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PC's Opinion: The Roots of Peace

This opinion piece is the seventh in a new series of "PC's Weekly Opinion" - a pithy, heavily spiced editorial from Peter Cresswell that can be delivered to your in-box once a week. If you like what you read then feel free to forward it to everyone you've ever met, and to subscribe at www.libz.org

And if you don’t like what you read, then learn to get over it.
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PC's Weekly Opinion
THE ROOTS OF PEACE
By Peter Cresswell

The beards are coming off, and singing is heard again in Kabul. Although the war against terrorism is far from over, the Taleban retreat makes it possible to believe the war in Afghanistan just might be reaching a conclusion, and that civilisation and peace might come to Afghanistan some time soon.

However, I have nagging doubts that will ever happen. First: while the occupying Northern Alliance is less single-mindedly oppressive than the Taleban, they are no less brutal. Second: the Taleban retreat to the hills puts them in their area of competitive advantage - these murderous witchdoctors don't know very much, but they do know all about killing and cave-dwelling.

Third, and most worryingly of all, the West has forgotten how to set up a successful civil government in an occupied area. In the long run this last concern is the most serious, and it might mean that the brutality becomes more visible, and Afghanistan more bloodstained.

And it is serious for another reason. What about the other terrorist-supporting governments that should be in George W. Bush's sights? If terrorism is to be toppled then the governments of Libya, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Iraq must be toppled and replaced - and NOT with the fascist-leaning puppets that the US has supported in the past, and looks like doing again in Afghanistan.

If Bush can't set up successful civil governments in these countries, then he may have to call off the War Against Terrorism early, just as his father called off the Gulf War early for the self-same reason.

As you may recall, the Gulf War ended in 1991 with the US reluctant to finish the war as they should have - with the toppling of Saddam Hussein. When Bush senior stopped the turkey shoot on the road to Baghdad, it wasn't just a loss of courage - it was also the realisation that they had no end-game, that they wouldn't know what to do when they got there.

Our current statesmen may not know how to go about successfully rebuilding a conquered country, but we only need to travel back half a century to find some statesman who did know how.

Out of the rubble of Japan and Germany, Douglas McArthur, Ludwig Erhard, Wilhelm Röpke and Konrad Adenaur built new countries that abandoned their militaristic, totalitarian and feudal pasts and instead embraced peace, prosperity and freedom.

In the words of Röpke: "Men are gripped by a desire to be told what to do and to be ordered about, to the point almost of masochism. The state has become the subject of almost unparalleled idolatry." He and his colleagues recognised that attitude as the very source of war, and sought to banish it, new German Chancellor Adenaur declaring in March 1946: "The new state must no longer dominate the individual. Everyone must be allowed to take the initiative in every facet of existence." They set up governments large enough to maintain the rule of law and protect initiative, and small enough to get out of the way otherwise. And they worked like all hell!

Their minimal governments, constitutionally constrained to protect contracts and property rights, allowed free trade to flourish and prosperity to blossom. German and Japanese young men soon realised that there was more to life than butchery and invading their neighbours, and they set about getting rich instead.

They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Germany and Japan could hardly have started at a lower point. At the end of 1945, both countries were in ruins, yet only twenty years later they were flying. It was called a miracle, but it was in fact the work of some remarkable men.

We can only hope that the lessons from these remarkable men can be learned by the current crop of statesmen. It won't be easy, but if terrorism is to be eradicated and the gun-toting young men and the veiled women of Afghanistan offered any future at all - then the lessons must be learned, and they must be applied.

And if they are successful, then the world might have cause to give thanks once again to Douglas McArthur, Ludwig Erhard, Wilhelm Röpke and Konrad Adenaur.

© Libz.org 2001

This column may be reproduced anywhere, anytime, by anyone - just as long as it is reproduced in full, with attribution to libz.org, and that you let Peter know at organon@ihug.co.nz .


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