Monday, August 09, 2004

Open University - Idiots Politics Session 4b - Violent Insurrection

The last session has raised a particular question that needs perhaps to be tackled in its own subsection, call it the seminar that follows the lecture to stick with the OU analogy if you like!
There are many groups who struggle against what they see as oppression. We may indeed agree with many of their motives but we may not agree with their modus operandi. Obviously the most prevalent of these examples is when it comes to violent insurrection.

In an ideal world everyone would be represented and things would be equal without being homogenous. Without getting into an argument about how possible this may be and to what degree desirable I think we can all safely agree that it is not the case now. This means there are many marginalised and disenfranchised and they have a right to struggle for recognition, again I don't think this is especially contentious. What is more the repressive armies and police of the state constitute quite legitimate targets and any focus on insurrection should primarily be aimed here. The problem comes if such resistance to the actual bodies of the State proves ineffectual.

Remember that the armies of the state rarely play by the rules when it suits them. Take the Israelis the most heavily-armed and crack-trained military unit in the world. Occupying large areas of land in defience of international law they flout the rules and regulations laid down and whilst they may be censured for doing so they are allowed to continue because there remains the upholding of the 'might is right' principle. They think nothing of obliterating whole areas of residential -?- in order to secure 1 "legitimate" target. The Palestinians would certainly be highly unlikely to inflict serious military damage against the Israeli army because it is not a level playing field, they have neither the hardware not the training nor the manpower and therefore they fight in the way they know how.

So in such a one-sided conflict it does seem rather bourgeous to sit and eulogise about only attacking military targets etc. I do not deny it is right as a utopian strategy, but I question it's effectiveness and therefore its relevance in the modern world. Not to do so is I feel not to understand the nature of the problem, it labels such conflicts as wrong because of the methods without necessarily the acknowledgement of why these methods are adopted and the cause for which they stand. It is, for example, all very right and proper to condemn Al Queda bombers for their targeting of civilians but one must be very careful not to be swept up in that tide of condemnation that merely labels these men as mad extremists and begins a path to reprisals and retaliation. After all it IS as a direct result of US foreign policy that the West is so unpopular and not just in the Islamic world but across swathes of the Far East and Central & South America where their self-indulgant interventionist policies have ridden roughshod over democracies and the needs/wishes of the people for the good of the US establishment. Let us not forget that the US has the most-equipped Air Force in the world and has used it to bomb over 50 countries since the Second World War. It seems a large number, how many do you think you can name? In the face of B-52s and such like can one really be so self-righteous as to tell disperate groups of ordinary men that they may only attack legitimate military targets? It's a hell of a choice. It is easy for me because I sit in my house and I can just about get by from day to day and I have just enough education to perform as it were. Would I have the luxury of such circumspection if I lived in Ramala and Israeli shells were frequently blowing up parts of the neighbourhood? Or if I was an African or South American marxist seeing my country starve because of the raping of resources by the West and the corruption of the governments that support them. Would I still feel that talking about the problem or being nobly detached from engagement empowered me in any way shape of form?

Another aspect to add to this question is that the world's major powers now run on economic might and it is precisely this force and power that is used to subjugate so many. Should this make Wall St. a legitimate target, or the World Bank building, the WTO, the IMF offices? I feel the case for this is strong based on the widescale damage these organisations cause, and yet whilst I would certainly baulk at the possible loss of innocent lives, withdrawing from any conflict in this area may yet result in the death of thousands, maybe millions more. Do we not have to strike a balance? At what point do the lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few? Is there such a point, is it static or fluid? I think the only conclusion of sorts that I can come up with is that this has to be a choice for the individual, each of us may face it and based on our characters and experience we may make different decisions, history or perhaps your God may judge you for your actions. If we apply our usual tenets to any such situation it should help us decide what is right. To me the Gandhi "An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind" quote is such a powerful mantra that it would have to take a very serious cause for me to reconsider that approach. After all it was Gandhi who achieved much with non-violent confrontation. I would like to think this approach can always work but I fear there are many situations where it may not and then the question raised is one of whether you are prepared to stand up for your principles and to what extent you feel prepared to take that stand. Will I ever choose violence over peace to try to achieve what I believe is right, definitely not, but will I defend what I ardently believe in, what I consider paramount for me and my family, by any means necessary, I would like to think I might find the courage to do so should the occasion ever arise.

I would like to end by citing an article of a fellow (!) academic, Abhinav Aima, which was brought to my attention by my twin and whose prose is a deal more eloquent than mine and goes some way to explaining the roots of the current Middle Eastern problem within the context of this session.