You may have seen the following quote making the rounds across Facebook:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The quote is in response to the popular reactions — euphoria in many circles — across the World to the killing of Bin Laden. As it turns out, this quote is not completely real. This memetic event displays the paradigm through which many people base their understanding of conflict, why it exists and how to prevent it.

Security Analyst Adam Elkus penned a brilliant response to the quote,

But neither love or hate are policies, strategies, or tactics. They’re only emotions and ideal categories. They are not instrumental devices that we use to get what we want. So let’s stop pretending that they are causal forces, that somehow rejoicing in the end of a mass murderer is going to conjure up more hate which in turn leads to more conflict.

Read his post, there is not much I can add to his words. Except for on the fact that emotions are not “policies, strategies, or tactics” is why taking up arms can exist as a profession, and why there is a difference between a mob and professionals-at-arms. As Adam mentions, conflict does not exist out of a primordial hate. Nor does it end because of a sudden emotional realization that there is some ‘better way’. There is a spectrum to conflict, the same hatred that can be felt for a mortal enemy is the same hate felt for the Shipmate who cut you off on 264 going into NOB. Both forms of hatred are dismissed through the same cognitive process as well — though the means through that process differ significantly. At one extreme only the acknowledgment of the emotion is necessary for it to quickly dissipate. On the other, is the application of violence by professionals. This is to say that despite the irrationality of emotion, there is a rational and deliberative process that ends conflict. That objectivity defines modern conflict resolution (note: There was VERY little that I interpreted happening to me objectively while I was downrange. Afterwards, in getting home, my objectivity returned to me).

By looking at conflict objectively we have come to better understand the causes of conflict and have attempted to address our understanding of the causes through organizational constructs (NATO, UN, IMF, WTO — deliberative bodies) as well as methodical approaches (COIN, CT — tactics). But, in assuming the causes of conflict only as a function of emotion we remove any hope of conflict prevention. It is ironic that the sentiment expressed in the fake quote are actually an affirmation that violence and conflict are unavoidable and that humans are incapable of being disciplined enough to rise above their emotions.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Foreign Policy, Hard Power, Soft Power

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  • Shenanigans aside, this is Americans reveling in a military victory — as clear cut and unambiguous as you’re going to get in what has been a long, ugly and contentious struggle. Salamander is right that we need to be wary of complacency, but while OBL hasn’t mattered for years in any operational sense, this is a boost to a battered American psyche far out of proportion to any one individual. It doesn’t solve our counterinsurgency and nation-building problems in Afghanistan, but it is good for this country to remember just how bad ass its military is, and that we, too, have been winning battles.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Every generation or so, we get a stark reminder that there are people in this world who need to be killed. They cannot be negotiated with, nor placated, nor their appetite lessened, but by tasting blood. Namely, ours.

    With respect to men like King and Gandhi, their personal philosophies can only survive because others are willing to take the fight to those who need killing and, yes, rejoice when those people are dead and they themselves have survived.

    The great conversation in Kipling’s KIM:

    ‘It is not a good fancy,’ said the lama. ‘What profit to kill

    ‘Very little–as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.
    I do not speak without knowledge who have seen the land from Delhi south awash with blood.’

  • William W. Berry

    Let’s put it in the following perspective:

    1. The home team scored a touchdown.
    2. It’s still the first quarter.

  • I have no problem with rejoicing over this man’s death. I believe the public showings that we have seen are really more relief that we got him more than anything else, though. He has been this insidious hidden bogeyman for more than a decade. It shows that you can’t hide forever, that we will eventually bring you to ground. Decades ago this wasn’t the case and many innocent people died until we finally figured it out on 9/11.
    As Dennis Miller has said in his act, “Sometimes you just need to thin the herd.”
    Now for the next one.