11 Apr 2010

Love Your Enemies

Game Theory, Pacifism, Religious 13 Comments

I think David R. Henderson is great, especially on tough-guy issues of war, but I think even he doesn’t go far enough in this piece, “What Game Theory Can Tell Us About Terrorism”:

In December 1996, I took this other-person’s-shoes approach with a group of Defense Department officials when I commented on a paper by my Hoover colleague Henry Rowen, a former president of the RAND Corporation. I pointed out that, in his paper, Rowen had taken terrorism as a given, but that one should take a step back and ask why terrorism exists. I said:

“What leads the Irish Republican Army to put bombs in Britain? Why don’t they, for example, put bombs in Canada or Bangladesh? To ask the question is to answer it. They place the bomb where they think it will help influence the government that makes decisions most directly in the way of their goals, and the governments in the way of their goals are usually governments that intervene in their affairs.”

Then I concluded, “If you want to avoid acts of terrorism carried out against people in your country, avoid getting involved in the affairs of other countries.” In other words, don’t go around stirring up hornets’ nests. I also advocated completely abolishing U.S. immigration restrictions on nuclear engineers, bio-technicians, and the other technical professions whose practitioners could build weapons of mass destruction, as a carrot to entice them to settle in the United States.

One person in the audience, noted game theory economist Martin Shubik, sarcastically accused me of advocating that “we all love one another.” But he missed the point. A good game theorist puts himself in the shoes of the other person whether or not he loves him. Even if you hate your opponent, and especially if he hates you, it’s good to know what motivates him and what pushes his button[s].

Of course I agree with David as far as his remarks go, and it stuns me that Shubik would crack a tough-guy joke at the expense of the most elementary principle of strategic thinking. But I want to argue that the best response to Shubik–one that an omniscient being would have given–would be to say, “Yes, we should love one another. The more we did that, the happier we’d be, and the safer too.”

Jesus famously taught (Mt. 5:43-48):

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A lot of people–even Christians–think that Jesus doesn’t really mean you should love your enemies, because then we’d all be overrun by criminals within the week. But that strikes me as a misunderstanding, akin to Patriot Act supporters who say, “The Constitution wasn’t a suicide pact.”

In the first place, loving your enemy per se doesn’t rule out violence. (I think other parts of Jesus’ teachings do explicitly command pacifism, by the way.) If a father sees one of his drunken sons about to seriously injure his brother, and lays the kid out, he could still love the son that he punched. In fact, because he loves the drunken son, he will use the least amount of force necessary to protect the other son, whereas he might have stabbed or shot some stranger who was attacking his other son.

But more important for this discussion, is the fact that when you hate someone, you can’t “get inside his head” as easily as when you love him. It’s hard to think through things from the point of view of someone you actually hate. So it’s true, as David says in the quotation above, that even if you hate someone, you still need to think strategically and try to predict his next move, based on your understanding of his motives. What I am saying, however, is that you won’t do as good a job if you hate the person, versus trying to love him.

Please note, to love someone doesn’t mean you condone his or her behavior. (There was some confusion on this point when I urged Free Advice readers to love Ben Bernanke.) It means, rather, that you wish the best for the person, and if he or she really is engaging in destructive behavior, you sincerely hope the person changes course in time. You don’t hope that somebody “teaches him a lesson.”

* * *

Relevant to this discussion is the experience of Jose Fajardo, who is my wife’s grandfather. Jose is a missionary from Colombia, who is famous in certain evangelical circles. (E.g. he translated for Billy Graham when he preached to certain South American audiences.) In his autobiography Jose relates a tale of a period when there was State-sponsored persecution of Protestants by some Catholic Colombians:

…I was building a small church in El Cerrito, a town about fifty kilometers north of Cali. The town evangelicals helped us build one of the church walls, but during the nights and weekends, some Catholic fanatics would destroy it and we would have to start all over again.

Around this time there was an earthquake and the only building that suffered damages was the Catholic Church…

Now let’s stop for a moment. I think a lot of people would say, “Ha! Our God has avenged us by knocking down the Catholics’ building after they’ve been doing the same to us! Give them a taste of their own medicine! There’s justice after all in this world.”

But let’s see what Jose did:

…so I went to the Board of Missions and proposed that we help them with some money to repair it. The missionaries agreed and we raised a good sum of money. I went to El Cerrito and introduced myself to the head of the fundraising committee for the reconstruction of the church. I told him that our church wanted to donate money to help them rebuild. The reader can imagine how much this gesture astonished him because he was well aware of all the damage they had caused us when we were building our small church. We were never again bothered in that town and we were able to finish the building and hold services without any aggression.

We did the former based on what Paul said: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20 (Fajardo, pp. 110-111)

13 Responses to “Love Your Enemies”

  1. Yancey Ward says:

    Well, I am not an advocate of “Love thy enemy”, but a firm believer that you must let hate go if you are to ever be able to understand them properly. That hate clouds and confuses things has always been clear to me, most especially after those moments when I didn’t listen to my own advice.

