Talking with Your Enemies

As a person who always hopes that non-military methods could be successfully used to resolve some of the world’s problems, I was encouraged by The Washington Post article Patraeus Mounts Strategy Review in which General Patraeus outlines some of his strategy for conducting the war against terror in Afghanistan.  What was encouraging to me was his comments showing he understands that military policy is part of U.S. foreign policy, not its totality. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also emphasized this recently, perhaps indicating that some of our military leaders having experienced the nature of war also understand the importance of diplomacy better than some of our hawkish civilian administration leaders.

 Three points from the article:

Reconciliation of moderate Taliban insurgents who are willing to ally with the Afghan government is emerging as one main thrust of Petraeus’s approach, according to officials and experts who have discussed it with him recently.

Petraeus agreed but stressed that any outreach needs to be done in conjunction with the Afghan government. “I do think you have to talk to enemies,” he said at the Heritage Foundation. “Clearly you want to try to reconcile with as many as possible. . .”

An overview of the review team’s mission obtained by The Post says that including other government agencies and other nations in the planning will “mitigate the risk of over-militarization of efforts and the development of short-term solutions to long-term problems.”

Patraeus who is often cited by the current presidential candidates to support their proposals seems to value a notion that you do not always have to go to war with your enemies; sometimes it is better to negotiate face to face with them and choose a solution other than a military one.  Of course and unfortunately, it is true that even when a non-military solution is found, it is sometimes the strength of the military and the threat of war which helps insure that all parties abide by the agreement.  Nevertheless that the military leader most referred to by the president and presidential candidates sees the importance of diplomatic efforts is encouraging.

And as the world economic crisis unfolds it is comforting to hope that though opposing ideas as to how to deal with the crisis might emerge, and that nations may strongly disagree about causes of and solutions for problems, that the nations of the world might understand that diplomacy and not war is the way to help a destroyed global economy recover.

Talking with one’s enemies is not even close to the Lord Jesus’s teaching to love one’s enemies, but it also can be part of a more humane and pro-life strategy.  One can hope that as within our country, so too in the world, having enemies does not always mean they have to be killed.  And though it may only be a dream, is it possible that the nations of the earth could learn that negotiating and reconciling with enemies is sometimes a perfectly good way to defeat them?

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