Perhaps it’s because he’s a student of Reinhold Niebuhr’s ideas…Martin Luther King, Jr. is usually a fine source for wisdom on the limits to violence as a tool for political ends. This one’s for Jennifer Rubin:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we’ve been learning for a decade now, we can kill members of Al-Qaeda, but we can’t kill the idea that animates them (at least not with our military). The only way to do that is to actually commit to rehabilitating our image abroad while working to eliminate the desperate poverty that animates so many to join extremist groups. It’s a simple equation…but it’s not quite as simple as “Someone hit us, so we’re going to start punching” (whether or not we hit the original culprits).