  2. JimS says:

    Again, Dr. Murphy, it would be interesting to know what the exact word was that Christ used, or perhaps what the meaning of the word was at that time. I would strongly suspect that “love” was a word actually meaning respect. I’m rather certain that He didn’t mean love your enemy in the same respect that you love your children, wife, parents, or chocolate ice cream.

    If we look at it in terms of respect, it is strategically essential that one “love/respect” an enemy. History is filled with people who thought of adversaries as less than human or unworthy and had the butts kicked accordingly. The British against the Zulus come to mind, Custard is another. Those that have respect and admiration for an opponent succeed; Patton, Col. Hal Moore and others jump to mind

    Ancient literature, especially old English (Beowul, Battle of Maldon) and ancient Germanic texts are nearly all of battles and all had a respect for their foe. They seldom if ever fought out of hatred. In fact, if they considered an opponent unworthy or beneath them they tended not to fight. IN fact, in fuedal Europe it was more customary to capture rather than kill an opponent because they could be ransomed or used in another army. Military expenditures had to be met somehow, and they hadn’t invented the printing press yet. (I’d like to see a free market approach analysis article on this, perhaps “Austrian Economics and the free market approach to ransoming foreign troops”?)

    For those of us who think that the battle lie not in violent physical confrontation, as Dr. Murphy was kind enogh to share his feelings on the matter with me, the respect approach is even more critical. I think we absolutely have to get inside the opposition’s head to understand the thinking and method. Only then can we chink at the armor. I, in fact, believe we may find much to admire. In my time in the military, I never saw a foreign army, ally or foe, that didn’t have something to teach.

    I consider what Christ told Peter about NOT fighting the soldiers who came to take them. I do not think Christ was necessarily a pacifist. He did physically drive the money changers out of the temple, and His disciples did carry weapons, not really the actions of pacifists. Not only did Christ have to fulfill the prophecy, but he knew 13 guys against the army weren’t good odds. Christ IS God, he could have defeated those soldiers and any army were it necessary, but it was counter to his design. I think it was to tell us to fight in another manner. Perhaps Christ’s admonition was to aid us in finding that respect or love for our enemy.


  3. K Sralla says:

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was indeed instructing his followers to “love” their enemies in the sense of agape. Look up the Greek word that Matthew records! Agape seeks the highest good and welfare of another. This good is directed at another even when they don’t ask for mercy or welcome charity. What Jesus is getting at here is that our ethical code and inherent sense of right and wrong is so far removed from God’s radical standard of holiness, that it shocks us when we actually learn of the towering heights of God’s acceptable requirements. It drives us to our knees in repentace and contrition. If we are honest with ourselves, our pride and self-righeousness withers in the face of the Almighty Holy God. We cry out like Isaiah, “woe is me, a man of unclean lips and impure heart”. This is what Jesus was saying in his sermon. His genuine followers seek after the Godly righteousness that can only come through brokeness, repentace, and faith. The radical ethics expressed by Jesus become our highest aspirations and desires. We don’t run away from his commandments and look for reasons Jesus did not really mean what he said, rather we run toward them, despite the fact that in our fallen humanity, we come up short way too often. When we are born again by his grace, we are immediately declared citizens of the Kingdom of God and set apart for his glory, but we also begin a jouney of transformation toward perfect holiness. Not that we can ever attain perfect holiness in this life, but when we are finally glorified after this life is over, the perfection of Christ will be fullfilled in us too.

  4. Jim D says:

    Always thought provoking…thanks for the blog.

  5. Beefcake the Mighty says:

    JimS is exactly right. “Love thy neighbor,” to use but one example from Scripture, doesn’t mean you should love them more than your family, or even in any comparable manner. Another example: we can agree murder is objectively wrong, but surely it’s worse to murder a friend than a stranger. The point is, whenever a universalist philosophy, like Christianity or libertarianism, rejects or even just ignores the importance of moral gradations, it is doomed. (Of course, what passes for liberalism these days doesn’t so much reject moral gradations as invert traditional ones, eg you should care more about strangers than your family, etc.)

  6. fundamentalist says:

    Jose’s helping with rebuilding the Catholic Church is a beautiful story. Still, one has to ask if Jesus wasn’t using hyperbole when he said “Love your enemies.” Jesus often used hyperbole. It was a common rhetorical device used by preachers of his day in order to grab the attention of listeners. But we can look at God’s example of how he loves his enemies. God wants all men to repent and follow him, but he set up laws to punish evil, such as theft and murder. Allowing criminals to get away with criminal activity is not loving them. God’s judgments always have two purposes: 1) punishment and 2) appeal to repentance. God’s judgements usually involve mercy so that the offender has the opportunity to respond and repent. However, there were occasions when God’s judgments don’t involve mercy, such as the flood and Israel’s Babylonian captivity. God’s judments are complete when he decides that the possibility of repentance no longer exists because people have hardened their hearts. In a like manner, some crimes indicate a heart so hardened by evil that repentance is nearly impossible. I think murder is such a crime.

