovable object against the irresistible force. The U.S. wants to spread democracy (and good old U.S. dollars) everywhere, where other countries have a distinctly different agenda. China, letís say, or Iraq. Their governments are, apparently, not interested in democracy.
Wouldnít all parties be better off with a "live and let live" policy? Especially when it comes to China, how about something along the lines of, "Okay, we think communism is lame, and you treat many of your dissidents like crap. Weíll just leave you alone for a while. Think it over. If you think you can make your system work, good luck to you. Weíll just be over here prospering. Keep us posted."
(Sure, this philosophy is a little "taking my ball and going home"-ish. Maybe Iíve got it all wrong. Like I said, Iím improvising here.)
Does China want to take over the world? Are Muslims insistent in creating an all-Muslim world? Thereís no room for "live and let live" in the Koran? In the writings of Marx?
It seems to me that the countries of the West have become slaves to the potential market of one billion Chinese citizens. Granted, thatís a lot of Happy Meals. So far, "engagement" seems to be going relatively well, if you're able to ignore the human rights situation. (That's one mother of an "if," by the way.) At least China isnít sponsoring groups of people whoíd like to blow us up. No, theyíre doing things the American way -- buying influence! Who says they donít have room to expand the definition of Communism? Iím pretty sure it doesnít include a call to gain access to the President and Congress of the U.S. through financial donations.
But when you talk about people who hate the U.S., I mean really hate the U.S., youíve got to look to the Middle East. Sorry, I know thatís liable to ruffle a few P.C. feathers, thatís just the way it is. (I mean, Finland doesnít refer to us as "The Great Satan.")
Side note: Iím not stupid enough to blame everyone from the Middle East for the actions of some people who are from there. You shouldnít be either. For the purposes of making this column manageable, there have been some gross oversimplifications and generalizations. I didnít want this to turn into a thesis, so again, bear with me. When weíre talking about people who hate us the Middle East, weíre talking about the one tenth of one percent who probably feel active hatred toward the U.S. Unfortunately, theyíre the ones who always seem to have access to explosives. (Beirut, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
But, you might be saying, our society needs oil from the Middle East. Does that mean we need to convert everyone to our way of thinking? Do we need to butt in so much? How about easing off a little bit in the region? Israelís fifty years old now, and not going away anytime soon. They can defend themselves. Letís ease off a little, and see if tensions in the region calm a bit. (Weíve tried everything else.)
We, the United States (and I do realize how presumptuous it is for me to write on behalf of the entire country, but hey, itís my column), have an interest in world peace. We have an interest in protecting our allies. We have an interest in ensuring a prosperous America continues to thrive. Maybe, just maybe, anything above and beyond that should be none of our business.
So should we turn a blind eye to injustice around the world? Well, itís the role of "World Cop" that got us where we are in the first place. The American moral ideal is lovely in theory. It just seems to cause a lot of resentment around the world.
If people want help, we should provide it. We shouldnít shoehorn a peace agreement in to place against the wishes of warring parties. Can we "solve" the problems in the former Yugoslavia, or the Middle East? No, we canít. The people living there, however, can. If they want to. If they really, really want to, more than anything else in the world, I believe they can. Itís going to involve sitting down, talking, and a great deal more compromise than anyone has ever considered.
I have faith in the human animal. I think we prefer a state of peace, to a state of war. Just ask any mother. Hold a newborn. Hug your family. Then think about going out and killing your enemy. It just doesnít add up, does it?
Iím not proposing a form of xenophobia. I just think (and here's a mighty big jump in logic, I know) that if we werenít so darn overbearing on the world stage, maybe, maybe, maybe a dozen foreign service employees would have returned from Africa alive. Maybe a couple hundred Africans would still be able to go home to their families. Maybe a couple thousand wounded people wouldnít have live the rest of their lives with the horror they witnessed scarred in their eyes forever.
Thereís got to be a better way. Letís save blowing people up for the really big stuff. I think we can figure out solutions to most of the problems that face us today. Then again, I am perhaps overly optimistic in this regard.
But Iím willing to bet a lot of other people are, as well.