NO WAY OUT: ANCIENT WISDOM ON PUTTING BAD GUYS UP AGAINST A WALL

by mgopin on May 6, 2011 · 7 comments

NO WAY OUT:

ANCIENT WISDOM ON PUTTING BAD GUYS

UP AGAINST A WALL

Men in Middle Eastern palaces making decisions about their lives, their families, their fortunes, their necks. I think a lot these days about such men because history and the fate of millions of people often comes down to what is going on inside their heads. They are certainly not unique to the Middle East. Think Robespierre, Mussolini, Marcos, Milosevic, think Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Noriega, Fujimori. The list is endless, the impact of their choices monumental.

There is an ancient law in the Jewish Torah that forbids combatants from surrounding an enemy on all four sides, requiring instead that there is always an escape route. In the Middle Ages Maimonides, one of the greatest legal decision makers in Jewish history, concluded that this prohibition applies even to a mortal enemy in a defensive war. This sounds bizarre to the contemporary person saturated by media, video games and politicians, all exulting in the pulverizing of bad guys, but there it is in inconvenient black and white.

No explanation for the law was offered in the original codification, but commentators have suggested that this is an act of compassion even for a mortal enemy, similar to other surprising Biblical statements, such as helping one’s enemy in Exodus 23. Others suggest that it was a strategic law, along the lines of wisdom literature and prudence. It makes sense to offer an enemy the possibility of escape so that enemy troops will see relocation as a realistic option, that they will give up more easily seeing a way out, that this will divide the enemy, that this will conserve resources and energy, and shorten the war. This would reflect a pattern in ancient wisdom traditions, East and West, that prudence suggests a conservation of energy, a minimization of waste and a maximization of peace.

All of these explanations have resonance in at least some Biblical sources, but no one knows for sure–nor does it really matter. The beauty of ancient wisdom traditions is that they act as a distant goad to clear thinking in impossibly complex contemporary circumstances.

Just think of the onslaught, think of how much we have absorbed so quickly about the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, think about the myriad of facts, images, truths, half-truths, conflicting narratives, and all of that on top of a mountain of theories and facts of history, politics, religion, economics, and psychology. Then think about how you make moral judgments about politics. Do you only think of the ‘national interest’, whatever that is? Are you evaluating a course of action for yourself? Your country? Your military? Your overseas aid?

If you don’t try to clarify with thought, meditation and intuition, the choices that are difficult you end up being manipulated by media, by leaders, by your own apathy and exhaustion from data over-stimulation. Cutting like a scythe through all the questions about Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, are the choices that leaders are making about their fate, about what their alternatives are, and whether they are back up against a corner or have realistic options.

Here is the ‘fourth side principle’ in modern terms that states and individuals should embrace:

Always convey messages, directly or indirectly, that there is a way out. Make that path clear, make it enticing. Justify it, from the point of view of justice, as a way to prevent further injustices against victims of the future. As anger rises and outrages worsen move from the ‘way out’ of verifiable reforms, to full exit options with dignity, to exit with indignity, to exit without assets, finally to criminal prosecution, and from there to the ‘no way out’ of hostilities. Even then, if there are signals of real acceptance of resolution options then grab them. Nonviolent exit is always more efficient, prudent and just. There will be plenty of time for survivors to seek justice later.

Government officials who understand the logic of this principle and utilize it are hampered often by biases of narrow national, corporate or political calculations. This is understandable up to a point–no government official is hired to pursue his own sense of justice. But they can be prodded to elevate the national interest to align with what is most prudent, stabilizing and just. Responsible citizens need to pioneer the intervention in order to pave the way for government officials to do the right thing. We are often in a more flexible position to discover options. Making the noble choice easier and more enticing for leaders is the most prudent and ethical intervention we can make. It is downright Biblical.

© Marc Gopin

Previous post:

Next post:

adobe premiere free download

buy cheap creative suite adobe reader download portable adobe flash direct download cheap adobe reader download 5 download adobe flash 9 for h264

adobe rider download

buy cheap adobe illustrator CS5 adobe page maker full download download and install adobe flash onto my computer cheapest free download adobe rea adobe in design 2 download

adobe photoshop 8 free download full version

buy cheap adobe after effects adobe pagemaker trial version download adobe photoshop cs3 extended download for free buy cheap adobe photodeluxe download adobe photoshop cs download osx

adobe 8 crack download

adobe acrobat x cheap can i download adobe filter factory adobe golive cs2 download buy cheap adobe nine flash player download free adobe photoshop 6 download

adobe flash player 9 cannot download to internet explorer 7

cs5 master collection cheapest free adobe pdf maker download adobe creative suite 3 download cheap download adobe cs3 free p2p adobe photoshop tutorial download

adobe acrobat pdf download free

buy cheap creative suite 5 adobe after effects cs2 download adobe flash psp download buy cheap adobe illustrator 8 download adobe illustrator cs3 crack download

adobe acrobat 6 free download

buy online creative suite 5 download adobe illustrator cs2 trial adobe live motion download buy online adobe cs3 free download pdf and adobe and download

download adobe photoshop elements 5tutorial

adobe incopy buy online free download adobe acrobat professional 6 free adobe illustrator cs2 download cheapest adobe photoshop trial download free adobe photoshop elements download

adobe photoshop 8 free download adobe photoshop cs3

adobe creative suite 5 cheap adobe download site adobe indesign download cheapest download adobe photoshop 8 cs adobe acrobat download warez

free download able adobe

cheap photoshop lightroom 3 download adobe pdf writer 4 adobe after effects demo download cheapest adobe photoshop 8 free download pdf and adobe and download

adobe flash player download for vista 32 bit os

cheapest cs5 master collection adobe flash offline download iran download adobe photoshop buy online download adobe photoshop download cracker adobe acrobat

download adobe reader 5

buy online adobe premiere pro adobe acrobat writer download adobe premiere free download buy online is download for adobe flash player free adobe file converter download

free adobe illustrator cs3 download full version

adobe web premium cheapest download add on error with adobe acrobat download adobe after effects 5 buy online free adobe photoshop elements download free download of adobe photoshop cs2