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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 728)...

    People ask whether we should go to war to defend those suffering from genocide or violations of their state rights by other nations or peoples. I want to go into the Erratic Retaliator strategy and why it works, and how it is not conflict that is "bad," but the totalitarian wars we fight with the intention to bend others to our will, where there has to be a winner and a loser. The sure retort to this is, "do you think that we should just sit back and watch the Hutus and the Tutsis massacre each other?" I feel that this is not an example of the Erratic Retaliator strategy, but more like the situation between Israel and Palestine, i.e., we would wipe you out if we could. What do you think about countries going into war to aid other peoples, such as fighting the Germans in part (though this was not the incentive to become involved in WWII) to stop the Holocaust? I know you say that you do not pretend to know what people should do, but for the purpose of this argument, how can I articulate the information in Ishmael and your other books?

    ...and the response:

    My purpose in exploring the Erratic Retaliator strategy was not to recommend its adoption but simply to make it clear that intertribal warfare was not the same as our international wars. The decision to "go to war" is always contested (as our entry into WW II was contested), and there is no simple rule that can be applied to settle the matter. Intervention to prevent a massacre (as in the case of the Hutus and the Tutsis) is different from "going to war," even though it involves the military. My only observation (and it's certainly not uniquely mine) is that it's highly dangerous for any one nation to set itself up as the arbiter of the rest of the world's affairs and to appoint itself the world's policeman. The role of the United Nations is to achieve, as far as possible, a global consensus about when such interventions are appropriate. I don't know of any way to improve on that.

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