The Use of Force
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Sometimes force is effective, which is why it is so common. Many countries became independent via the force of armed revolution. But there are times when force is not effective, so it is important to understand when force is futile.
The two common applications of force in global politics are war and trade barriers. War is futile when the enemy is much stronger and is determined to fight to the finish. Trade barriers are futile when the chiefs of the target country can use the barriers as an excuse for the poor performance of the economy.
The US government's prohibition of trade with Cuba is futile if the aim is to topple the regime. It is well known by now that the trade barriers only strengthen the Cuban regime. The trade barriers remain because there are beneficiaries. Trade with Cuba would increase imports of sugar, decreasing the profits of Florida sugar growers. The removal of travel restrictions would hurt the Florida tourist business. Free trade would also present Cuban exiles with a dilemma, since many would like to return but are comfortable in the U.S. The trade blockage relieves them of having to make the painful choice.
Jews in Israel did not know when not to use force. They were successful in throwing out the Greek occupation, but this was not the right lesson when it came to the Roman occupation. The Romans were at the height of their power and were determined to quash any revolts.
Arabs have also not learned when force is effective. They think that Jews in Israel are foreign crusaders and European-style colonialists who, like the French in Algeria and Indochina, will flee when confronted by force. Algerians were successful in kicking out the French because down deep, the French knew Algeria was not really part of France. Indochina was a French colony of no great importance to France.
But Jews in Israel consider the land their home and their rightful property, and Israel is a strong power that will fight to the finish. Israel's independence was a miracle that may not be repeated if lost again. Arabs were fooled by their success in ending the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Israel quit there when confronted with losses. Israel never considered Lebanon as part of its homeland, but it was an error in policy to leave there without a negotiated agreement.
What Muslims do not understand is that Jews consider the violence against them in Israel as mainly a continuation of centuries of persecution. The violence only makes Israelis more determined to avoid any concessions, which will bring on ever more violence. By refusing to understand Jewish history and culture, and failing to understand when violence is futile, Palestinian Arabs have condemned themselves to perpetual occupation and misery.
Violence by Arabs against American troops did succeed in expelling Americans from Lebanon and Somalia, because the chiefs of the US government were not committed to these fights, and they failed to understand that failure there would lead extremists to consider the US a coward. This contributed to the 9/11 attack. The current chiefs of the US do understand this. The US is a mighty power determined to finish what it started in Iraq. The Arabs fighting the US either don't understand this, or else some may realize it and simply want to inflict as much damage on Americans as possible.
The US chiefs have also not learned when force is insufficient. They respond to the violence in Iraq with brute strength. This may be necessary, but the causes of the violence need to be confronted also. Sovereignty and political power must be transferred to Iraqis as soon as possible, with a quick time schedule. This can be done by empowering the already elected local councils. The enemies of the US in Iraq are also powerful and determined to win. Establishing true self-rule in Iraq would greatly diminish the opposition to the occupation.
One of the great psychological influences in conscious animals is variable positive feedback. When a bird sometimes gets food by pecking on a lever and sometimes not, when it does not get the food, it keeps on pecking, because sometimes it is successful. So it is also with the use of force by humans. Sometimes criminals get away with their gains, and sometimes not. Sometimes a foreign occupation is eliminated by force, and sometimes not. It depends on the power of the opposition and its determination to win. It is a lesson we can apply in our own lives. Force is usually ineffective if the enemy is strong and determined to avoid defeat.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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