Michael KreponEvil

Quotes of the week:

“Evils can be created much quicker than they can be cured.” — Winston Churchill, 1951

“It is much easier at all times to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes.” — George Washington, in a letter to James McHenry, 1798

My best man at our wedding stayed in touch while rising though the ranks to become a no nonsense Chief Pentagon and White House correspondent. So I was blown away at one of our lunches when, waiting for the water to arrive, he said point blank, “Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are evil.”

I never expected to hear the word “evil” from a mind so finely practiced in evenhanded but very tough-minded, substantive journalism. His tough journalism was in plain sight on the evening news. The “evil” warning was for me. I offered some limp rebuttals, which he battered away. Evil was not a word to be used on the air, but it was staring at him, and now me, in the face.

Cheney and Rumsfeld were committed to draw the United States into a war to finish the job against Saddam Hussein — no easy feat, given that he had nothing to do with the attacks on American soil just perpetrated by Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. But Afghanistan would be a mere steppingstone to a grander, strategic military campaign, one that would appeal to their boss’s instincts to spread America’s sole superpower-dom and democracy to the jerry-rigged Arab heartland.

Yes, planning for a secret war of choice and aggression – and carrying it off, with unending, unintended — but easily anticipated — consequences qualifies as Evil, big time.

What about evil in today’s wreck of a world, where it seems to be walking down street corners with wads of money on dark nights with something always going down? How ambitious does Evil have to be to become distinguished at the regional level, or is it just some rally cry tag for Donald Trump and his cohort of Rough Riders, some reportedly to be elevated, in part because their of their ease with the word? There is no easier applause line amongst those not sated with enough war. Oddly, Team Trump does not direct this word against Vladimir Putin.

We can use more clarity and serious conversation about our entry-level definitions of “Evil” on a less than world-class basis, and how to disentangle Evil from the applications of iron-mongery, covert, subconventional, black arts in pursuit of national security interests and score settling. Here Mr. Putin and his actions in Crimea, combined with others in western Ukraine and Georgia deserve special attention. There is also, of course, Mr. Reliable: Assad, the Great Easy Pick. The Man who yields to no one in his acceptance and initiation of mass slaughter. Mr. Chemical Weapons. Assad: destroyer of your country. You define Evil. Banality is so yesterday.

Looking to South Asia, two easy picks are the Lashkar e-Tayibba and Jaish e-Muhummad. Their names change but not their honchos — Hafiz Saeed of LeT and Masood Azhar of the JeM. They promote a jihad against India and have taken provocative steps to keep the mission alive from safe havens in Pakistan, foremost in disputed Kashmir. Their greatest “hits,” so far have been directed against the Indian Parliament building and at iconic gathering spots in Mumbai. The Let and JeM have not renounced Jihad against India and retain the means to carry out provocations of various level of intensity. Pakistan has decided that the path of least resistance and national security involve leaving them under wraps as much as possible, despite the brickbats. Bottom Line: groups openly committed to a bloodbath on the subcontinent, with the means to prompt chain reactions are a pretty good definition of Evil.

OK, lets head for the Big Defender and Big Challenger of North Korean sovereignty. Where is the Evil here? Is it OK to use pure Instruments of Evil – we politely call them nuclear weapons – to defend and protect your country from nuclear attack and annihilation? Provisionally, in my view, yes – even for Kim Jong Un.

Are extraordinary bellicose threats and deeply irresponsible actions associated with the use of nuclear weapons exhibitions of evil intent? This we do not know, but it is easy for some to infer. The true Evil would come from the act of nuclear weapon’s use — but the embellishment of this prospective act – the bucking up of deterrence by extreme threats, bluster, and dangerous demonstrations – these are the handmaidens of evil.

As for Donald Trump, is he the embodiment of Evil? Easy for some to say. Not me. He is an extremely dangerous man, for sure. He is the embodiment of the Fantasyland that has become Republican politics. He has taken leadership by division, distraction and bombast to stratospheric levels. His black arts are scary troupes and purely poisonous tweets that buck up his fans and drive everyone else purposefully nuts. He creates his own info-tainment realities that are meant for our Pavlovian reactions. We are his fodder and his necessary foils.

We are also defenders of Reality, the protectors of those he hurts, and protectors against the nuclear dangers he increases by foolish talk and action. We join hands with others in defending the Planet.

We are the Guardians against nuclear dangers. But are we guarding against Evil or bluff? How do we guard against a powerful instinct that is geared to domestic politics, but completely unpracticed in nuclear deterrence and mental balancing at a deep, personal level when he may be faced with a deep crisis?

We are in the dark. But we know one Immense Truth: that the essence of Evil is the detonation of a mushroom cloud. And then perhaps another and another. This would be the greatest Evil perpetrated on this Planet, since 1945. We know this at a cellular level. It is our mission to stop it.