المرتجی موقع المهدویة لمعرفة الامام المهدی

(The “Ontology of Violence” in Western Foreign Policy (3

By Thomas Finger

III.) The “Ontology of Violence” and Western Foreign Policy

From the 17th century to the present, however, western people have frequently been uncomfortable with the brutal, stark features of the Ontology of Violence. Consequently, they have often de-emphasized these features and emphasized the optimistic side of the “Enlightenment” view: that humans are basically rational creatures, and that scientific progress is leading to world-wide moral and social progress. Western people want to believe that their dominant position over other peoples does not vicitimize them, but brings them the benefits of progress.

Examined more closely, his “Enlightenment” view, combines three different understandings of history. First is the Christian, and Abrahamic, vision of God guiding the nations towards a future when they all will be blessed. But this vision, second, is secularized: reason, science and human progress guide this process, instead of revelation, religions and God. Third, this view is militarized; it took over the old Roman concept that a superior western civilization with overwhelming military superiority would bring these benefits to other nations. This third strand connected Enlightenment optimism with the more pessimistic Ontology of Violence.

In the late 19th century, despite the influence of Darwinism, many western leaders highlighted the more optimistic side. They believed that humans had become too enlightened to settle their differences by war, but could now resolve them in more mature ways.  Prior to both World War I and World War II, when some countries threatened to wage war, these leaders sought to deter them by moral and rational persuasion, and avoided strong threats of force. But when rulers like Adolf Hitler ignored these attempts, and when both wars led to unimaginable destruction, many western governments concluded that more “realistic” foreign policies were needed.

During the “Cold War” that followed World War II, many western powers retrieved the Ontology of Violence, and insisted that every nation seeks to increase its power against other nations. This meant that the best international situation possible was not genuine harmony among all people— for that was impossible– but a “balance of power” in which opposing nations were so nearly equal in strength that none would dare to attack the others. Many western political theorists believed that a “bipolar” world situation, where only two major powers existed, would be the safest for everyone. For the more “poles,” or groups of hostile nations, there were, the greater would be the possibilities of war.

During the bi-polar Cold War, Westerners usually attributed the negative features of the Ontology of Violence— the unlimited drive for power and control over others without moral scruples— to the Soviet Union and its allies. But Westerners identified the positive side of the Enlightenment view— progress of towards greater prosperity, peace, and justice for everyone— with themselves. This produced a “black and white” view of the world: since the Communist bloc was wholly evil, the West, which opposed it, was thoroughly good.

The fall of most Communist countries around 1990 left the United States as the world’s strongest power by far.  Now that the conflictual “bi-polar” world had vanished, many Americans thought it was time to reduce their military forces sharply, to seek “multilateral” relationships with other countries, and to treat potential enemies in less threatening ways.  But while some movement in these directions began during the Clinton presidency (1992-2000), the Ontology of Violence, revised in the form of “Neoconservatism,” regained its dominance with George W. Bush. Like Cold War realism, Neoonservatism seeks to blend this pessimistic Ontology with Enlightenment optimism.

According to Neoonservatives, America has a special mission: to spread Enlightenment ideals— like freedom, democracy and prosperity— through the world.  Yet international relations, in this theory, are still governed by those violent, totalitarian quests for power which were formerly concentrated in the Communist world. These forces have dispersed, and have reappeared in anti-democracy movements around the globe. This means the world will remain relatively stable only if the leading democratic nation opposes these movements wherever they operate. But if America is to meet this challenge, it cannot decrease its military budget— even though it has no enemy of comparable power— but must actually increase it.

According to Neoconservatives, America’s military might must be overwhelmingly superior, and must constantly be uprgraded. And to move quickly around the globe, the United States must be able to act unilaterally. It cannot be slowed down by alliances with other countries, international treaties, or the United Nations.  Moreover, since international relations are still governed by the Ontology of Violence, the United States can— and must— follow its principles: must acquire and maintain as much power as it can.

Neoconservatism promotes a “unipolar” view of the world. One unconquerable nation, with occasional help from its allies, imposes “peace” on the other countries— not peace in the sense of deep harmony and friendship among nations, but a peace imposed by violence and threats of violence, and hopefully accompanied by the spread of Enlightenment ideals. But even if the world becomes more Enlightened, violence will always be “ontological:” intrinsic to human nature and society.

IV.) A Christian Alternative

Although the Ontology of Violence arose in a society that called itself Christian, and is promoted today by many people who claim that name, several main differences between it and authentic Christianity should be clear. This Ontology includes a vision of progress towards international harmony and well-being, which it derived from Christian and Abrahamic origins. However, humanity is guided towards it by reason, science and human effort, not by God. Moreover, since nations are driven by desires for power, possessions and security, they cannot reach this goal through increasing co-operation. They must be led, instead, by a western people with overwhelming violent power and innumerable possessions— a notion inherited from the Roman Empire.

But if this Ontology of Violence cannot really lead to the fullness of blessing promised to Abraham, can I suggest a more promising way? I will do so by referring briefly to the ultimate source of Christian social theology, the teachings of Jesus.

A.) “Love Your Enemies,” “Turn the Other Cheek.” These sayings, most people think, teach a totally passive approach to violence:

that if someone abuses you, or abuses other people, just let them do it. But to grasp their true meaning, let us consider a parallel saying which teaches much the same thing: “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

Jesus was speaking mainly to Jews, most of them peasants, who were heavily oppressed by the Romans. Who could force a Jew “to go one mile?” A Roman solider could command one of them to carry his heavy pack that far— but no further.

How might a soldier respond, then, if a Jew, probably tired already from the first mile, began to walk another mile? The soldier could hardly consider this a passive response, for the Jew was doing it voluntarily. Most likely the soldier, in some confused way, would perceive it as an act of kindness by someone to whom he had shown no kindness. The soldier might come to see the Jew as a real fellow human being, trying to do something for him which he did not deserve. Perhaps he would realize how harsh and impersonal his command, to carry the pack, had been— and to realize that Romans usually spoke to their subjects like this..

Jesus’ parallel teachings— if someone strikes you turn the other cheek; if someone takes your coat, give him you cloak (Matthew 5:39-40)— also encourage not passive, but creative, unexpected responses to violence.

 These teachings picture two enemies: one is the oppressor, the other is oppressed. But when the oppressed persons do something unexpected for their oppressors, they are not accepting their oppressed status; they are rejecting it by doing what they choose to do. And by these same acts, they cease to define the other as an enemy. This opens the possibility that the two might begin to relate quite differently.

Also read this article:

(The “Ontology of Violence” in Western Foreign Policy(2

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