Friday, May 12, 2006

Iran, History, and Preventive War

History, it has been said, is what the winning side – the strongest, the most nimble, the most devious, and on occasion the most enlightened – remembers and records for posterity.

This of course, assumes that the “record” survives for posterity to have the opportunity to receive it -- and be interested enough to look at it. Particularly when history was primarily oral, emendations and omissions would not be rare. And even when histories began to be written, manuscripts could disintegrate or be destroyed in subsequent natural or man-made catastrophes.

Then there are the competing views of history – that great men (and women) are the catalysts for history and shape it or that the unfolding of events call forth the women and men with the talents, energy, and drive to seize the moment.

A middle position about how history is made acknowledges the unfolding of natural forces and rhythms which form the backdrop for the movements and activities of animals and humans – or in some cases their lack of activity.

This latter aspect is not trivial. Inaction is a shaper of history as much as action is, for each constitutes a choice, and it is through the myriad choices made or perhaps simply accepted that the future is charted – or perhaps distorted. And because we live in a single, still unfolding universe, we cannot achieve an Archimedean point from which to look at our universe and see how great the distortion might be. Our very act of looking influences (distorts) history.

At one time, war was considered one of the rhythms of life. Even a cursory look at the history passed through generations revealed that the causes of war were legion and could be aggressive or defensive. From time o time, the so-called” Great Captains” emerged, men who seemed at home on the battlefield making the history that others were record.

But war is not simply a rhythm. It is a choice. Most particularly, Preventive War is a distorted choice, for it comes not in the face of a plausible and imminent threat but because a ruler comes to believe, based on present day actions or inaction, that at some indeterminate time if the future, another country or group will pose a threat of great magnitude to that ruler’s successors and to their country.

The distortion created by preventive war is its assumption that the future can be predicted based on the past, on today’s status quo in so doing, preventive war denies the fundamental law that the only universal constant is change.


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