Growing up in Jamaica, I used to hear the saying, “Strong man never wrong,” and I’ve heard the same sentiment occasionally expressed in Canada and America as “might is right.”
It’s a dangerous idea.
It represents a deceptively simple kind of logic: If you’re strong enough, you can impose your will on others.
But does that make you right?
Not in my book.
And I’m hearing it now from Donald Trump and his fellow-Republicans as they praise Vladimir Putin for his “strength.”
Do they not know how Putin imposes his will? Have they not read about his cold-blooded assassinations, his brutal suppression of dissent, his defiance of accepted moral standards to win at any cost?
Do they not know how much misery and oppression the Russian people endure under Putin?
Is this what they want for America?
On the eve of the 15th anniversary of Nine-Eleven, Americans should look around and see for themselves what force has been able to accomplish in response to that horrible act of terror. The fighting goes on in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it has spread to Libya, Syria, Yemen and so many other countries.
Yet the terrorists have not been stamped out. For every one that dies, it seems 10 more emerge from the shadows. Atrocities have proliferated in Europe, the Mid East and – yes – America.
Force alone cannot prevail in a war of ideas. To defeat terrorism, western civilization must demonstrate through words and deeds the superiority of our morality and the bankruptcy of theirs.
Throughout history the enduring victories have been won by ideas, not force. Mahatma Ghandi’s success in India is one example of real strength. Nelson Mandela’s triumph in South Africa is another.
Societies become weaker and more vulnerable when they stray from their moral base. The gains achieved by force do not endure if they lack moral justification.
America’s Founding Fathers conceived of a society that derives its strength from being right, not the other way around.