    If we love our enemies, we will want to make sure their evil schemes fail because success will oncly encourage them to continue in their evil behavior. God has given the state that job in Romans.

    How does this apply to terrorists? As Henderson wrote, we should make sure that we are not the cause of the anger of terrorists. But at the same time, we shouldn’t take the word of terrorists as the gospel truth. They are liars and will always lie even when it is easier to tell the truth and will benefit them more. In the case of Al Qaeda, most of what they have said about their motivations are pure lies. Anyone who has studied the history of the Middle East knows it. Read the works of Barnard Lewis, probably the greatest authority on the Middles East. He knows more about the Middle East than do most Middle Easterners.

    Obviouslay we should quit any meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries, but that won’t stop Al Qaeda from attacking Americans because Al Qaeda, and most Middle Easterners, hold to conspiracy theories that attribute anything bad that happens to the US. Some of it we are guilty of but most we are totally innocent of. In addition, they attribute their inability to overthrow “ungodly” regimes in the MIddle East to US support, even if we don’t provide any support. The truth is that Al Qaeda is too weak and unpopular to overthrow anyone, but they blame the US instead. Finally, Al Qaeda will always attack the US because we are the most powerful infidel country. They believe that if they can make the US fall as the beleive the made the USSR fall, then Islam will take over the world. Religion is far, far more important in this issue than most Americans want to believe.

  7. Beefcake the Mighty says:

    Riiiight, fundamentalist, the Arabs suffering under the Israeli jackboot who identify the US as Israel’s
    sponsor and enabler in the region are just wild-eyed conspiricy theorists, totally out-to-lunch.

    I have a question for the Christian Zionists: has your unquestioned (and unthinking) support for Israel
    gained you ANYTHING with liberal Jews (apart from further contempt)?

    • bobmurphy says:

      Hey Beefcake, pls use a different email address when posting here. I don’t want to manually take it out everytime; it’s easier for me just to delete the comment.

    • fundamentalist says:

      I’m not a Christian Zionist and I blame Israel for the current mess as much as I blame the Palestinians. But the situation in Palestine has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda threw in Palestine belately, if you know the history of the movement. Al Qaeda gives different reasons for its actions at different times, depending what’s hot in the news and what it thinks will gain the attention of the Western press. But if you know the history of the movement, you know they couldn’t care less about Palestinians. The main benefactor of the Palestinian Hamas movement is Iran, not Al Qaeda.

      In order to understand militant Islam, you have to know more than what the mainstream media knows, which is next to nothing. Again, I recommend the books of Barnard Lewis, any one of them.

      • Beefcake the Mighty says:

        OK, I apologize for characterizing you as Christian Zionist. Although I do not care for Islamicists or even Islam in general (I would recommend The Sword of the Prophet by Trifkovic), I have to say, your description of al Qaeda’s communiques is congruent with my view of that organization: namely, they are not simply FORMER employees of the American intelligence organs, but are in fact still very much on the payroll (if in fact they are anything more than a marketing scheme).

        At any rate, you originally spoke of “most Middle Easterners” holding conspiritorial views (which I took as a code word for “absurd”), not simply al Qaeda. That is what motivated my response.

        • fundamentalist says:

          Al Qaeda had nothing to do with the CIA and no CIA money ever went to them. Al Qaeda was an insignificant part of the Afghan battle against the USSR. They magnified their role for recruiting purposes, but the Afghan Mujahedin considered them nothing more than an odd curiosity. Al Qaeda is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which dates back to the end of WWI and has always had the goal of re-establishing the Caliphate. There is very little difference between the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. Israel/Palestine is just a distractiion as far as they are concerned.

          And if you read Barnard Lewis and Amir Taheri, you find that conspiracy theories are rampant in the Middle East. I have lived there and can vouch for it. Until recently, people from Morocco to India attributed everything to the British. In the past few decades they have replaced the UK with the US. They see the US behind everything that happens.

          • Beefcake the Mighty says:

            My point is not that Middle Easterners don’t cling to conspiricy theories, but that it’s not at all unreasonable for them to do so. You seem to think it is; there is no doubt Lewis does. There is a good deal of this mess that CAN be blamed on the British, for example. This is not to deny that many conspiricy theories (here or abroad) are plainly absurd, only that some are not. Again, you seem to be saying that many of these views are ridiculous, hence your pejorative use of the term “conspiricy theory.”

  8. Beefcake the Mighty says:

    Bob, I’ll simply provide my actual email address here. It’s legit; enjoy!