web analytics
December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



War, Truth, And The Shadows Of Meaning


Beres-Louis-Rene

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images. That is certain. – Plato, The Republic

It is time to look behind the news. Operation Iraqi Freedom is officially concluded; U.S. operations in Afghanistan are reportedly moving in a similar direction. More generically, however, debate about combat operations, strategy and tactics remains ongoing.

Inevitably, we can reliably assume that similar debates will arise concerning still unforeseen theatres of conflict. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with the prospect of such debates. But, even in our persistently anarchic and self-help system of world politics, it is ultimately important to seek and understand the more underlying and recurring reasons for war.

Freud understood. Whether we will choose to support or oppose any particular conflict, core causes and correctives of all war lie deeply embedded in the largely unchanging nature of humankind. It follows that until we can begin to understand and reform this corrosively destructive nature, our entire species will remain both predatory and imperiled.

At its most basic or “molecular” level, what we have witnessed in Iraq, and what we still see clearly in Afghanistan and other places, especially Syria, Pakistan, Sudan, and North Korea, is the malignant tribalism of a chaotic world order. There exists, also, in several regional “theatres,” a resultant or at least associated fusion of sectarian violence with various explicit (aggressively non-negotiable) claims of “sacredness.”

The 19th century German philosopher Hegel once commented: “The State is the march of God in the world.” This observation now applies equally to certain sub-state, jihadist terrorist groups. Faced with the dizzying unreason of both already-sovereign and sovereignty-seeking “tribes,” states and aspiring states that routinely extend compelling promises of inclusion and immortality in exchange for “martyrdom,” our global system stands a steadily diminishing chance of permanent survival.

We must also consider another, unprecedented fusion, one that is quite literally dreadful. This is the coming together of atomic capability with possible leadership irrationality. Presently, such an ominous combination is most readily worrisome in Iran, and perhaps North Korea and Pakistan, but there are also many other areas in which decision-making elites could sometime choose to value certain presumed religious obligations (“holy war”) more highly than any “normal” preference for national or group self-preservation.

As a species, we cannot hope to “fix” any particular conflicts until we have first understood the underlying human basis of violent world politics. The grinding chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan is more productively identified as a symptom than as an actual disease. More noteworthy than any immediately recognizable issues of separatism, insurgency, and suicide bombing, is the tangible consequence of individual human death fears, and the corollary individual terrors of social or national exclusion.

Always, global violence and disorder have their roots in the much deeper pain of individuals. In the end, this primal malady is the ubiquitous incapacity of people, everywhere, to discover authentic meaning and comfort outside the (state or terror) group, and, instead, within themselves. In our own intellectual history, this trenchant observation was already offered in the mid-19th century by the American Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau.

Despite the undying worldwide hopes still associated with the United Nations, a system of collective security can never save us. Any enduring rescue must always lie elsewhere. Above all, we must first acknowledge that there is always a crucial inner meaning to world order and global civilization. This individual human meaning can only be uncovered amid a widening willingness to look beyond assorted group promises of personal salvation (“You will not die”) in exchange for organized barbarism (war or terrorism).

“Just wars,” as we have known from Grotius to Jefferson, have a valid place in the world. They must, however, be fought only to protect the innocent, never to slaughter anonymous noncombatant “others” in sordid and bloody bargains for personal immortality. More than anything else, perhaps, it is the “denial of death” by individuals that ultimately spawns war and terror.

Although still unrecognized, even in universities, there is no greater power in world affairs than the power over death. From the beginning, all principal violence in world politics has been driven by a contrived tribal conflict between and within nations, and by a conspicuously “sacred” promise to reward the “faithful” with freedom from mortality. A related promise has been to include each loyal believer in a privileged community of the elect.

This lethal and usually irresistible promise is not unique to the present moment in history. It was as plainly evident in the “secular” policies of the Third Reich, as it is today throughout portions of the dar al Islam, the World of Islam.

Whether we know it or not, without an outsider to despise, a “heathen,” an “other,” we humans are generally apt to feel impotent, lonely, and lost. Drawing almost all of our benefits of self-worth from the collective, from what Freud (following Nietzsche and Stirner) called the “primal horde,” we technically superior beings remain unable to satisfy even the most elementary requirements of peaceful coexistence. Ironically, our substantial progress in certain technological and scientific realms has had absolutely no counterpart in fostering civilized human relations. We have advanced aircraft and advanced telephones, but still remain locked into fully barbaric patterns of social interaction. Recalling William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, we know that we can be taught manners and gastronomy, but that, when the chips are down, the veneer of civilization can become utterly thin.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “War, Truth, And The Shadows Of Meaning”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Prosecutor in Ferguson Case: ‘Witnesses Lied Under Oath’
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/war-truth-and-the-shadows-of-meaning/2012/04/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: