(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)
Eric C ended up working on the post “The Original Name of Violence” for over three years before he felt he had it perfect. It was worth the wait, because in it, commenter “Martin” might have made the most insightful comment we have ever received on the blog.
At the time, we had just launched “The Case Against War with Iran” series, and this comment struck me as completely applicable. To build peace, America needs the traits of all great leaders: wisdom, magnanimity and forgiveness.
Here is that comment:
Many years ago I was a teacher. As part of my teacher training I elected to do an optional course called something like “Dealing with difficult children”. The course involved quite a bit of role play of teacher pupil confrontations. The thing I learnt on that course, and the thing the instructor wanted us to take away was this: it is the job of the teacher to lower the level of confrontation, because the pupil sure won’t. If the pupil shouts and the teacher shouts louder, then things escalate. The teacher must work to lower the level of confrontation. That doesn’t mean being weak, or capitulating; it is rather the intelligent exercise of power to achieve the teacher’s goals.
The lesson generalises: in a conflict, it is the duty of the more powerful to lower the level of confrontation(1).
There are two ways to stop a conflict: for the weak party to surrender, or for the powerful party to be magnanimous(2). But when the weak surrenders, it is armistice rather than peace. (Think Treaty of Versailles after WWI c.f. Marshall Plan after WWII). The only way to lasting peace is for the more powerful party (or the victor) to be magnanimous.
All is not futile: the cycle of violence can be ended, but it can only be ended by the more powerful.
(1) This is actually one of the most important life lessons I have learnt.
(2) There is a third way: mutual destruction, but I’ll avoid that as it is a distraction to my main point.
As the drums continue to beat for war with Iran, more Americans and Israelis would do well to remember this sound advice. Peace, deescalation, forgiveness and magnanimity aren’t just options for powerful people, they’re requirements.