I consider myself a writer now, but before that I was a teacher. I have a degree in political science and international studies, and at one point I was sure that my life would take me into a career in diplomacy or counter terrorism. Most people see those two fields as contradictory. Diplomacy deals with developing good relations with other nations and major world players. It necessitates skills in the use of power, both soft and hard. Wielding that power is the key to a successful outcome. Usually, diplomacy is the path taken when one wants to avoid conflict, and overall, is usually successful.
Counter terrorism officials deal with intelligence and strategy. Their goal is to uncover non-state actors that post a great threat to the state, in my case, the US. The power they wield is the power of secrecy and arms, a powerful combination that is necessary when hunting enemies that have no end-game other than pure destruction.
Both diplomacy and counter terror efforts take place without much fanfare. Officials for both do their work in the background, ensuring a smooth global operation. One needs the other, whether we as Americans admit it or not. There is no such thing as the possibility of isolationism, nor should there be. The world is filled with humans just like us, and we have to acknowledge that.
I bring this up because of what happened at the Boston Marathon. Both our diplomats and security specialists are in overdrive, and they are at the helm of a pissed off nation. With 3 dead and over a hundred seriously injured, we find ourselves asking questions. We want to know who did it and why. We want to know why our intelligence officials didn’t know about it. But most of all, and perhaps more telling of who we are, is our need to know who we will kill in retaliation.
Scanning the blogs, tweets, and other social media postings, it is clear that people need someone to hit back. It reminds me of when I was four. A classmate hit me so I hit him back. It’s a natural response. Human response. Even though we as adults tell our kids not to hit back, we don’t really mean it. In fact, I imagine it’s hard not to be proud of your kid for sticking up for himself.
The US has usually followed what is a policy of proportional response. The terrorists kill ten of our people, we respond by taking out a “reasonable” amount of theirs. The US has the capability to destroy any enemy that they want, but we temper our anger and strike, not with our full capabilities, but with the equivalent of a toothpick into a watermelon. In reality, we could just take our baseball bat and destroy it, but we don’t.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Boston, especially the eight year old boy, Martin Richard, that was killed. His mother had to have brain surgery and his sister lost a leg. They were watching their dad run the marathon. Reading that, if your first reaction isn’t to find everyone involved and kill them, then you are a better person than me. However, I know that finding everyone involved and killing them would lead to innocent people getting killed as well. That is something I don’t want and something that is hard to a nation of people to understand.
As a nation, it is easy to strike with our weapons. A nation is all of us combined. All individuals. But it is also a thing. With everyone combined, we become a collective, no longer individuals. Why is that important? Because, as a collective we can suspend our concept of appropriate retaliation. Forgiveness is hard enough for individuals, but nearly impossible for a nation. We have to have blood.
I was not there in Boston, and if I was, if my family had been hurt, I would probably not be calling for patience and calm. For most people, this is not a situation that deserves either. I just don’t want to make a mistake and let loose the weapons of fury on innocent people because we demand someone pay. Don’t get me wrong; I want those that did this to be punished severely and quickly. Somebody will pay. But I do not want innocent people to die because of it. I’ve come a long way in my views of other people, religions, and cultures. In the end, we are indeed all humans. Some of us were lucky enough to be born in free nations, some unlucky enough to be born under the watchful eyes of oppressors and terrorists. Those are the people that I feel sorry for, just as much as I feel sorry for the victims of the bombings.
The photo that almost everyone has seen of the little boy that died is one in which he is holding up a sign that says “No more hurting people” followed by “Peace.” It is hard to look at now, but we should take heed of the message. The hardest times to find peace are times like this. For the sake of Martin Richard, let’s try.
– Reaching out to an enemy in kindness often changes the enemy into a friend. – Don Miller