Madonna's Faith, Madonna's Folly

September 16, 2001

Trevor Matich


"Violence begets violence.”  That statement isn’t always true.  But it always sounds good, and never better than when Madonna said it to a crowd of concert goers last week. 

In leading a prayer for peace, our reigning diva of pop culture urged President Bush to show restraint in retaliating for the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  She must figure that “restraint begets restraint.” 

And what could be wrong with that, one might ask?  It’s a call for peace, after all.

Well, everything is wrong with that.  We all want peace; that's not the question.  The question is, how do we attain peace in the future?

Let’s start with her quote:  "Violence begets violence."  Yes it does--when there is common ground that could be found if the violence would stop, and more importantly, when the ultimate goal of both parties is to find a way to resolve their differences.

But the forces responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington have made it clear that their goal is the destruction of our way of life, not the search for common ground for our peaceful coexistence.

We offer no territorial or economic threat to Islam.  But to the radicals, our very freedoms and openness—the fact that women can vote and be doctors, that we can be free to think what we choose and worship as we see fit, just as a start—are evil.  And their aim is to destroy our freedoms and our way of life.

Given those truths, in this situation does it follow that restraint begets restraint?  Well, let’s look at a little history.

What saved the Jews and the Gypsies in Nazi Germany wasn’t restraint; it was the utter destruction of the evil forces bent on their annihilation.  (Importantly for the greater debate, it should be noted that those forces had all the power; there were no credible moderate forces competing for influence.)

In recent years, the United States has shown tremendous restraint in the face of terror attacks--on our embassies in Africa, our soldiers in Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere--with token pin-prick responses to the perpetrators’ organizations and their sponsors. 

The fruit of that restraint is now on the tree—the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, four airliners, and thousands of innocent lives, in an attack that was in the planning stages for years.   

Keep in mind that there is compelling evidence that the terrorists suspected in the current atrocities are actively pursuing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons--and may have already acquired them.  Based on past performance, isn’t it reasonable to believe that if those weapons become available, they will be deployed? 

Based on past performance, do we want to take that risk?

When the goal of one of the adversaries in a conflict is the destruction of the way of life of the other, then restraint does not beget peace; only active defense begets peace.   That defense must be intelligently contrived and executed, using all political, economic, and diplomatic weapons available.  And that defense must include the continuous threat of and the judicious use of devastating military force.

Madonna would have us exclude the application of such force from our list of options. 

I have no doubt that her heart is in the right place, as evidenced by her donations to help the victims.  I applaud that, and hope more people follow in those footsteps. 

After her call for restraint, she said, “I want to live a long and happy life, and I want my kids to live a long and happy life.''  So do we all.

But in order for that to happen, we need to understand the difference between the times when violence begets violence, and when restraint begets destruction.





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