Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | April 27, 2009

Massive Inner Conflict Resolution, Part 2

This is the third post in which I’m writing about my realization and coming to terms with whether or not there are people with whom peace is really not possible. As I typed the “2” in the title it briefly crossed my mind to wonder how many there will be.

Right now, a likely candidate for people with whom peace is not possible seems to be the Taliban militants who are taking over Pakistan.  Until yesterday, the Pakistani military has been absent from the conflict, local police forces have been decimated in battles and it was down to civilian posses trying to fill in, resisting the Taliban’s advances.  As reported in the April 25 New York Times by Jane Perlez:

In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.

Severe disenchantment toward the [Pakistani] government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, said Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization in Buner. “When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine,” he said.

The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.

A controversial peace deal between the Taliban and the government of Pakistan in February left the Taliban in control of the Swat valley region of Pakistan.  On April 5, the Taliban took over neighboring Buner region. 

[…]  the Taliban put such pressure on the members of Mr. Mohammed’s posse, or lashkar, that they disappeared or fled, Mr. Mohammed said.

“The police part of our lashkar left, and I was all alone,” he said. On the night of April 11, he fled, too, he said in a telephone conversation from Karachi, where he has gone to hide.

The militants at that point occupied his three gas stations, his flour mill and his 20-room house, he said. They had also commandeered more than 20 other houses in Sultanwas belonging to his relatives, he said.

[…]  early last week the Taliban showed their power by ordering the state courts shut. They announced that they would open Islamic courts, practicing Shariah, by the end of the month.

The militants have also placed a tax payable to the Taliban on all marble quarried at mines, said a senior police officer who worked in Buner.

At gas stations belonging to Mr. Mohammed, they pumped gas and drove off without paying, the officer said.

“No one dare ask them for payment,” he said.

It may sound odd but out of all of that, this last line is what really struck me, in terms of the feasibility of nonviolence.  It made me realize that in the two most stunning successes of nonviolence – Gandhi and Indian independence, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights – the people that the nonviolent movement opposed, acted according to a rule of law.  That may be an essential ingredient for the use of nonviolence.

Yesterday, the Pakistani government ordered its military to attack the Taliban.  In response, the Taliban has today declared the February peace pact “worthless” – as if they had shown any regard for it when they invaded Buner.  When a group shows by their actions that they do not regard themselves as bound by anything, even their own word, then what impression can anything make on them?  It seems that the Taliban will do exactly what they please, regardless of how anyone reacts.  

But mustn’t it have seemed that way in the beginning to Gandhi, and King? 

Having thought about that for several minutes…  I’d say that what Gandhi and King had, that the citizens of Pakistan don’t have, is that their causes sought conditions which were just according to their opponents’ own principles.  Nonviolence is highly effective in making someone realize that their actions are not up to the moral standard on which the rule of law they follow is based.  But when, as is apparently the case with the Taliban, the opponent’s actions are already entirely consistent with their own moral code, there is no higher authority that nonviolence can appeal to.  Which leaves two potential courses of action:  to change your opponent’s moral code, or to resist them physically. 

Is there any hope at all of ever changing someone else’s moral code?  I’ll have to get back to you on that………..  Comments?



  1. Also,

    New Delhi : The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed. “It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture here. He termed terrorism as the worst kind of violence which is not carried by a few mad people but by those who are very brilliant and educated. “They (terrorists) are very brilliant and educated…but a strong ill feeling is bred in them. Their minds are closed,” the Dalai Lama said. He said the only way to tackle terrorism is through prevention. The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile left the audience stunned when he said “I love President George W Bush.” He went on to add how he and the US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting unlike politicians who take a while to develop close ties. “I told him ‘I love you but some of your policies I oppose’,” said the spiritual leader to a loud round of applause from the audience which included Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, Election Commissioner Navin Chawla and several ministers, diplomats and artistes. The Dalai Lama said in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks he had asked Bush to spend billions of dollars on education and promotion of non-violence instead of warfare.

    something to think about.

  2. I had three reactions to this.

    1. What the Dalai Lama described as their strong ill feeling, and their minds being closed, seems like he is expressing the same sentiment I did about nonviolence not working when your opponent’s moral code is already fully in line with their actions. If I’m reaching some of the same conclusions as the Dalai Lama, I must be doing something right.

    2. This raises a philosophical problem with me, however, which is that once you begin drawing lines between people with whom nonviolence will work, and those with whom it won’t, who draws the line? How do you keep that person’s mind from becoming closed too?

    3. If only Bush had listened to the Dalai Lama instead of Cheney and Rove…

    Thanks Ryan.

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