Unfortunately, in the 1700s, there were far too many times that events seemed to draw us all into conflicts that appeared to offer no other way out except through violence and untold loss of lives. And that I honestly regret taking part in, even though in retrospect it still seemed like the only alternative.
With all the news reports lately of conflicts raging around the globe, I am greatly concerned about the potential for escalation that could lead to unparalleled destruction, the likes of which we could not even imagine in the 18th century. After learning of the existence of horrific weapons like nuclear warheads, and their potential for world annihilation, I fear that one of these disputes could lead us down the path of no return.
There are battles being waged (or threats of such) in Iraq, Ukraine, the Middle East, and Korea, to name just a few. Each of these areas is like a powder keg waiting to explode.
Even after my own experience in the Revolutionary War, I still maintain that there is far more to be gained through diplomacy, collaboration, negotiation, and cooperation than through the bloody alternative of war. Not being a gifted mathematician or statistician, I cannot make a case for dollars-and-cents differences, or the long-term cost of military spending compared to money expended for investment in things like education, humanitarian aid, or programs of international co-development. My thinking may be based only on intuition, but I believe firmly that warfare only tears our world apart, while working together builds it up.
No easy answers
I wish there were some magic solution to the problem, but there isn’t. Every situation is different, to some extent. Yet, at the root of most disputes is a stubborn insistence on “being right.” That, and not wanting to give the other side even the slightest consideration or concession. So most conflicts get stuck in the quagmire of “win/lose” or “all or nothing” thinking. Nobody wants to be a “loser,” which leads people or countries to fight even harder to gain the upper hand and to squash all enemies. Getting revenge takes priority over making new friends. And that is truly unfortunate.
While I may have had my personal differences with Quakers in my day (for certain other political reasons), their advocacy of peace over war is something that we could use a little more of in this 21st century world. If only we could transplant their belief to some of these war-torn areas, where peaceful discussion is so desperately needed.
I do indeed know the challenges of being a negotiator, diplomat, and peacemaker, having served in those roles in the 1700s. The process can sometimes drag on for years, with very little to show for it. And the frustrations, rejections, insults, and lack of progress one must endure can lead you to throw up your hands in defeat, and declare that the task is impossible.
But there are those rare individuals who relish that sort of assignment, and will keep working at a mutually acceptable agreement well beyond the point that most sane people can understand. Despite being knocked down, thrown out, and kicked over, they keep picking up the pieces and starting over again.
We simply need a few more of those gifted individuals in all those trouble spots around the world. With their genius for reconciliation, we can and will pull back our belligerent human race from the brink of destruction.
Finally, let me leave you with one of my own sayings from long ago, "There is no such thing as a good war, and there is no such thing as a bad peace."
Your humble servant,