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Oddly, I've been reluctant to post my thoughts on the war in Iraq. This is an issue that can deeply divide people and there is much fanatical talk on all sides of the issue. But the war is a big event and even though things are apparently going well now, I feel that an examination of ethics, aikido, and the war is in order.
Pretty much everything is arguable when it comes to aikido. Conventional wisdom has it that aikido is not a religion, yet from all accounts, O'Sensei saw his aikido practice in religious terms. The Omoto religion was a profound influence on O'Sensei and therefore a major influence on aikido. I don't know much about the Omoto religion and nothing at all about the Kojiki -- a religious text from which O'Sensei apparently drew a lot of inspiration. (for more on this, see "TOUCHING THE ABSOLUTE: AIKIDO VS. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
by Peter Goldsbury http://www.aikidojournal.com/new/art...sp?ArticleID=2). At the same time, O'Sensei did not require his students to agree -- or even understand! -- his religious views.
In any event, it is clear that O'Sensei saw aikido as having a much larger relevance than just self-defense. For example, he said:
Aikido is not a technique to fight with or defeat an enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.
The real Art of Peace is not to sacrifice a single one of your warriors to defeat an enemy. Vanquish your foes by always keeping yourself in a safe and unassailable position; then no one will suffer any losses. The Way of a Warrior, the Art of Politics, is to stop trouble before it starts. It consists in defeating your adversaries spiritually by making them realize the folly of their actions. The Way of a Warrior is to establish harmony.
Without context, however, O'Sensei's sayings loose some of their meaning -- or at least their meaning becomes a lot more mutable. It becomes easy to pick a quote from O'Sensei and paste all sorts of meaning onto it. The conclusions one draws from aikido practice, one's concept of the moral/ethical underpinnings of aikido, says a lot more about the person practicing than the founder.
In the absence of concrete, unambiguous guidance from the founder, we are left with our own best guesses for how aikido can relate to international events. My somewhat limited experience (~ 3.5 years of training) has revealed at least two core ethical components to aikido. (1) we accept conflict, and take control of it from the start, rather than either fighting it or running from it, and (2) we try to resolve the conflict with no harm to ourselves and as little harm to the attacker as possible. The first principle manifests itself in how we blend with an attack and the second is how we finish the attack.
In terms of the way the war is being waged, I'd argue that we at least seem to be finishing it well. From all accounts -- even accounts from Arab nations -- the U.S. and British forces are doing a good job of keeping casualties low while still achieving the objectives of the war. Yes, there has been a lot of death and injuries among civilians and soldiers on both sides. But compared to all previous wars, this one is very light in terms of cost in lives.
The tragedy in my opinion is that we could have "blended" a lot better with the international community, including Iraq, and avoided the bloodshed altogether. For 12 or so years we've been attempting to control Iraq and indirectly manipulate the people in power through sanctions and UN resolutions back by the threat of bombing. In the past two years, we've (the U.S.) has basically alienated most of our allies in the pursuit of an apparent goal of national self-reliance. We've pulled out of the Kyoto treaty, the anti-ballistic missile treaty, the international criminal court, and any real attempts at moderation in the Israel-Palestine conflict. There's no blending if one's attitude is essentially, "You're either with us or against us."
Blending might have included lifting the sanctions on all but military items and bio or chemical weapon ingredients. Couple this with true international cooperation and inspections (with a reasonable deadline). Maybe this would have led to a situation where war was a true last resort and not a first resort that was delayed for a while. Maybe that's just a naive wish.