Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard is concerned that too many of our leaders have neglected history:That then is the difference. Democracies talk, tyrannies act. In Burma, the junta has acted ruthlessly while democracies expressed concern. In Iran, Ahmadinejad hangs homosexuals; democracies invite him to speak at Columbia. Post modern democracies have forgotten all the lessons of history. At some point talk no longer works. Woodrow Wilson tried talk right up until he saw that it would not work. Then the doughboys went to France. Franklin Roosevelt was all for talking, until the bombs shattered the quiet of a bright, sunny morning in Hawaii. Then he was all-in for the war. Truman was willing to talk right up until the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel. Then he sent the Army. John Kennedy talked up a storm until the missiles arrived in Cuba. Then he sent the Navy to blockade.
In the post modern west, the default is talk until talking fails, then start a new round of talk. Express concern when the militias in Sudan butcher humans. Send a bit of food aid so the targeted villagers present bigger targets for the tyrants who prefer acting to talking. Express concern about those monk guys over in Burma while the junta cracks their skulls with batons or shoots a few holes in them. Howl endlessly if a western leader acts instead of talks. Screech and whine your risk-free dissent against that risk-free target and ignore the real monsters. Or invite them to talk at Columbia. Or even to attend classes at Yale.
If you are inclined towards aggressive action - which Gaius seems to be - then the reluctance on part of most democracies to use "action" (i.e. military force) is a problem. The other possibility though, is that democracies have very much taken to heart the lessons of history, and in particular, the uber-lesson of the 20th century.
War really sucks.
Every powerful country on this planet is - on some level - aware of the sheer destruction that war causes. Even in the examples that Gaius listed, war was used in very drastic situations and when there literally was no other recourse.
The people who haven't learned the lessons of history are those who continually cheerlead for war. They are almost like the picnic-ers at the first Battle of Bull Run, a group of people too naive to realize that war is a terrible, messy affair, that in most cases causes more problems than it solves.
Gaius responds in a separate post:
I got linked by someone who took exception to my earlier post but appears to have missed my point[.] ... Sometimes, the only way to get tyrannies to listen is to present a credible threat. It is not always necessary to use that threat. Kennedy did not have to sink any Russian ships to make them back down.
But if you talk, talk, talk, the tyrannies will do exactly what they feel like doing because they believe- rightly - that they have nothing to fear. Until they go too far, then they learn. But it costs much, much more then. And Jamelle, I am not pro-war. I am very much in favor of peace all around. I'm just not stupid enough to believe the rest of the people in the world feel the same way as I do. So I am in favor of making those sorts of people think long and hard before they cross that line.
Talk softly, carry a big stick - and know when to stop talking.
I take Gaius at his word when he says he is not pro-war. But Gaius misunderstands what peace truly is. (He's not alone in that.) Peace is not a physical state of being in which one is not at war. Peace is a process. It's a way of resolving conflict; it's a way of thinking; it's a way of acting. Peace does not happen by one party to conflict saying, Well, I want peace but the other side doesn't, so we must have war until the other side wants peace as much as I do. The other side already wants peace as much as we do. But they, too, fail to understand that peace is not, and never will be, a result that can be achieved through force.
A.J. Muste, a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., coined the phrase, "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Some people attribute this quote to Mahatma Gandhi, but either way it means the same thing.
Here are two more quotes that express the same idea, taken from the Wikiquote page on peace quotes:
Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.
That's attributed to the well-known journalist Dorothy Thompson, who very much opposed fascism in all its forms. She also was married to Sinclair Lewis.
Anyone can love peace, but Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the peace-lovers." He says peacemakers. He is referring to a life vocation, not a hobby on the sidelines of life.
That's Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics.