Editor’s Note: This column was first published in May 2002.
Let us make war on the phrase “violence doesn’t solve anything.” It is a lie, and anyone who utters it cannot be taken morally seriously.
Take, for example, the American use of violence against the Taliban. Thanks to it, Afghani women may get an education, attend public events without a male escort and otherwise ascend above their prior status as captive animals.
Thanks to American violence in Afghanistan, Islamic terror has started to decline in prestige among many Muslims who had previously romanticized it. Though many Muslims still glorify Muslims who blow themselves up in order to murder Jews and Americans, the glamour of terror is dwindling. In Pakistan, for example, there are almost no Osama T-shirts on sale, and no more demonstrations on his behalf.
Even more significantly, a handful of Muslims and Arabs are beginning to ask what is wrong in their cultures, rather than continuing to blame America, Christianity and Israel for their lack of human rights, political democracy and economic progress.
Once again, violence properly used has led to major moral gains for humanity.
You have to wonder how anyone can utter, let alone believe, something so demonstrably wrong as “violence doesn’t solve anything,” or “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” or any other pacifist platitudes. These are the moral and intellectual equivalents of “the Earth is flat.” In fact, it is easier to show that violence solves many evils than it is to show that the earth is round.
It was violence that destroyed Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Only violence. Not talk. Not negotiations. Not good will.
It is violence used by police that stops violent criminals from murdering or otherwise hurting innocent people. There are many innocent men and women alive today solely because some policeman used violence to save their lives.
It was violence that ended slavery in America. Had violence not been used against the Confederacy, the United States would have been cut in half, and millions of black men and women would have remained slaves.
The list of moral good achieved by violence is endless.
How, then, can anyone possibly say something as demonstrably false as “violence doesn’t solve anything”?
The answer is difficult to arrive at. Given how obviously moral much violence has been, one is tempted to respond by asking how people can believe any absurdity — whether it is that Elvis Presley is still living, or that race determines a person’s behavior, or that 72 women in heaven await mass murderers.
Vast numbers of people believe what they want to believe or what they have been brainwashed to believe, not what is true or good. For vast numbers of people, it is simply dogma that all violence is wrong. It is a position arrived at with little thought but with a plethora of naive passion.
It is also often the position of the morally confused. People who believe in moral relativism, who therefore cannot ever determine which side in a conflict is morally right, understandably feel incapable of determining when violence may be moral.
Those who say violence never solves anything have confused themselves in other ways as well. They have elevated peace above goodness. Therefore, in these people’s views, it is better for evil to prevail than to use violence to end that evil — since the very use of violence renders the user of it evil.
For those people whose moral compasses are intact, the issue is as clear as where North and South are. There is immoral violence, and there is moral violence.
That is why it is so morally wrong and so pedagogically foolish to prohibit young boys from watching any violence or from playing violent games like “Cops and Robbers.” Just as with sex and ambition and all other instincts, what must be taught about violence is when it is right to use it.
For if we never engage in moral violence, it is as certain as anything in life can be that immoral violence will rule the world.