'Impeachable Incompetence' Governs Iraq Escalation

by Robert A.F. Thurman, Washington Post, Jan 12, 2007

Washington, DC (USA) -- The Buddhist tradition has no theory of "just war." Its major relevant doctrine is that of "nonviolence" (ahimsa). "Hatred will not put an end to hatred; only love can put an end to hatred." Such is a central tenet of all forms of Buddhism.

However, Buddhism is highly practical, and has a very limited concept of "surgical violence;" that is, sometimes a little violence can prevent a larger violence.

The motivation of such an exceptional act must be to reduce violence, but a violent method may sometimes be necessary. Thus, in Buddhist medicine, there is surgery, sometimes cutting into a body to save a life, extract poison, mend a bone, remove a diseased organ, and so on.

This does not extend to war, however, since although an individual leader may have a good motivation, once a war starts then people become afraid and angry and violence and hatred escalate out of control. In Mahayana Buddhism, there is one scriptural discourse wherein defensive war is allowed under restricted conditions. If you are a king and your country is invaded, you may raise an army to defend the country if you can do so successfully, and if you limit your effort to expelling, never pursuing the invaders back into their own country. If the invaders have overwhelming force, you must surrender at once, as resistance will only make the invaders angry and hence result in more violence to your people.

Therefore, from the Buddhist point of view, an aggressive war (what has been termed "preemptive war" in recent doctrines of Bush administration principals), such as in the invasion of Iraq, can never be justified. Indeed, it is illegal in terms of international law, as was established in the Nuremberg trials.

The pursuit of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, since Al-Qaeda did attack America and vowed to continue to do so, is a borderline case; but if it had been done with truly minimal "collateral damage," and with a thoroughness that was unfortunately not achieved, it might have been considered effective in reducing violence long-term, though it was still a violation of the fundamental Buddhist principle of nonviolence.

As far as the current escalation of the occupation of Iraq, since it is mentioned in the question, it is obviously unrealistic, futile, and a tragic misuse of others' lives in the personal stubbornness of this president.

To implement it, one secretary of defense and the generals in charge had to be fired, the will of the majority of both Americans and Iraqis had to be ignored, and the Congress had to be further intimidated. It is disheartening that pundits and politicians solemnly discuss it as if it was a sane decision, a "plausible option," something that is to be debated; instead of stating plainly that it is an act of unacceptable foolishness and therefore impeachable incompetence.

Where is the brave little girl who can plainly state that this "emperor" has no clothes?