Friday, July 18, 2008

(Our) Joy and (Their) Pain

The banners said it all. While the Lebanese terrorist organization and political party, Hezbollah, was celebrating the return of several prisoners long held by Israel in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in the summer of 2006, a giant banner proclaimed: "Israel is shedding tears of pain. Lebanon is shedding tears of joy" (quoted in the Chicago Tribune).

This is the logic of terrorists. Conflict is to be resolved by raining terror and pain on your enemies. You experience joy, in their pain. As Philip Bobbitt discusses in his important new book, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century, this logic is proclaimed by nations as well as terrorist movements. Indeed, the same logic was expressed by Isreali's as they celebrated the mass bombardment of Beirut in the 2006 war, and by the United States when it celebrated "shock and awe" over Baghdad in the spring of 2003. In both cases, the results have been more cycles of pain.

The choice facing us is not between states and terrorist organization, but between a logic of terror (our joy, their pain) or a logic of mutual recognition and reconciliation. This is the logic that is today represented by global human rights. That movement alone offers a serious alternative to the logic of terrorism.


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